Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back from the Sunshine...

So I'm back from my trip to Cuba...and before I go on a rant, I must admit, I did not fulfil my initial promise of a computer-less vacation. You see, as soon as I finished my last post, and was leaving my house for the airport, I realized that I'd be bringing my camera with me...and ofcourse, a camera is categorized in the class of technology which I specified. So I said to myself, "what the hell, might as well bring the DS as well." Pretty weak huh? (I gave in before my vacation even started:P

I stayed at the beautiful Barcelo Solymar in Varadero, Cuba, which is probably one of the most popular resorts on the peninsula. We had an ocean view (which was spectacular), and the staff were extremely friendly.
cuba 2007 007
There was an abundance of activities, and we took advantage of the scooters, snorkling, special dinners, paddle boats...just to name a few. Although I enjoyed getting inebbriated, I spent a great deal of time reading on the beach, which was probably one of the most relaxing things i have experienced in a long time.
cuba 2007 154

By far, the greatest, and most exciting part of the trip, was our visit to Habana (the nations capitol). This city is full of life, and if you go without a tour guide (like we did) you get to experience some of the "real cuba". When we arrived by bus, it was pretty clear we stuck out like a sore thumb. I don't know if it was the bright green resort braclets we had wrapped around our wrists, or the 500 page Cuban tourist book we were carrying:P Regardless, we ended up taking cabs from place to place. Cuba's Revolution took place in 1959, and it is pretty clear that a large part of the country is still stuck in that era. The city was full of 60's vehicles and building that have not been touched since that time. At points in time, we wandered into residential districts and were thrown into shock by the condition that people were living in. It almost seemed like we should have been scared walkign the streets alone, but what a lot of people don't know, is that Cuba is a lot safer than it appears to be. No cuban is allowed carry a gun. Locals are not legally allowed to talk to tourists unless their job permits them too. Knowing this, walking the streets of the ghetto felt a lot like a roller coaster - You're scared, but you know you're safe.
Che and Me
The thing that puts most people in shock is that we stayed at the house of a local in Habana. This may seem strange, but it is perfectly normal. Legally, Cubans are allowed to rent upto 2 rooms in each household to tourists. Each household is also certified by the government, so there is regulation. The next time you're in Habana and want to stay the night...ask for a casa particular...i promise you won't regret the experience. In my mind, every historic site in Habana is a must see, and is vital if you want to get a true sense of the way Cuba has transformed into the nation it is today.

So in conclusion, the vacation was relaxing, exciting, life-changing, and fun all in one...mission accomplished.

-Zak

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