27-31 May, 4-6 June 2004

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Havana, capital of communist Cuba, a tiny island off the coast of a large menacing neighbour. What a fascinating, crazy place.

Hotel de Nacional - the famous majestic hotel overlooking the sea. It was here where I sat on the terrace sipping a mojito rum cocktail while being offered some Montecristo cigars by three American exchange students. One of them looked like Che Guevara.

Coco taxis - these bright yellow scooters are great for zipping through the back streets to get somewhere quickly. Unfortunately you're most likely to get some crazy driver who turns corners sharply and rides over potholes at full speed.

Classic American cars - and of course the other vehicle seen everywhere is the classic American car. These were left over from the 50's when Americans did business in Cuba. Then they left, and these are now used mostly as taxis, but only for Cubans.

The Capitolio - this behemoth of a building with its huge dome was once used for parliament. It is now a museum, but its exquisite interior is one of the grandest I've seen.

Jose Marti monument - Cuba's founding father is imortalised in a tall tower and statue. It overlooks the Plaza de la Revolucion, capable of accommodating a million people. Castro would stand on the statue's platform while delivering his propaganda speeches to the hoardes below. The building mural is of revolutionary Che Guevara.

Squares - daily life in some of Havana's many squares that are surrounded by Spanish colonial architecture, such as the Plaza de San Francisco de Assis, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza de Armas. Kids playing baseball, doing exercises, and street performers.

The Malecon - the long stretch of coastal road curving around the bay of Havana offering views of the sea. Here, locals will jump below the walls for a swim or a spot of fishing. There's also nothing like a ride in a coco taxi zipping along the length of the Malecon while taking in the views.

Museo de la Revolucion - another grand building but with a fascinating collection of items from the Revolution, including a tank out the front. The city can also be seen from some of its balconies.

Necropolis - the large walled cemetary in Havana. I had a fascinating time wandering around looking at the ornate statues and tombs.

Miscellaneous street scenes and architecture.

1 Universidad La Habana.
2 Camel bus - some strange bus with two humps and pulled by a truck. There is a high probability of getting your pocket picked on one of these.
3 Partagas Tobacco Factory - probably the most famous cigar factory, producing the world famous Cuban cigars exported all over the world (almost). I never did time it right to go on a factory tour.

Jerome Chik 2005

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