Where did you go?
What was the best moment of the trip?
On either the second or third day in Cuba I was exploring Havana and it appeared people were gathering on the street, so out of curiosity, I joined them. As it turned out, the gathering was for a sweet street concert. It was right around sunset near El Malecon and everyone was dancing; it was a great experience!
What was your favorite town and why?
Viñales was one of my favorite cities. It was in the countryside and surrounded by green untouched, rolling hills. It is the spot where the locals grow the tobacco that they use to craft everyone’s favorite cigar, The Cuban!
What are two interesting things the average person doesn’t know about traveling in Cuba?
- There are two currencies in Cuba, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP). Most places you will see two prices for everything, one in CUP (for tourists) and one in CUC (for the locals). The CUC price is much cheaper to cater to the locals, who don’t have much money.
- Cuba is transitioning to a Capitalist government – I was told by a tour guide that due to a poor economy, the Cuban government is allowing their own version of private business. I say ‘their own version’ because down there, private business means that 90% of the revenue goes to the government, while the business owner only keeps 10%.
What was the most surprising thing about your trip?
The most surprising thing was all the old cars. I always thought this was due to ‘el bloqueo’, which literally translates to ‘the blockade’ and is the local terminology for the embargo. However, Fidel Castro actually banned the import of any foreign cars or car parts shortly after taking power in 1959. So, most cars are passed down generation after generation and are a great source of pride and joy.
Did you learn anything interesting about yourself?
I want to be fluent in Español. My Spanish is pretty good but spending a couple months immersed in the language would be really helpful.
What was your favorite meal?
I really enjoyed Cuban food! Most of the local cuisine I encountered was simple fair – like rice, chicken, beans, and root veggies. Yet, I am ashamed to say, I found a place that served up a mean burger and I had it more than once.
If you had to live in one of the places you visited, where would you chose?
I would live in China!
What is the next stop on your bucket list?
Maybe India or back to China for more exploration. I love China and I seriously doubt I could explore it all, even if I had several lifetimes to do it.
In Havana, if you walk along the shoreline you can see all sorts of remains from the Cold War, like old decaying cement bunkers and tunnels. Also, check out Hotel Nacional, they have kept up with some of the tunnels and they are open to the public. It is pretty cool!