I had been eagerly awaiting the trip to Cuba ever since I booked my flights and a tour in November last year. I chose the tour “Cuban Rhythms” from G Adventures as it would have given me a glimpse into Cuba over a 8 day period. Since November last year, the political situation in Cuba has changed. The relationship between US and Cuba has been improving and while there is no doubt that economically Cubans will gain from the new relationship, from a tourist point of view we are going to lose the “old” Cuba. Today, as I write this post, the embassies have re-opened in Washington and Havana respectively.
On July 2nd I flew into Havana and spent almost 10 days in Cuba. Looking back, I found Cuba to be a generally positive experience. There are a couple of negatives (with any developing nation it is the case) but overall the Cubans won me over. What struck me most was their attitude towards life. These are folks who have had an embargo on their heads, who have had their chief backer the Soviet Union collapse, who have had to go through the “special period” – effectively who have had it tough since 1959. However the Cubans are folks who love life – they embrace the good and the bad and just have learnt to live life to the fullest. There is little doubt that the conditions in Cuba are tough but the warmth of the people and their zest for music, dance and rum won me over.
I started the Cuban experience in Havana. In total I spent 4 days there. Havana is just like any capital – buzzing with local and tourist traffic. Overall the sea front, the buildings and the general buzz reminded me of my hometown Mumbai. What was surprising was the number of modern cars – mostly from Kia.
Day 1 and 2
The first day experience wasn’t great. I was scammed into buying cigars at inflated prices (the scam is always it is the last day when folks that work in cigar factories can sell cigars at half price) and ended up paying way too much for lunch. After that minor blip, the experience in Cuba has been wonderful. I also spent time walking around the sea front soaking in and breathing in Havana.
On Day 2 I spent walking around Old Havana. Old Havana is beautiful – the architecture around Havana colonial with gems in many of the small lanes in Havana. Most residential homes however seem like they are put together with wall plastering falling off, exposed cables and crammed rooms. There are many places where one can eat and have some drinks. I chose to have food at the hotel (I spent more time around Havana after the tour – there will be another update) mostly because I was extremely jet lagged and tired.
Some of my favourite sights in Havana from the first two days are as follows:
The old classics
A neighbourhood in Havana
The seafront in Havana – absolutely beautiful
The fort in Havana