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#1 Posted : Sunday, November 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
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Posts: 142

The Canal overview. Looking down on filled lock. Inside the lock looking at small boat as lock doors close. Terracing & bridge.

Native village. Trip in dug-out canoe. Musicians playing welcome music. Beautiful food.

Panama City. The antique city. The old city. The new city.4c7c8382-84f0-4add-82ac-9aadbe3852a7.JPG6e93dadc-1674-4878-a052-5479fbb29c4f.JPG8f38a84c-8610-438c-a2c3-276620258ee8.JPG45ad0dba-5551-439c-9bf2-67856e6b65a8.JPG10394a39-91c4-4ea5-bc62-80d81bcaa36f.JPGc93a07b8-c8ea-4981-9fdd-38ae09707ecf.JPG64aee998-34fd-4f35-b945-865a320029bc.JPGb652eb04-c65f-4b88-94a3-9c1c96853abd.JPG389fc98c-7bbd-4d89-ac28-75386c5bb076.JPGf3fc311b-99b5-4a40-a987-b36135043eac.JPG4c7c8382-84f0-4add-82ac-9aadbe3852a7.JPG6e93dadc-1674-4878-a052-5479fbb29c4f.JPG8f38a84c-8610-438c-a2c3-276620258ee8.JPG45ad0dba-5551-439c-9bf2-67856e6b65a8.JPG10394a39-91c4-4ea5-bc62-80d81bcaa36f.JPGc93a07b8-c8ea-4981-9fdd-38ae09707ecf.JPG64aee998-34fd-4f35-b945-865a320029bc.JPGb652eb04-c65f-4b88-94a3-9c1c96853abd.JPG389fc98c-7bbd-4d89-ac28-75386c5bb076.JPGf3fc311b-99b5-4a40-a987-b36135043eac.JPG4c7c8382-84f0-4add-82ac-9aadbe3852a7.JPG6e93dadc-1674-4878-a052-5479fbb29c4f.JPG8f38a84c-8610-438c-a2c3-276620258ee8.JPG45ad0dba-5551-439c-9bf2-67856e6b65a8.JPG10394a39-91c4-4ea5-bc62-80d81bcaa36f.JPGc93a07b8-c8ea-4981-9fdd-38ae09707ecf.JPG64aee998-34fd-4f35-b945-865a320029bc.JPGb652eb04-c65f-4b88-94a3-9c1c96853abd.JPG389fc98c-7bbd-4d89-ac28-75386c5bb076.JPGf3fc311b-99b5-4a40-a987-b36135043eac.JPG
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Donna Marie  
#2 Posted : Sunday, November 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
Donna Marie


Posts: 239

nice pictures!
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Donna Marie  
#3 Posted : Sunday, November 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
Donna Marie


Posts: 239

nice pictures!
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#4 Posted : Sunday, November 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
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Posts: 142

Thanks, Donna Marie! My daughter is the family photographer. 

Panama was beautiful-- and WARM! 

I'd recommend the trip only for real fans of the Panama Canal. Not much else to do. Plus, altho the government is pro-US, the majority of Panamanians we encountered are NOT. There's a deep vein of resentment of US ("In the 1980's, Panama suffered an invasion from the US" to quote our guide. Also according to him, Noriega was "maybe not so bad.") Generally, among the public at large, we found a distinct "Yankee go home" attitude in the people which we couldn't reverse, tho we're usually good at reaching out to individuals & breaking down that sort of barriers.  Many people can't or won't speak English--despite English being required in schools. We do speak a little Spanish & recommend that anyone visiting Panama knows at least some. Souvenirs are expensive, prices indefinite & there is no bargaining. If anyone wants to tour a Central American country, I'd recommend Guatemala instead.

Amusingly, Friday was supposed to be Independence Day, but celebrations were postponed until Monday, so they could observe Black Friday with big sales!
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Donna Marie  
#5 Posted : Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
Donna Marie


Posts: 239

hah, that's funny about Black Friday.

Funny, I thought Panama was a big ex pat place for retirement due to low cost of living.  Wonder if that is a different section of the country from where you were....?

I am like you, I just go with the flow and enjoy the country, but that was very interesting to hear about.

Glad you had a good time
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#6 Posted : Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
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Posts: 142

Thank you, Donna Marie. We had a great time! Panama is a really gorgeous tropical place and I'm so glad we could escape the cold weather to enjoy the warm sunshine. And the Canal is considered one of the engineering wonders of the modern world. My daughter has always wanted to cruise the Canal, and Gate 1's trip is much less expensive than going on a cruise ship. It was fascinating to view the workings of the locks from the observation decks on dry land, then actually watch them close up on the ship. We started a trend for passengers to photograph their hands touching the wall of the Canal as we sailed into the locks. Surprisingly, we didn't feel it much as the canal filled with water & our ship rose to the top. There were a minimum of waves & the ship remained very stable.

Also, the visit to the indigenous village was a highlight. We traveled in dug-out canoes & the people were very sweet, although many of them spoke only their own language & didn't understand Spanish or English. 

Incidentally, the option of hiking to the waterfall is no longer being offered. Apparently someone fell down on the way & twisted her ankle or something, recently. Nothing else was offered in its place, so we all just spent the extra hours at the village. It did make for a rather long afternoon & some of the group would have liked to have left after a couple of hours at the village & gone to the beach.

One source of frustration was the lack of specifics. For example, the tour group was taken to a vendor of Panama hats, who told us the prices of his hats started at "around $25-$35 and maybe a little higher." 
A man in our group asked: "Do the hats start at $25, or at $35?" 
The response was "Yes." 
Someone picked up a hat & asked "How much does this particular hat cost?" 
The vendor said "$25 or 35 or maybe a little more." 
After a few more tries to find out how much we would have to pay for a hat, everyone just gave up! I don't think any of us bought a Panama hat simply because we couldn't get a firm price for it!

The government of Panama has been offering some pretty juicy incentives to US citizens to retire there, but I understand the incentives are being cut back under the new administration. Don't know how much the cut-backs are when compared to the original offers. 


I personally wouldn't want to retire there, but I'm glad I had a chance to visit!d2e17008-79b7-4662-ad60-1991e11ef75e.jpgbba0659a-0de3-4846-9830-12e87cab5d31.JPG7002dc13-542d-429c-b1a6-c4a802b5bac7.jpg71ee841a-f30a-4de5-9bbc-afbf5a0b1bb5.JPGd2e17008-79b7-4662-ad60-1991e11ef75e.jpgbba0659a-0de3-4846-9830-12e87cab5d31.JPG7002dc13-542d-429c-b1a6-c4a802b5bac7.jpg71ee841a-f30a-4de5-9bbc-afbf5a0b1bb5.JPGd2e17008-79b7-4662-ad60-1991e11ef75e.jpgbba0659a-0de3-4846-9830-12e87cab5d31.JPG7002dc13-542d-429c-b1a6-c4a802b5bac7.jpg71ee841a-f30a-4de5-9bbc-afbf5a0b1bb5.JPG
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With other tour companies:
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10 Day Sound of Music
Plus 6 cruises:
Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize, & Honduras
littlera  
#7 Posted : Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
littlera


Posts: 685

JourneyNow, thanks for the informative description of your tour!  I am glad you had a good time.  I am disappointed to hear about the attitude of many people there.  Noriega was not so bad??   The USA truly tries to do good in the world, and we are typically lambasted for it.  Go figure. 

We spent only a day or so in Panama on a canal cruise about four years ago.  It was fun.  The shore excursion, as well as seeing some of the canal lock operations, took us to a housing complex for foreign workers of the canal that was now closed.  Nothing like seeing a boarded up movie theatre and a couple of hundred little houses, all empty.  I see what you mean when you noted that there was a bit of a lack for something to see or do after you leave the canal. 

I loved the story about the hat seller.  Sounds like this guy needs to redesign his marketing strategy.  It just ain't working now!
Randy and Deanie
Up next:
14 Day Treasures of Sri Lanka. 3/21
14 day Classic South Africa with Victoria Falls 11/20
12 day Kaleidiscope of Scotland 7/20; rebooked 7/21
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14 day Majestic Balkans 5/19
16 Day Spiritual Southern India 11/18
14 Day Holland. Germany,Luxembourg & Belgium with Paris. 5/18
15 Day Indonesia: Java & Bali 10/17
13 Day Classic Costa Rica with Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio 2/17
18 Day Nepal & Bhutan 9/16
13 Day Kasbahs and Deserts of Morocco 5/16
15 Day Classic India with Ranthambore 11/15
11 Day Classic Baltics 6/15
11 Day Kaleidoscope of Guatemala and Honduras 1/15
13 Day Kaleidoscope of Ireland 9/14
14 Day Israel and Jordan - 5/14
15 Day Kaleidoscope of Thailand with River Kwai 11/13
16 Day China with Tibet and 3 Day Yangtze River Cruise  5/13
8 Day Classic Ecuador and Amazon Adventure 10/12
13 Day Turkish Treasures 5/12
10 Day Affordable  Peru  10/11
16 Day Affordable Bangkok, Cambodia and Vietnam 10/10
15 Day India's Majesty with Nepal  10/08
10 Day Greece with cruise 3/04
Donna Marie  
#8 Posted : Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
Donna Marie


Posts: 239

that sounds interesting; your boat is in the lock and then it fills with water to make you continue? 

I went to the Aswan Dam in Egypt - I am not sure what I was expecting but it was, well, boring to look at! LOL  perhaps I just don't understand dams :-)

The hat story is funny!  Did you know Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador.....


I would visit Panama one day.  I want to visit everywhere - getting there slowly but surely.  Although I have a habit of the re-visit.  I don't like going to places just once!

thanks

Donna
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11 Day Egypt with Abu Simbel and 3 Day Lake Nasser Cruise
10 Day Greek Islander Mykonos Santorini Athens
12 Day Enchanting Italy
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littlera  
#9 Posted : Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
littlera


Posts: 685

The Aswan dam IS boring.  It is neither very high, beautiful, or even too interesting from an engineering standpoint.  It was built by Russia basically.  It has been our least favorite site in the touring we have done in Egypt to date.
Randy and Deanie
Up next:
14 Day Treasures of Sri Lanka. 3/21
14 day Classic South Africa with Victoria Falls 11/20
12 day Kaleidiscope of Scotland 7/20; rebooked 7/21
Been there, done that:
11 day Classic Colombia 3/30
14 day Majestic Balkans 5/19
16 Day Spiritual Southern India 11/18
14 Day Holland. Germany,Luxembourg & Belgium with Paris. 5/18
15 Day Indonesia: Java & Bali 10/17
13 Day Classic Costa Rica with Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio 2/17
18 Day Nepal & Bhutan 9/16
13 Day Kasbahs and Deserts of Morocco 5/16
15 Day Classic India with Ranthambore 11/15
11 Day Classic Baltics 6/15
11 Day Kaleidoscope of Guatemala and Honduras 1/15
13 Day Kaleidoscope of Ireland 9/14
14 Day Israel and Jordan - 5/14
15 Day Kaleidoscope of Thailand with River Kwai 11/13
16 Day China with Tibet and 3 Day Yangtze River Cruise  5/13
8 Day Classic Ecuador and Amazon Adventure 10/12
13 Day Turkish Treasures 5/12
10 Day Affordable  Peru  10/11
16 Day Affordable Bangkok, Cambodia and Vietnam 10/10
15 Day India's Majesty with Nepal  10/08
10 Day Greece with cruise 3/04
...  
#10 Posted : Wednesday, December 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
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Posts: 142

Littlera, you're right that our (USA's) good intentions are not always appreciated. It's sad. But there seems to be a world-wide movement afoot to rehabilitate scoundrels -- in the Roman Colosseum, we were told that Nero was misunderstood & that Mussolini wasn't so bad, as well!  It may be political correctness gone wild or something else. I just don't know!


Panama was a beautiful trip in many ways, but as you mentioned there's not much to do there beyond the Canal. We recommend Guatemala over Panama for a number of reasons -- including the facts that there's a lot more to see & do, as well as that we are very welcome there! However, we did feel safer walking to the grocery store in Panama than in Guatemala, and the food is somewhat better in Panama (Guatemalan food was very bland). 


We did not go with the hotel upgrades in Panama, but talked with a couple who did. The upgraded hotel had a pool & beautiful outdoor lobby. It offered a casino, had $18 hamburgers in the restaurant, and the people were picked up 15 minutes earlier than we were at the other hotel because of the traffic flow. They also hinted that parts of the hotel were rather shabby. They told us that when they went to their room, the phone was flashing with a message. There were two wake-up calls -- one from February & one from July! So be sure to bring your own travel alarm! 


Our hotel was nice & we have no regrets about choosing it. The two hotels did take extra time with picking everyone up & dropping off. We didn't ask about the breakfasts at the other hotel, but ours were good though a bit limited compared to some buffets we've been to. Panamanian coffee doesn't compare in any way to the excellent Guatemalan coffee. We didn't drink it after the first day. Be sure to request a box breakfast if you're leaving early in the morning to fly home -- the guide does not do it for you (in Italy, the guide did).


The hat seller story was typical. On the last evening, our guide arranged an outing for people who wanted to go to a special restaurant. "I've made reservations for 7 or 7:30" 
"Are the reservations for 7 or for 7:30?"
"Yes." 
And so on...
The same thing about the price of the restaurant: "The minimum is $20 or $25 per person" (You can guess the rest of the dialogue!)
And the cab fare: "It'll cost $10 or $30 each way" (etc, etc)  
Needless to say, we didn't go! We wondered what happened with the people who did go, but never found out as our plane schedules were different & we left early the next morning.


Less amusing was the fact that earlier on on the last day, our entire tour group got stranded after the optional Canal cruise. The guide's instructions were so vague that not one of the 16 of us who went, understood that we were supposed to take another bus (any of the buses there) back to our original drop-off point where we would be picked up by our own bus. We all ended up huddled together on the pier, watching the last bus drive away. The people who worked there called for another bus, which was a regular city bus & made stops along the way. Finally the driver told us to get off & we were met by our defiant tour director who accused us of not following his directions! He'd done a good job up to that point, but we were all quite annoyed by his attitude as well as being upset by the incident itself.  


Donna Marie, yes, the ships have to be raised a total of 85 feet (sea level to the level of the lake between the two oceans). The ships go into the locks. The doors close behind & in front of them. The lock is then filled with water, sending the ship up 35 or so feet. The ship then goes along to the next lock, & the same thing happens again, until the ship is able to sail away on the higher level. Does that make sense? 


Pictures: 


Note: The first four pictures were taken during our Canal cruise. We were on the ship at the time. 


The last one was taken from the observation tower looking down on the Canal. We were not on the ship in the last picture. But it shows the difference in water level best.


1. Our ship sails into lock from lower level water. Note how high the walls of the lock are.
2. The lock starts filling up with water, raising our ship. Less of the walls are visible.
3. The lock is almost filled with water & our ship is much higher up. Very little of the walls show.
4. The lock is filled & our ship is now sailing at the higher level. The gate in front opens & the ship sails out at the new level.
5. This was taken from the observation tower on dry land. We were not on this ship. Behind this ship you can see the previous water level. The ship is now sailing 35 feet higher & is ready to leave the lock.7dda2c79-84ab-4d70-b415-d6cd2f6d9716.JPGbd59fb02-81d5-47ef-a70d-dc853e378041.JPG554be1e0-2d14-4dca-b561-92b9938dbeda.jpg4164221d-d41f-4f93-a07f-fa0afba76861.jpg3bef0d77-f064-4155-bb4c-dbf419d6e6ef.JPG7dda2c79-84ab-4d70-b415-d6cd2f6d9716.JPGbd59fb02-81d5-47ef-a70d-dc853e378041.JPG554be1e0-2d14-4dca-b561-92b9938dbeda.jpg4164221d-d41f-4f93-a07f-fa0afba76861.jpg3bef0d77-f064-4155-bb4c-dbf419d6e6ef.JPG7dda2c79-84ab-4d70-b415-d6cd2f6d9716.JPGbd59fb02-81d5-47ef-a70d-dc853e378041.JPG554be1e0-2d14-4dca-b561-92b9938dbeda.jpg4164221d-d41f-4f93-a07f-fa0afba76861.jpg3bef0d77-f064-4155-bb4c-dbf419d6e6ef.JPG
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littlera  
#11 Posted : Wednesday, December 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
littlera


Posts: 685

You gotta love the moxy of a tour director that chastises the entire tour group on TIP DAY!  Obviously, if all 16 tour members did not do what he wanted, he did an ambiguous job of explaining it!

We rode the locks in the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze last year.  These are much lager than the present (original) Panama locks.  There were four ships in each lock we traveled in .
Randy and Deanie
Up next:
14 Day Treasures of Sri Lanka. 3/21
14 day Classic South Africa with Victoria Falls 11/20
12 day Kaleidiscope of Scotland 7/20; rebooked 7/21
Been there, done that:
11 day Classic Colombia 3/30
14 day Majestic Balkans 5/19
16 Day Spiritual Southern India 11/18
14 Day Holland. Germany,Luxembourg & Belgium with Paris. 5/18
15 Day Indonesia: Java & Bali 10/17
13 Day Classic Costa Rica with Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio 2/17
18 Day Nepal & Bhutan 9/16
13 Day Kasbahs and Deserts of Morocco 5/16
15 Day Classic India with Ranthambore 11/15
11 Day Classic Baltics 6/15
11 Day Kaleidoscope of Guatemala and Honduras 1/15
13 Day Kaleidoscope of Ireland 9/14
14 Day Israel and Jordan - 5/14
15 Day Kaleidoscope of Thailand with River Kwai 11/13
16 Day China with Tibet and 3 Day Yangtze River Cruise  5/13
8 Day Classic Ecuador and Amazon Adventure 10/12
13 Day Turkish Treasures 5/12
10 Day Affordable  Peru  10/11
16 Day Affordable Bangkok, Cambodia and Vietnam 10/10
15 Day India's Majesty with Nepal  10/08
10 Day Greece with cruise 3/04
Donna Marie  
#12 Posted : Wednesday, December 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
Donna Marie


Posts: 239

thank you for the in depth explanation.  That is quite interesting!  Are you a teach per chance LOL!!

I would def like to visit Panama and the canal. 

Wow, yes I agree with Randy, quite gutsy of the tour director to speak to the group like that on tip day.  I had a guide kind of like that insofar as he apologized to me a couple of days prior to tip time - didn't work though; I didn't tip him nearly as much as you are supposed to!

Some of the guides I think have done it so long that they are just phoning it in so to speak.  Well, I will phone in my tip :-)
Upcoming
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...  
#13 Posted : Wednesday, December 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
...


Posts: 142

Littlera -- Yes, you're right that he wasn't wise to take that attitude on Tip Day. And I'm afraid that our tip reflected it. Others reacted the same way.  How interesting about China. That must be a huge canal! 


Donna Marie -- Good guess! I was a substitute teacher!  I hope you get a chance to see Panama & that you enjoy it very much!  Our guide is only 30 & I guess he just isn't used to dealing with situations like that, bless his heart!


Our main interest in the Panama Canal was that in 1928, it was visited by Richard Halliburton (1900-1939), an American adventurer (& one of our heroes), who SWAM the entire 50 miles over a period of 10 days. He wrote magazine articles about his adventures, which my parents followed avidly in the 1930's. Later the articles were published as books & I have a full set. He was young & handsome & very daring. He crossed the Alps on an elephant like Hannibal; visited headhunters; swam the Hellespont; followed the trail of Odysseys; jumped into the sacrificial well at Chichen Itza. He gave the world a spirit of adventure & fun!
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9 Day Britain Sampler
10 Day Sound of Music
Plus 6 cruises:
Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize, & Honduras
Donna Marie  
#14 Posted : Wednesday, December 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM(UTC)
Donna Marie


Posts: 239

wow!  Between you and Littlera, I am gaining a wealth of knowledge!!
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Completed Thus far with Gate 1...
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11 Day Egypt with Abu Simbel and 3 Day Lake Nasser Cruise
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12 Day Enchanting Italy
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