Panama lies in between north and south America; between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Its capital, Panama City, is a modern place full of skyscrapers.
But it is the old Casco Viejo area that is the the most interesting for visitors.
The Casco Viejo contains a mix of ruins, old buildings, buildings being restored and fully restored buildings. A wide spectrum of people live there: ranging from the very poor to the president of Panama.
The Casco Viejo is Unesco World Heritage site and many of the old colonial buildings have already been restored. The area is very compact and easy to walk around.
At the center of Casco Viejo is the old church.
The French were the first to attempt to build a canal here. On the peninsula is a monument to thousands who died in that tragic attempt.
Also on the peninsula is this grand building. James Bond fans might recognise this building as the exterior of the Grand Andean Hotel from A Quantum of Solace. Panama was used to film many of the scenes set in Bolivia.
The main attraction of visiting Panama is to see the famous canal.
Here a ship is entering the Miraflores locks from the Pacific Ocean. The locks will take it up to the higher man-made Lake Gatun. At the other side of the lake, other locks will take it down to sea level on the Atlantic side.
There is actually not much difference between the sea levels of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (but the tides do vary greatly on the Pacific side). The main reason for the locks is due to the higher level of Lake Gatun.
I took a partial transit of the canal, starting half way at Gamboa and ending up in the Pacific. The Galliard Cut goes through the continental divide. On the left is Gold Hill and on the right is Contractor’s Hill. There is no gold here: the name was chosen to help entice people to fund the building of the canal!
This is the first lock we went through.
We entered the upper lock and the gate closes behind us.
The water flows out of the upper lock using gravity.
The water is released until it reaches the level of the lower lock.
The gates in front of us are then opened.
And we sail out to the next lock. The small trains on the side are used to tow larger ships through the lock.
The second lock at Miraflores will bring us down to the Pacific Ocean. The canal has been operating in this way since it was finished in 1914.
The Panama Canal is currently being widened so that it can handle larger container ships.
Before reaching the Pacific Ocean, we pass under the Bridge of the Americas. It links the North American continent with the South American continent.