Visiting Panama & not seeing Canal??

Old Apr 13th, 2007, 02:13 AM
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Visiting Panama & not seeing Canal??

We will be in Panama next month & are trying to decide if seeing the canal should be on our "must see" list. I didn't realize it was 2 hours from our hotel and my children 18, 13 & 10 don't want to make the drive. We'll only be there a week & will be flying to San Blas island for one night. The San Blas trip means we need to be at the airport (2 hrs from hotel) at 5am & then up again the next day for a 6:45 flight back. They say they would rather hang at the hotel/beach than to spend 1/2 day just to see canal. I pretty much feel the same way but is it terrible if we don't see the canal? I feel like a terrible mom pulling my kids from school for the trip & not even seeing the canal. Any thoughts???
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Old Apr 13th, 2007, 03:04 AM
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You'll probably be "ribbed" the rest of your life for that, lol!!!( I'm teasing) Personally, the Canal was not high on my lists of "must-sees", but I am glad I did as it's pretty incredible. It's a personal decision and we did not have to go hugely out of our way to see it.
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Old Apr 13th, 2007, 08:14 AM
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I had seen the canal and several locks from shore and train (Colon-Panama) in the early 70's, but got to do a daylight transit (Panama-Colon) in 2003 which was amazing as we had a new German-built diesel-electric Bolivian Navy submarine and a huge Chinese cargo ship as companions.
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Old Apr 13th, 2007, 03:13 PM
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faithie, you are so right! To make matters worse I work for a travel wholesaler & the destinations I cover include Panama. My co-workers are already giving me a hard time over not seeing the canal. I guess we'll decide once we're there. Maybe we'll have a rainy day & be looking for something to do. Thanks for the feedback!
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 03:30 AM
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You could always combine the canal with a tour of Gamboa, rainfporest etc. Make it a daytrip and its more exciting for kids if some adventure is involved...?
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 08:03 AM
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There are hotels at beaches at a lot of places in the world, but the Panama Canal is, let's face it, only available in Panama. And the educational value on two fronts is tremendous: first, the actual canal with its backstory, its engineering, its sheer being; and second, that there's more to life than lounging at a pool.

I'm planning to visit Panama in July and have 13 year old students who are volunteering to come along in my luggage just to get the chance to see the canal, by the way.
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 03:27 PM
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It seems timely to mention this. Glover, a frequent poster, who has been assisting me in planning our trip to Panama, recommended this read before visiting the canal:

The Path Between the Seas
by David McCullough

I've ordered it and will begin it soon.
Just a FYI. . .

I'd have to agree that it would seem odd to go to Panama and not see the canal. We planned our trip around that and birding. The canal is for DH, the birding is for me! LOL!
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 03:33 PM
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Amy, We are not typically a "lounge by the pool" kind of family. We have been to Costa Rica 3 times in the past 2 years and have had plenty of adventures driving between San Jose/Arenal/Monteverde/Playa Grande/Manuel Antonio & Mal Pais. We've enjoyed seeing the cloud forest, rain forest, volcano, turtles making there way to the ocean from their nests on the beaches & everything in between. I also noted that we were taking a side trip to San Blas overnight and am very excited about learning about the Kuna tribe. With all of the excitement experienced in our previous travels the thought of sitting somewhere watching a ship go by really doesn't sound that appealing
to my kids. I'm sure if we decide to go they will be glad that we did at some point and if not it will just give me another reason to return!
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Shillmac, Great idea..I will definitely pick that up. When is your trip planned for?
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 05:14 PM
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I'm sorry; I didn't intend to sound judgmental. It's just that I would love for all the 18, 13, and 10 year olds I know to be able to go on a trip that would be so helpful to their understanding in so many different areas (international relations, business, the role of the US in Panama's independence, engineering, the cost of lives, and on and on) that to hear that they'd be so close and not go just makes me sad, but of course everyone has to make his or her own choices.
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Old Apr 14th, 2007, 07:39 PM
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We are going to be there the end of July, first of August. Probably be raining like crazy!

I'm jealous that you are going to the San Blas Islands. I'd like to do that! And experience the Kuna's. A friend just returned from there, and she thought they were so fascinating. She brought me a mulla (or however you spell that). It's beautiful! It is a gorgeous bird--think I'll frame it!
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 03:29 AM
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Amy, You're right, we have to go! Maybe I can convince them to stop there on our way back from the airport to our hotel after the San Blas trip. If it's not too far from Albrook Airport & they're all not too tired I think that could work. My family has nicknamed me the "vacation nazi" because I create such specific itineraries & make sure everything is planned well in advance. I've learned that with a family of 6 if all the details aren't agreed upon prior to the trip you wind up spending your vacation arguing over who wants to do what on which day. I will suggest my idea to them & hopefully they will agree. I'll let you know. Thanks!!
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 04:05 AM
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I went to Panama last year and we had the same problem trying to fit everything in. We decided to go watch the ships and go to the Canal museum. It was wonderful.Even if you decide not to take a full or half day tour it's worth it to stop by.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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I can relate to the "Nazi" issue. I'm a bit of one myself when it comes to traveling with large groups. My church youth group coined the phrase "general" (that was back when I was supervising the travels of 20-25 people), but my family would probably select Nazi as more appropriate! When it's all said and done, done of them complain! We try really hard to get a mix of relaxation and activity time. But you're right, best to know ahead of time what the vacation will entail. I have to give our grown son an itinerary so he can get his mind around it ahead of time!
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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The Kuna molas are quite fantastic. The good news is you can find many of them for sale in the Balboa area for those who don't have a chance to visit the San Blas Islands.
Just my opinion, but I would not skip a visit to the Canal. I grew up with a view of Miraflores Locks and I never bored of watching the ships making their progress through the Canal. The McCullough book is excellent.
Enjoy Panama, it is a beautiful country.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 08:13 AM
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hi petite1, i've not had the opportunity to visit panama yet, but in helping friends prepare for a trip a couple years ago i found this site: http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html
this will link you directly to a cam of the miraflores lock; then you can click on the bridge or gatun locks. at the top of the page all sorts of info on the history, etc. perhaps if the kids watch the cam for a while and see how the system works it will picque their interest. have wonderful trip.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 08:16 AM
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forgot to add the shot reloads about every 30 seconds.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 08:41 AM
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http://www.czbrats.com also has a wealth of information about the Canal and its history.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 01:17 PM
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cmcfong,
Spent a week on the Isla Alligandi in the early '70's as a hospital doc - very humbling to treat infants with croup with triple RX and steroids as they actually had TBC - bought many molas from the Cunas - some now very intersting as they were worn in the 60's.
They hang framed in one of our guest bedrooms.
Indeed, great country.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 02:06 PM
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Mike, I lived there in the 60's (Dad was military assigned to Quarry Heights). We bought quite a few of the molas ($1.00 to $1.50) which are now precious. I have found on my return visits that you really have to look carefully at the molas before buying. The quality varies dramatically.
I love Panama.
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