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Traveling Central America - The Panama Canal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bianca Tavares   
Feb 28, 2006 at 07:02 PM
The country of Panama holds a unique strategic geographic location, and it has tried its best throughout the ages to exploit this to the full. From the time of the Portobello fairs to the first transisthmian railroad to the present waterway, often considered to be the eighth wonder of the world.

A canal linking the Atlantic with the Pacific oceans had been a dream since the first Spanish colonizations. In fact it was Charles V of Spain who first envisaged a shortcut through the Panamanian jungle to ease the difficult crossing. So in 1524 he ordered a survey of the land. However what inspired the king initially was not so much the possibilities for trade, so much as how to bring back to Spain with least difficulty the hoards of treasure recently discovered in Peru. Unfortunately for him, earth-moving techniques were to need major improvement before his idea could be undertaken.

It was not until 1826 when the United States started investigating a treaty with South American countries to "protect the companies intending to open a communication system between both oceans", that the building of a canal attracted worldwide interest, with France, England and the United States looking for locations and means to avoid the long, difficult and dangerous voyage around Cape Horn. The first attempt at this was the construction of the Transisthmian Railroad in 1855, which eliminated about 8,000 miles from the journey.

The first attempt at a canal was in 1854 by a multinational expedition comprising the United States, France, England and New Granada. But the impenetrability of the jungle was to take its toll and the attempt failed with many resultant deaths. But not to be daunted in this most crucial endeavor, in 1878 the French obtained a concession from Colombia to build a waterway. Yet again, after seven years of fighting disease and other jungle problems, the attempt was to fail with yellow fever, malaria and various plagues holding sway. This project, with the idea of building a level canal, was ultimately abandoned at the turn of the century.

Eventually the creation of a canal was to become a military imperative for the United States who commenced (fruitless) negotiations with Colombia in 1902. Finally, Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903 and the project went ahead. The monumental construction took 10 years to complete at a cost of $387 million.

The Panama Canal is 50 miles in length running from northwest to southeast. About 8 hours is needed for a typical vessel to transit the canal, whilst being lifted gradually to a height of 85 feet through three sets of locks - the Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores.

Operating the gigantic locks consumes vast amounts of fresh water. For every ship passing along the waterway, around 52 million gallons of water flows into the locks then out to sea. This comes from the Gatun and Madden lakes. The lock gates, themselves engineering wonders, consist of pairs of towering leaves from 47 to 82 feet high, 65 feet wide and 7 feet thick. Their weight is from 400 to 700 tons, yet each can be opened or closed in 2 minutes, powered by electric motors.

To navigate the canal, a ship's captain must relinquish responsibility for his vessel to a Panama Canal Pilot. Currently over 250 pilots steer over 14,000 ships through the canal each year. The total time spent in the canal is around a full day. Navigating through the canal is not cheap for vessels, averaging several 10s of thousands of dollars, depending upon the size of vessel and its contents. However, whatever the toll, it is typically ten times what it would have cost to navigate around Cape Horn.

The Panama Canal Commission welcomes visitors at the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the Isthmus seven days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Ships passing through the locks can be viewed from a pavilion where commentators provide an English and Spanish-language commentary, giving all the details of the canal including the amazing statistics. From yachts and small crafts through to container vessels, huge cruise liners and even small submarines, the Panama Canal is truly an international crossing point.

About the Author
Bianca Tavares guides you around Latin America, helping you to learn Spanish and even find some romantic Spanish poetry at Learn Spanish for Love.
Last Updated ( Dec 22, 2006 at 12:20 AM )
Philippine Travel: Baguio PDF Print E-mail
Written by Noel   
Feb 17, 2006 at 10:43 AM
One of the few places in the Philippines with a cool climate Baguio is on average eight degrees cooler than the normal Philippine temperature. 1,500 meters above the sea and 250 kilometers north of Manila, most Manila folk head for Baguio in the summer to escape the summer heat. Hence it has been called the "summer capital" of the Philippines.

Going to Baguio from Manila, visitors can take a 45-minute flight via Philippine Airlines landing in Baguio Airport or take the six hour bus ride through Kennon Road.

Halsema Highway connects Baguio with other parts of Benguet, Kalinga-Apayao and the Mountain Provinces. Bus ticket reservation is recommended during peak season (Novenber-May). Average one-way fare is P150.00 per person. It's then easy to flag down a cab to get to your accommodations from the airport or bus terminal.

The Americans in the 1800s, who perhaps longed for colder climates saw the potential of Baguio. Building Camp John Hay, the Americans proceeded to carve Kennon Road from the side of the mountain, the road which links Baguio to Manila.

One of the first things you should visit in Baguio is Session Road. You will find numerous shops and restaurants with American, Italian Japanese and Chinese cuisine. From here you can take a cab to Baguio's other attractions which include:

Burnham Park - Found at the center of the city, Burnham is the popular venue for the city's celebrations. Named after the city's chief planner Daniel Burnham, its man-made lagoon is the site of boating excursions. Skaters, hikers, bikers and delight in the park's walkways. A promenade in the rose gardens is perfect for romantic couples.

Mines View Park - Its mostly shopping here: hand woven blankets, silver ornaments and jewelries, various jams and strawberries. The Park also has a breathtaking view of the hills and valleys of the Cordillera as well as the gold mines of Benguet.

Camp John Hay - The former Rest & Recreation center of the United States Armed Force personnel in the Philippines, it features hotel type rooms, food outlets, basketball and volleyball courts, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, a six-lane bowling center, and a heated swimming pool.

Baguio Cathedral - This is just one of the many religious establishments in Baguio. The Bell Temple north of the city, the brilliant gardens of the Maryhurst Seminary, and Lourdes Grotto with its 252 steps to heaven are among them.

Places to Stay:

Benguet Prime Hotel
Session Rd. cor. Calderon St. Baguio City
(074)4427066 / (074)4428363
Conference facilities, Coffee Shops, Standard Accommodations

El Cielito Inn
50 North Drive, Baguio City
(074)4434846 / (074)4425272
Manila Contact:(02) 8158951 to 54
Deluxe/Standard Rooms, apartels, restaurants and function rooms

Hotel Supreme
113 Magsaysay Ave. Baguio City
(074)4432011 to 18
Superior/Executive rooms/suites, restaurants, bar and grill, function rooms, pool, spa, jacuzzi and sauna

Last Updated ( Dec 22, 2006 at 12:34 AM )
Amsterdam Sightseeing and Hotels PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rahul Viz   
Feb 17, 2006 at 10:38 AM
Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, and is one of the largest historic cities in Europe. The city lies near two bodies of water, the Amstel river and the IJ bay. For many tourists, Amsterdam is a city which is well known and praised for its entertainment and culture. The city at this time has a population of over 700,000.

Amsterdam is a city, which had very humble beginnings. It was founded in the 12th century as a small fishing village, but didn't begin to gain recognition until the 17th century, during the Golden Age of The Netherlands. A series of canals have been built around the older part of the city, and many luxurious mansions and homes lie near these canals.

If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, do not expect to be bored. For those who love art, Amsterdam is well known for its many museums. The Rijksmuseum showcases art from the Golden Age, and the Van Gogh Museum along with the Rembrandt House Museum are places every art lover should visit.

Those who enjoy history may want to visit the Anne Frank House, and anyone with a love of classical music should visit the world class Concertgebouworkest. Amsterdam is also known for its red light district, called de Wallen, and the many coffee shops, some of which sell cannabis.

Amsterdam is a city that has something for everyone. If you are traveling there, it is important to get accomodations at excellent hotels. Although you can find nice hotels on a budget, Amsterdam is an upscale city. Budget travelers and backpackers may find themselves spending a little more than in other European cities.

When it comes to money, Visa or Eurocard are widely accepted. Most large purchases will require use of a credit card. For everything else, just keep fifty dollars handy. Changing your currency in Amsterdam is easy. Any post office or bank will exchange currencies for you, often at good exchange rates.

The restaurants available in Amsterdam have a very international flavour. Traditional Dutch food is fairly simple, with meats and potatoes. There are restaurants for those on a budget as well as those wanting to eat in luxury.

Restaurants in Amsterdam usually charge service fees and taxes along with the prices you pay for your meal, and tipping is always welcomed. When it comes to traveling, Amsterdam is bicycle friendly. Buses also travel heavily throughout the city, and you can always catch a taxi cab. Due to the many types of transportation available, getting around in Amsterdam is fairly cheap.

Last Updated ( Dec 22, 2006 at 12:47 AM )
Disneyworld - How to Budget Your Way to a Fun Trip PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Murray   
Feb 17, 2006 at 10:35 AM
Whether Disneyworld is your family's favorite vacation destination or one you are looking forward to visiting for the first time, planning ahead can be the key to a successful and affordable trip. There are plenty of ways to investigate your options ahead of time, online or through a travel agent, in order to figure out what will work best for you and your family.

Some of your bigger costs, such as transportation and accommodation will vary by season, so it is worth looking into how much you can save by traveling during a non-peak period. Hotels commonly charge at least $40 more per night during the holidays compared to value season rates, which adds up over the course of a week.

Your choice of accommodation will also mean deciding whether you want to stay on or off resort, or even go camping. Some hotels are walking distance from the attractions, others offer free shuttle service - all things to consider depending on what is most important to you in order to enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

In addition to airline and hotels, you will want to consider a number of other costs while planning your vacation including: car rental or other transportation; food costs (three meals a day per person); entrance fees for the various attractions; and souvenirs. Limiting the number of meals you eat out can save a lot of money, so consider buying cereal and making your own sandwiches if possible. Having a preset budget for items like souvenirs is also a good idea in order to keep spending under control.

It is particularly important to plan ahead if you will be traveling with a pet. Disney theme parks do offer kennels, as pets are not allowed inside the parks, but availability is limited. Some campgrounds allow pets, but not in tents or pop-up campers, so make sure you know the ins and outs before you arrive!

In order to control your vacation costs, you may be able to find good deals through online discount ticket sellers, or find special internet rates or email offers. The sooner you start looking, the better you'll be able to compare offers and save the most money. Another reason to start early is the ability to start a vacation savings fund, so that you are able to pay for your vacation when it arrives, rather than relying on credit and paying interest rates after the fact.

Exploring your travel options, saving ahead of time, and sticking to a prearranged budget are all great ways to make the most of a stress-free vacation. Decide in advance what everyone most wants to do in order to make the best use of your time and ensure that the whole family has a successful and satisfying trip.

Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 11:19 PM )
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