Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 8 - Havana (Cuba)

Laundry in a CASA.

TV Console of the CASA host. Consumer goods is really expensive in Cuba (due to high tax).
The female host watched lotsa Hollywood movies as well as Korean drama (dubbed in Spanish).

In general, CASA hosts are considered well-to-do in Cuba. The room rate is around US$30/night, and a Cuban doctor and engineer monthly salary is around US$35. At the same time, the CASA hosts need to register with the govt and pay taxes to the govt.

Empty Street in the morning. Nice buildings.

No traffic. No morning rush hour.

Street View

Street View

Street View

Havana is like frozen in time. Old buildings, Vintage Cars, Tricycle... Cool!

Old school barber shop (seemed to be very popular with the locals)
This is not in a back small alley, but along a popular pedestrian street. 

I went for a haircut (good experience but not so nice) and paid US$5 for it.

Spartan Shop. 
This is a norm, and most of the businesses are state-owned. 
Consumerism is still no prevalent in Havana. 

I felt I went back to the '80s - simple deco, the lack of design, very utilitarian feeling.

Adidas (German brand) is popular in Cuba. 
*Did not realize that the lady in blue was looking at SM (in green) in a unfriendly way. 

There weren't a lot of people in the shop, as the price point is quite expensive for the normal locals. Bought a sports T-shirt for around US$35 (which is the normal price in any parts of the world), but this amount is equivalent to a doctor's salary.

Beautiful Street

Lotsa Vintage Cars

Street View

Nice Vintage Car

Nice Vintage Car

Havana should be a paradise for any Vintage car lovers. 

Interesting Article: 
Cuba's classic cars are icons of oppression that deserve scrapping

"Most western travellers visiting Cuba will have come across the island's cars long before their plane lands. They appear in every travel guide, and you can buy calendars and posters of the 1950s classics that still drive through the streets of Havana.

They've become an icon of the island – considered a quaint, unmissable feature of Cuba's unique atmosphere. So, it was against a background of nostalgia that the news broke that they may at last be retired. It was portrayed almost as a saddening shame that these majestic beasts of the road might disappear.
This is patronising nonsense. As the experience of the rest of the world shows, if Cubans had the choice they would have abandoned their clapped-out Studebakers and Oldsmobiles long ago. The only reason they didn't is that the communist dictatorship that rules them did not allow it.

In a classic example of some being more equal than others, only senior party officials and a smattering of celebrities deemed of use to the party have been allowed to buy new vehicles from abroad over the past 60 years.
The motor museum driving Cuba's roads each day might seem quaint to tourists, who can go back to their air-conditioned, reliable and safe modern cars when their holiday is over – in reality the sight is a symptom of the way in which dictatorship runs down the lives of those forced to labour beneath it."

Lotsa people just hang around on the street.
My guess is there is nothing much to do at home, on the other hand, the community spirit seemed to be strong.

Met some interesting dudes (looked like war veterans) and decided to take a photo with them. =)
Unfortunately, I couldn't speak Spanish, otherwise, I would really love to chat with them and get to know their background etc... 

Long Queue outside the Telco Company (partly to get internet access).
We were lucky that I gotten some assistance as we were tourists.

Simple fit out in the Telco shop.

Nope, it is not black friday sale.
A guard monitoring the traffic, lotsa people were still queueing outside.

Internet Access in Cuba!!

Step One: Get pass the long queue outside Telco
Step Two: Register with the Telco for internet access! (Bring your passport along)
Step Three: Make payment (US$6 for 1hour)
Step Four: Look for available terminal
Step Five: Smile, you are connected with the rest of the world.

It is quite an experience to access facebook and make posting. I think that US$6/hour is expensive, esp for normal Cubans. With censorship, internet access is not for normal Cubans.


"The Internet in Cuba is among the most tightly controlled in the world.[2] It is characterized by a low number of connections, limited bandwidth, censorship, and high cost.[3] The Internet in Cuba stagnated since its introduction in the 1990s because of lack of funding, tight government restrictions, the U.S. embargo, and high costs. Starting in 2007 this situation began to slowly improve. In 2012, Cuba had an Internet penetration rate of 25.6 percent.[4] Recently, many in Cuba have been able to circumvent government restrictions using satellite cell phones, many of which are paid for by friends and relatives abroad"

Good-looking Cubans

Grumpy Cuban

Old Havana (touristy street) is good for people-watching.

Local Cafe - Each cup of coffee is almost free US$0.02!!!

Street performer

One observations: I did not see a lot of beggars in Havana. In constrast, there are definitely more beggars in the Capitalism capital like New York City. At least, it is not so bad in Cuba - at least, no destitute.


Publications on Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Fidel Castro (Wiki):
"Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (Spanish: [fiˈðel ˈkastro]; born August 13, 1926) is a Cuban communist politician and revolutionary who served as Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces from 1959 to 2008, and as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Politically a Marxist-Leninist, under his administration the Republic of Cuba became a one-party socialist state; industry and businesses were nationalized, and socialistreforms implemented in all areas of society."

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Cuba is that Fidel Castro is already 87 years old, and his days are numbered, so I am keen to see the last few true-blue Communist States in the world (China and Vietnam have embraced Capitalism). I believe that after his death, the communism regime in Cuba would be under threat and Cuba would be more open and things would change dramatically. 

**Similar experience when I visited Myanmar when Aung San Suu Kyi was under house-arrest**

Fishing by along Malecon

Malecon: "There is no other place which shows more of the Havana's soul, or attracts more locals and tourists than the long stretched Malecon. This sea boulevard crawls 7 km along the historical areas of the city, from the colonial center (Habana Vieja) through the boring (Russian) apartments of Vedado, if it is a resume of Havana's history. There are a lot of very charming buildings along the busy street, but it's the total thing what makes it interesting, in specific when the Bay of Habana is lightened by the sunset. For Habaneros the Malecon means tradition and religion, they bring offers to the Yoruba gods and throw it into the sea."

Time for a swim! - Along Malecon


Street View

Street View

Took a tourist bus to tour around Havana

The few high rise buildings in Cuba.
Felt that I was back in the '80s - Utilitarian buildings.

In most Asian cities, I am used to see a lot of building constructions, and a lot of skyscrapers. Unfortunately, I did not recall seeing any construction in Havana, which implies that the state of development is still very slow.

Cuban Flag and Che

One of the neighbourhoods
Buildings are old and people also hangout on the street.

Street view.
No traffic. No car.

Malecon - where lotsa Cubans hangout during evening time.

Malecon - Good for people watching too!!

Vintage Cars

Chilling out. =)

Met PY & PZ (who flew in from Madrid).
Sumptuous meal prepared by our CASA hosts for the 5 of us.

More people hanging out on the street at mid-night

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful beach.. And the vintage cars look so new!