Very few modern cars roamed the roads. Most of
the cars were from the 1920's and 1940's. The moment Fidel Castro took over
power and instituted communism, all progress stopped. Though education
(until post-graduate) and health care were free, Cuban's had not improved at all since
they had no idea of global progress.
Victor and I saw clean roads on our way to
Havana. Though the houses were old and had been crumbling, Cubans
tried their best to make the most of it.
We had so much fun in Varadero and the
disaster started when we arrived in Havana which was a city of crumbling
buildings. Our reservation was on the 30th of April but we arrived a
day before. The receptionist at
Hotel Lincoln was not flexible enough to adjust our reservation and we
ended up paying cash for our first night.
From our hotel window, we had a overview of
how bad Havana city was. Streets were littered with garbage and the stink of
piss and nightsoil were just unbelievable. One may appreciate the old
buildings and the old architecture but they were not maintained.
We only saw 2 modern hotels at the central area.
While going around the city, there were no
internet cafes and access was only limited to hotels. Out of 7 hotels
that we saw that provided internet access, only 1 had a printer. Cost
of access was about US$12/hour which was very expensive.
Due to suppression and with no global
exposure, Cuban cuisine was extremely bland. I thought their chefs
were not daring enough to even put salt in the food they cooked. Even
a decent restaurant served food that needed major re-cooking. Worse,
most establishments did not accept credit cards.
On April 30 we hired Roger, a local
unregistered taxi driver who drove us around. We went to
which was an old defense fortress just like
Corregidor in the
Philippines. From Fort Morro we proceeded to
Plaza de la
Revolucion, where most political Cuban luminaries did their
grandstanding especially Fidel Castro during his heydays.
The plaza, just like any other place in Cuba
was surrounded by photos of one of Fidel's revolutionaries,
Che Guevara. He was
such an icon that his face was all over Cuba - from shirts to iron moulding
on a building facade.
From the plaza, we went to Havana beach which
was a strip of fine white sand and crystal clean water. On the way to the
beach, we saw a lot of hitchhikers since transportation for locals was very
few. We saw some new buses roaming around the city, but the number did
not compensate for the number of commuters.
Went back to Parque Central and visited the
the Revolution, Fireplace museum and the inner parts of Old Havana.
Met a local photographer and took a picture of me sitting at the capitol
building in black and white. I was fascinated with the photo
comparison of "then" and "now."
By May 1, we were just in a hurry to get out
of Havana. As soon as our plane taxied, it was such a relief that we
were on our way to Toronto with easy internet access and where most
establishments accept credit cards.
Following day, I dropped off Victor at
Vancouver and directly proceeded to Winnipeg and visited the Meijer family
that capped off my vacation.