We had just arrived to Albrook Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport in Panama City. The FBO at the airport recommended that we stay at the Wyndham Hotel, next to Albrook Mall. "Many pilots stay here overnight and they all have mentioned that they like it"
Being exhausted from the day's flight from Miami to Panama City in the little Cessna 206, we gladly took the man's advice and shared a Cab to the hotel with two other pilots. We were greeted at the hotel, pleasantly surprised by its size, modern, shic elegance and the approximaty to the airport. What was even more to my surprise was that it is attached to mall... not just a mall....but a massive outlet. We managed to stumble upon world's fourteenth largest mall, Albrook Mall, with 30,000 and 50,000 visitors per day. Just knowing I had a massive mall at my disposal, I was tempted to stay in Panama instead of continuing down to Ecuador with the C206 and captain.
We went down to the restaurant at our hotel, had a couple of brews, then walked through the mall before we made it back to the hotel. I have to say that flying over the Panama Canal was quite breath taking, and surreal. Part of me fell in love with the city just flying over it. I decided that it would be an adventure to stay down in Panama City, to learn more about the canal and explore the city.
Next morning, I decided to switch to a Hyatt Place Hotel, since it was near the city center, had amazing room views since I found a superb deal online and surely I hit the jackpot with my room. I was also lucky enough to meet other travelers while munching down on my included breakfast in their restaurant.
So now that I was all settled in, and had my flight back to Miami booked, It was time to venture off into the city. I had a total of 3 days, with no responsibilities, no obligations and only adventures whenever I wanted to and Wherever I wanted to go.
The first adventure was a bike ride on the road along the locks of Panama Canal. I got picked up from my hotel not knowing what was coming before me. We rode into the jungles and passed a few bridges on the river and we arrived at Gamboa Rainforest Resort. We decided to have lunch at thei Los Lagartos Restaurant, and enjoy the breathtaking view.
Within the next few days of my stay I met a handful new people. What was surprising to me was that Panama City is even a more of a melting Pot than the USA. I met a Colombian, Puerto Rican, Tican ( Costa Rica), an Israeli, an Iranian, a Cuban that all lived in Panama City. I was lucky enough to have my new friends show me around town.
Visiting the Panama Canal had been on my bucket-list probably since I was born. Going to the Panama Canal Museum and the Miraflores locks was by far the most interesting part of the entire trip. At the entrance, you are greeted with a huge theatre where you and 100 other people share learning about the history of the canal as well as a detailed explanation of how the canal actually works. The museum has multiple floors all with different themes. Finally there is a terrace on the fifth floor which allows you to have the best view of the ships passing through the canal. What amazes me is that between 13,000 and 14,000 ships use the canal every year, the average time it takes a vessel to navigate the canal, including waiting time ranges between 20 and 30 hours and can take up to 11 days. I included here this awesome video from history chanel for those of you who are interested to know more about the canal as well as some photos from the Meuseum.
The rest of the trip included catching rays of sun at the Trump Infinity pool overviewing the city, walking through different neighborhoods such as Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo, and experiencing the lively nightlife the city entails. Here are some photos...