So…Cheli’s parents came for a visit and we arranged a tour with our friends Randy and Anabell Hilarski of VIP Panama Tours. It’s nice when you can support your local friends that you meet online 🙂
The in-laws got to see just how things can unfold in Panama. We told them their driver would be there around 9am. To us, “around 9am” is just that…somewhere around 9am, but that wasn’t always the case. You see, to Canadians, 9am really means 8:45am. Thankfully Randolfo Hilarski let us know they were stuck on the Bridge of Americas (surprise, surprise) and they’d be there about 9:10-9:15 (this falls under “around 9am”). Knowing our Canadian parents, Cheli phoned to say they were running a bit late because of traffic. Just one of the things we’ve adjusted to here in Panama.
With a Panamanian from Colon driving, our tour began with a short drive through the “jungle” to get to the highway, then it was off to Colon and a trip to the Gatun Locks. On the way we paid a visit to the canal expansion and as luck would have it we got to drive OVER one of the new locks – pretty cool. Not sure if they’ve fixed up the leaks yet, but if so, I’d like to think they used one of my 8 suggested methods for fixing the new canal leak. Anyway, here’s a fun little video I created from the very back seat as we rumbled through construction.
Next stop…the Gatun Locks!
If you’ve only ever visited the canal at Miraflores, you haven’t seen anything. Okay, I guess you have seen something, but the Gatun Locks are WAY better (and cheaper too, but don’t tell anyone). You are practically right beside the ships and have an amazing view of them as they enter/exit the locks. If a cruise ship is going through you could almost reach out and touch someone …there’s a retro slogan for ya (AT&T is not a sponsor of this post). Anyway, we highly recommend these locks that VIP Panama Tours recommends over the oft-recommended Miraflores.
From the locks we made a quick venture to Colon then decided to stop for ocean-front eats, dining at Aku Restaurant within Bala Beach Resort – a pretty sweet location for some grub and suds. And if you happen to tour with VIP Panama Tours and eat at this spot, go for the hojaldre tacos – muy bueno!
After lunch we drove on down to Mushroom town…err…Portobelo. Okay, not even spelled the same as the mushroom. Anyway, it’s an old fort town (not old fart town) that was once sacked by Captain Morgan, who, in the middle of the night, decided he would sack the town, so sack it they did. It’s a pretty cool waterfront in Portobello, with original canons pointing towards the water from the coral-walled fortress. Plenty of photo ops here and also plenty of trinket purchasing opportunities. You can also visit the church of the Black Jesus if churches are your thing, personally, they creep me out with all those statues staring at you.
Anyway, the tour with VIP Panama Tours was about 6-7 hours with all stops and drive-times included, and everyone had a great time, especially the coconut dude in Portobelo who charged $1.50 per coconut water. Sometimes ya just get gringo’d I guess.
This was not a sponsored post, we just think Randy and Ana are two cool and helpful dudes doing a good thing here in Panama with VIP Panama Tours.