I LIKE THE the Panama Canal. In the dark distant past when the school system threw me into the jobs market with zero clue what to do with myself and no qualifications worth a jot, I applied to join the merchant navy, and was duly rejected by it. Its loss was the Royal Mail's gain, at least for a couple of years.
I'd possibly still be going back and forth through the Miraflores Locks if the Merchant Navy had accepted me, I'm sure as hell not still be a Leith Postie! The guys working on the ships seem as taken with it all as the tourists though - waving at us and taking pictures and videos of us taking pictures and videos of them...
Boys and their toys - the visitor centre is fantastic, you can pretend you're running things from the canal command centre, and there is a simulator were you take a container ship through the canal (maybe with a little fast forward effect on it - the actual 8-10 hours is probably too long for the average tourist!)
I can think of few places were folks actively enjoy watching you work - the entertainment industry aside. Here at the canal the viewing gallery is fuller than than the one at Holyrood Parliament - a diverse range of tourists and locals, with bars, restaurants etc overlooking the canal and it's locks and constant traffic of container ships, cruise ships and tankers. When Holyrood can compete with a canal as a tourist attraction and a source of the country's pride then that'll really be something!
The canal is pretty much 100 years old - and is still working away. What are the odds of the New Forth Bridge still working in 100 years?
Panama is one of Alex Salmond's fantasy lands - an independent country that uses someone else's currency! It's US dollars all the way here. By all accounts Panama seems to be a successful independence story - Panama was Spanish, then elected to join Columbia, then elected to be "free" but leased the canal and its surrounds to America in return for the US building it, then campaigned, ultimately successfully, to administer the canal themselves. The country seems to be making a good job of running it themselves. It's a thumbs up from up me for Panama.
Worth noting that it's also got beautiful islands, beaches and countryside as well as some fantastic skyscrapers, funky buses and trolley cars – some even amphibious – as well as a liberal sprinkling of all the staples of any foreign country - McDonalds, KFC, Hooters and Hard Rock Cafe. Except these guys have a Hard Rock Hotel.
But that's all by the by - Panama is the canal - it's fantastic - and added to my bucket list is to do it from the ship's point of view next time!