Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Havana, Day 4

Our last day in Havana.

We started with a presentation by a LGBT rights advocate who happens to be a cancer ICU physician. 

We then went to the Museum of Cuban Art. I was expecting a lot of propaganda art like in the Soviet Union and North Korea, but I saw something else entirely.

Wilfredo Lam was Cuba's greatest artist. He studied and worked with Picasso. This piece reminded me of Guernica.

This 1976 painting by a Chinese-Cuban artist reminded me of my parents' 1973 wedding photo. Identical!

I wanted to visit the Museum of the Revolution but it was being renovated. So I took these photos of vehicles involved in successful and attempted coups.

Lunch was at Al Carbon. Very protein heavy. The band got a couple of people from our group to join in.

The afternoon was free and I continued my search for a Chaika. I got a ride in a tuk-tuk.

I did get a photo of a Peugeot convertible taxi. Probably the only one in existence.

Having failed once again, I got a ride back to my B&B in a tired Lada.

Before dinner, we enjoyed a private performance by the Havana Youth Orchestra in an old church. The acoustics were awesome. The music was a mix of classical with a Cuban influence.

Our tour operator rented out a dozen classic American convertibles and had them drive us from the church to our dinner. We went along the Malecon, horns beeping, engines revving, and Yankees yelping the entire way. Very obnoxious but fun.

Our farewell dinner was at one of our tour guide's home. He splits his time between Havana and Miami and is an art enthusiast. We all had a great time.

The next day, I flew out. I highly encourage all of you to visit Cuba!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Havana, Day 3

The adventure continues. Our tour guides really packed a lot in.

We started with a morning lecture by a young-ish University of Havana economist who used to work for the country's central bank. Needless to say, the country is not in good shape.

On our way out of town, I saw this fire station with Chinese fire trucks. I had to take a photo for my son.

We are going to Ernest Hemingway's estate to the east of Havana. It's called Finca Vigia. Along the way, we saw large concrete stadiums built for the Pan-American games. The beach here was supposed to have a huge casino resort run by the American mafia. But when the revolution took place, the mob moved the idea to Las Vegas.

Hemingway's home is in decent shape. You can't go inside, but there are plenty of windows to peer into.

This was supposedly the guest room where Sinatra slept.

From the backyard, you can see Havana.

A pay phone outside the gift shop.

While waiting for the bus to take us to lunch, I just hung out at an intersection to people- and car-watch. I couldn't whip out my phone fast enough, but I saw a yellow early 1980s Dodge Charger with racing livery. I swear!

Lunch was at Paladar Ajiaco in Cojimar. They served so much food, we could not finish it all. There was also a 20 minute power outage during the meal, the only one we experienced during our trip. On my flight back to Miami, I talked to two men who traveled independently of each other for two weeks throughout rural Cuba. One was a California attorney and the other a retired California judge. They both said they experienced daily four-hour power outages. They also said there was nothing to eat but rice and beans. My group did not get to see that side of Cuba at all.

This lady made a big to-do about her coffee. It was okay.

The rest of the day was free. The tour guide recommended an arts and crafts market in the afternoon for souvenir buying and the Tropicana for evening entertainment. I had other plans.

I walked the Malecon, the seaside drive, to look for a ride in a Chaika. I came upon these Cuban kids doing karate. There are virtually no Asians in Cuba, but Cubans really like karate.

That fancy new building is the US embassy. My tour guides had no idea if Havana Syndrome was real. They said Cuba invited the FBI to come and investigate and they couldn't figure out the cause/source. I looked in the compound and there's a bunch of white Ford Expeditions.

The clouds were nice. I noticed a lot of undeveloped land, abandoned buildings, and inefficient use of prime real estate (like gas stations) along the Malecon. If this was Miami, it would look completely different.

I spotted a Chaika in front of the new Aston hotel. As I ran up to it, I saw three Yankees getting in and driving off. I never got to ride in a Chaika.

I did get a chance to take this shot of the Chaika leaving the hotel. I love it.

I eventually walked back to my B&B. Around the corner, I saw my tour guide waiting in line for gas in his Daewoo. His tank was full, but because the line was so short, he filled up three empty jugs in his trunk. Just in case. I joined him in line for the experience. There was only one pump open, with 94 octane gas. So inefficient. And people were so slow and took their time. No one honked or appeared inpatient.

In the evening, I decided to go to Chinatown and eat at the most famous restaurant there, Tien Tan. A Hyundai taxi took me to Chinatown, but the driver had no idea where the restaurant was. I talked to him about Covid. His taxi is owned by the state. He and his best friend (almost like a brother) take turns driving it. Though there were no tourists during the lockdown, the state paid him to deliver Covid vaccines to every province in the country.

Once dropped off at the Chinatown gate, I was on my own. There were tons of people milling around, but I could not see any businesses. I asked a resident and he had no idea where the restaurants were. I just walked around and around until I saw three Mainland Chinese guys (they looked like they worked in Cuba as construction managers?) carrying cases of beer home. They pointed me to the restaurants.

There were only a handful of eateries along a tiny and short alleyway. Tien Tan was at the end. I sat next to a poster of Bruce Lee. I was the only Asian person there. The manager, the waitstaff, the cooks, the customers, all Cuban. The only authentic thing was the beer.

The chili oil was very spicy but didn't taste like anything I had before.

I ordered a Pacific fried rice, which was basically seafood fried rice. However, it came with cut up lunch ham slices on top and four sweet chunks of pork on the sides.

Finally, I had the lobster. Very generous portions, but overcooked. The ginger was a nice touch.