8 Amazing Facts That Will Blow Your Mind About Panama City, Panama – Panama Canal

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Port of Balboa, Panama

Located at the Pacific Ocean entrance of the Panama Canal, the Port of Balboa is the busiest port and transshipment hub of Latin America. In the period when Panama Canal was built, this port has been founded by the United States of America in 1909 and named after Vasco Nunez de Balboa, “the first European to have seen the Pacific Ocean from the Americas.” Until 1979, it was under the administrative jurisdiction of the US government, but turned-over to Panama in that same year.

The Port of Balboa covers 182 hectares and contains 5 container berths and 2 multi-purpose berths with a depth of 17 meters, handling a 3rd of all cargo ships moving through the Canal. It has also dry docks, marine and railroad repair centers, warehouses and a coaling plant. Speaking of its dry dock, it is in Panamax size (term for the size limit for ships sailing along the Canal) and it is a multimodal terminal (from ship to train), allowing transportation of containers by train across the isthmus (narrow strip of land found in Panama that connects North and South America and lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean).

About the Panama Canal:

During my sailing years, among the questions asked to me was : “Have you crossed the Panama Canal?” You know, I’d like to say that I was one of those privileged few (not all sailors do) who got to see the Canal in a very personal way by actually sailing through it (like Suez Canal), thanks to Fred Olsen Lines. This is one of the best engineering feats ever conceived, its absolute magnitude evoke bewitching tales of endurance, determination and accomplishment.

This is a lock-type canal owned and managed by Panama connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through a very narrow strip of land. The 2nd most strategic artificial waterway in the world, it provides ships sailing between Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia a shorter route to the Americas, avoiding to round Cape Horn,Tierra del Fuego, Chile and saving as much as 2,000 nautical miles (or 22 days).

While the world knows it was the US that built the canal in 1904, however, its construction was spearheaded by the French in 1881 through a diplomat named Mr. Ferdinand de Lesseps (same developer of the Suez Canal in Egypt). It took 10 years of grueling work to build the Canal and in 1916 it was inaugurated, with the first vessel to pass through, the SS Ancon, a US container ship for a toll fee of 0.36 cents. These days, the total cost for a ship to transit the canal for 8-10 hours is US$250,000.00 and that year in 2010 when we’re in Panama, the highest toll ever paid was by the cruise ship, Norwegian Pearl for a staggering US$346,000.00.

An Overview on Panama City:

Located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, Panama City was founded on August 15, 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Davila. The area served as a starting point in subduing the Inca Empire of Peru thus it became the transit point of gold and silver looted by Spain from the Americas. Because of this, the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan sacked and burned the original settlement in 1671, 2 years later it was re-established on January 21, 1673 8 km. away from the old one, now a tourist attraction called Panama Viejo (Old Panama).

The following century thereafter was a period of chaos in Panama City with the country becoming a part of Colombia in the 1700s. In 1903, Panama gained independence and in less of a decade the Canal was constructed in 1914. Panamian economy boomed and the city emerged unto the world stage as a very crucial financial center.

From the 1970s to the ’80s, Panama City became an international banking mecca that resulted to being a base of money laundering exploits. In 1989 after a year of tension with the US, then Pres. George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama that led to the ouster of the country’s dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega and by 1999, USA officially transferred the control of the Canal to Panama. To this day the city is still a banking hub but with restrictions in the flow of cash and shipping is handled through the port facilities in Balboa operated by Hutchinson Whampoa Co. of Hong Kong.

Map showing the location of Panama City, Panama.

In some ways, I would describe Panama City as the center of the world, forming as a bridge of the Americas. This was my impression when we docked at the Port of Balboa on October 2010 with the tanker M/T Knock Sheen. While you know this city for the Canal, only a few realizes that it is a place for adventure and nature lovers in Central America, the point where it meets with South America bringing influences from both continents. Described as the “Miami of Central America” here are 10 amazing facts that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama.

City of Pacific Sunrise and Atlantic Sunset

One of the amazing facts that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama is that it is the only city in the world where you can experience sunrise over the Pacific Ocean and sunset by the Caribbean Sea of the Atlantic Ocean. This is due to its geographical location where North America meets South America, where the Pacific Ocean kisses with the Atlantic Ocean in its famous canal, its narrowest point by a distance of mere 30 miles apart. And yes, it is possible for you to swim in both oceans in the same day as well.

There Is A Rain Forest Within Its Limits

This city is the only capital in the world what has a rain forest within its limit…an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama. Parque Natural Metropolitano is a strip of tropical rain forest stretching from the wilderness reserves of Parque Nacional Soberania and the forest Protector Arraijan into downtown Panama City. It is cut with trails and rich with wildlife which you can see mostly in the early morning or late in the afternoon.

Panama Hat Didn’t Come Here But In Ecuador

It’s the icon of Panama and has been around for 100 years. Teddy Roosevelt sported it in 1906, then glamorized by Gary Cooper and Paul Newman in the 1940s, became a fashion statement of Johnny Depp and Madonna in the 1990s – all have used the Panama hat. What an easy assumption to make that it came from this country but it’s actually handwoven by craftsmen from the cities of Cuenca and Montecristi in Ecuador..an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama.

Birthplace Of The 1st And Only European Princess of African Descent

Prince Maximilian and Princess Angela of Liechtenstein.

Did you know that the 1st and only woman of African descent to marry into a reigning European dynasty was from Bocas del Toro near Panama City? An amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama, Princess Angela of Liechtenstein is a Panamian-American fashion designer and the wife of Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein. Born Angela Gisela Brown, she was the daughter of a businessman and she was 5 years old when her family moved to New York City, studied fashion design and eventually establishing her own fashion label A Brown. She met Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein at a private party in New York in 1997 and the rest as follows is history.

It Gave Us The Song “Despacito”

Erika Ender

Popularized by Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee and an original by Puerto Rican, Luis Fonsi, this 2017 smash hit “Despacito” was written by Erika Ender, born in Panama City but grew up in Miami, Florida, USA. A Latin Grammy award winner, together with Fonsi and his guitar they wrote a sensual song intended for people to dance to. Erika Ender knew the song would be special but she never realized that Despacito (Slowly) she co-penned would make history…an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama.

Home Of The Panama Canal, One of The 7 Wonders of The Modern World

Constructed for the purpose of saving huge amount of US dollars while transporting goods (or passengers) around the globe, the Panama Canal is designated as one of the “7 Wonders of the Modern World” and a monument of the millennium. The country’s star attraction, it is every tourist’s bucket list to experience sailing through it..an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama. There are ocean cruise lines offering Panama Canal itineraries that sail through an approximately 8-hour passage to the opposite (Atlantic) ocean. However, you don’t have to sail through the Canal, if you visit Panama City you can take a trip to Miraflores Visitor Center (close to the Pacific end) and there you will witness in close encounter the canal in action.

It Uses US Dollar As Its Currency

An amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama is that you don’t have to change currency when you come here. It is the first and only Latin American city to adopt the US dollar as its official currency. The national currency is called Balboa but the US dollar is used for bills.

Casco Viejo Is the Original Site of Panama City, Now A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The golden altar of St. Joseph Church in Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo is the old part of the city and the original site where the Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Davila founded the settlement 500 years ago in 1519 but burned by the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. Rebuilt after the attack, you can still visit the area including the golden altar of St. Joseph Church which was buried in mud after the siege of 1671 then secretly transported to its present location. Casco Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama.

It Has The 2nd Largest Duty Free Center In The World, Zona Libre De Colon

One of the streets inside the compound of Colon Free Zone near Panama City.

Next in size to Hong Kong Duty Free area, the Colon Free Zone (Zona Libre de Colon) is the second largest duty free center in the world, an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama. Located just a few kilometers from the Panama Canal some people who visit this shopping complex don’t realize that they are inside the largest duty free zone in America. A mere of an hour from Panama City, at Zona Libre de Colon where shopping is all the rage, it is splurging on your favorite brands tax exempt and just shop, don’t drop.

Home Of The Rare Black Orchid -Finca Dracula

The rare black orchid or monkey face orchid.

Panama has the most diversified flora (and fauna) of all the Central American countries and there are more than 10,000 different species of flowers including 1,200 varieties of orchids. With these types of orchids is the black one endemic at Finca Dracula in Cerro Punta near Panama City. This is a farm that offers you a unique moment to see some of the rarest orchids in the world especially the monkey face or black orchid…an amazing fact that will blow your mind about Panama City, Panama. The aim of Finca is to accumulate a collection of orchids that are in danger of disappearing due to climate change and deforestation.

There is no shortage of amazing things to discover in Panama City. It is a wonderful place for a vacation and should definitely be on your bucket list when leisure travel in the world eases. Boasting some of the most fascinating scenery of the world and a rich, interesting culture, it is for this reason why Panama City is very popular with tourists.

Reference: Wikipedia