Dags Marasigan


Disastrous Havana Trip. April 29-May 1, 2008

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 Fort Morro 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 Museum of 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.








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