When I first told my colleagues that I am travelling to Panama, they all seemed a bit shocked. Why would a Compliance Officer want to visit a country famous for its historic compliance issues? Back then, I didn’t have a precise answer, but a ‘why not?’. Well, now I have a few more words to add to that, along with a big recommendation to anyone even slightly interested in Central America.
The country’s most famous landmark, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of my visit, was the Panama Canal. As I stood at the Miraflores Locks, I marvelled at the engineering genius behind this historic waterway connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Watching massive cargo ships navigate through the locks was a sight to behold, and learning about the canal’s history and its impact on global trade was equally fascinating.
The adventure continued as I explored the historic neighbourhood of Casco Viejo. I cycled through its narrow cobblestone streets in the 32-degree heat and very high humidity. The colonial architecture and colourful facades brought a sense of history alive. I took my time exploring Plaza de la Independencia, soaking in the atmosphere and capturing the picturesque views.
Then to escape the hum of the capital, I flew to Bocas del Toro, a beautiful island on the Caribbean side of the country. The combination of the sandy beaches with clear blue water, and the tropical forest created plenty of opportunities for the active traveler. Snorkeling at the coral reef, surfing the waves of the low season, exploring the jungle on a quad, and getting a nice tan (sunburn to be more precise) while reading about the Panama Papers on the beach were among my favorites.
Starting the evening with a tasty Caribbean dish and a Panama beer (yes, they named a beer after their country…) is the standard. At night the island comes alive, all the bars open, and if you are lucky (unlike me, of course) you will get away with only a few mosquito bites, but definitely a whole lot of fun.