Koh Rong, Cambodia: the reality behind the paradise

Koh Rong, Cambodia: the reality behind the paradise

Cambodia always was for me something special, like a rough diamond in South-East Asia’s treasure chest. I was deeply interested in its history, the sorrowful life of the people there and I am sure it is a bit platitudinous, but stills of the movie Beyond borders touched me, when I was a child. I simply decided: I have to see this remote, but enchanting part of the world.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries of South-East Asia. The marks of the French colonization and the Khmer Rouge can still be seen. The „dream” of the brutal regime was to create a communist state removing everything what is in connection with the intellectuals, the knowledge. Everybody, who was educated in any way, was an intellectual or weared glasses, was transported to special centres – death camps – and forced to do unhuman work. Most of them were tortured and executed.

But then why did I use the term of „paradise”?

I wanted to plan my trip with less touristy places, so I decided to catch the beach-life feeling of the khmer islands, which can be defined as paradise for backpackers.

The best way to reach the islands is taking ferry or speedboat from the small town of Sihanoukville. If you take the smaller boat, you can start praying for a journey with no engine problems. Otherwise you can chill floating on the turquoise water hours on end. Most of the islands are easily accessible by boat from this port. About the possible itineraries and tips you can read here.

As I mentioned, it took us a bit longer to reach the magical island of Koh Rong, but to be honest, the incredible view made me up for everything. Here I have to share some infos with you: if you do not want to stay at the central point of the island, you have to continue your boat ride, which is mostly provided by the owner of the choosen accommodation. We wanted to sleep in tent, so we were on one of the most remoter, emptier part of this kingdom of coconut trees and luring beaches. Exactly in this hides the true charm of the island: it is not spoilt by sky-high hotels, tourist-luring shops and high infrastructure. Simply some tents, restaurants and bungalows serve the convenience and „luxury” – or the biggest nightmare – of the visitors.

Koh Rong

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is the right place for hiding from the world, from the „money is everything” thinking and the selfishness. Perfect for those, who want to experience, how it is to spend the days poor, but yet rich. The endless ocean, the palm trees and the rainbow color painted sky was our best company. Nothing else. The flip flops or my lovely Converse lost their function: who would not love walking in a powdered sugar-like, twittery beach sand?

From Koh Rong several other islands can be visited. Some of them are so extremely uninhabitated, that the prints of the human destruction do not exist. Here I have good news for the adventurers: there is possibility for staying in a tent for 1-2 nights in order to get a dash of Robinson Crusoe-feeling.

My lovely tent far from the village

I was lucky to get this feeling on the „secret” beach of Koh Rong, which can be reached through the jungle. Here I could see it, feel it and taste it. We met four foreigners living here, like the biggest king in his golden palace. The „furniture” was very rich, in paradise way: snow white, powdered sugar-like sand under our feet, in thousand shades of gold playing sunset, a small wooden hause, fireplace for romantic dinner and the autenthic khmer beer. The four guys left for years ago their home: the rushing, selfish western world. For one of them was even Thailand too materialistic. They just did not want to live in this way anymore: with hate and being shallow.

„At this place the money counts nothing, it does not matter, that we spend the whole day barefoot.”

The “palace” of the guys

It makes me wonder: we started for more than 1000 years ago from here, we needed only, what is necessary. Nothing else, nothing more. But today we want everything and even more. The lack of „luxury”, the lack of a pillow makes us totally disgusted.

In a better case we wake up, like the Sleeping Beauty from her dreams, and we go back to the basics. We start loving the nature, valuing the very simple things.

But what does hide behind this adorable paradise? What do not we see… or rather we do not want to see?

The reality behind the curtain is often ignored in order to not spoil the wonderful holiday.

The first thing, what I was terrified of, was the problem with the canalisation, in other world the small, dubious colour rivulets and ponds running out from the secret world of toilettes. The only thing I can advice: please do not even dip your toe close to these „this-is-no-Spa” creeks!

No Spa creeks

The second thing can be seen, if you wake up very early. The mesmerising turquoise water and the shore looks like a colourful plastic blanket, but not in a good meaning. I have to mention the outstanding positive attitude of the locals, which means, that they work really hard every morning in order to see the ocean and the beach in its natural beauty again.

The human destruction

If you are traveling with open eyes, you can see in several bars or restaurants of Koh Rong, that you will be asked by one person and served by another one. The reason is for it the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. There are still many people, who can not write and/or read. As we drunk our favourite, perfect roasted coffee at the beach – brewed coffee is very rare on the island – my friend asked the waitress and owner for translating and writing down one word in Khmer. She answered with a sad smile:

„My brother is the only one, who can read and write, but he comes later in the afternoon. I am very sorry.”

On the hidden islands, in tiny villages of Cambodia the knowledge is something special, a really rare treasure.

The marks of colonization can be found on every corner, too. It is common, that the owners of the restaurants, hotels and bars are expats, mostly French and English. I think, it is no problem, our world became nowadays so „small” without distance. But sometimes I was ashamed, that I am european. I was ashamed as I saw the exploitation of the locals. I was almost crying, as I walked down the pier to my room and saw those guys sleeping on the floor, who prepared my coffee every morning with a gorgeous smile and happiness.

One of my favourite moments

The chance of the local people for something better, for way out is minimal. The things, which are for us so trivial, like reading, writing, just learning something about our amazing world, is for them the biggest gift. Still, their smile, their bright shining eyes enchanted me. Teached me.

The time spent here was not only a paradise, it was a lesson at the same time.

10 things to do in Amsterdam

10 things to do in Amsterdam

10 Things to do in Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam is a vibrant, colourful city providing numberless opportunities for grabbing some culture and art, sightseeing, gastro touring or just simply hanging out.  In the narrow streets and among the canals of the city center thousand of secret places, museums, galleries and tiny coffee shops, amazing street food can be explored.

I personally like to discover cities mixing culture, food and chilling. So let’s see, what should be done visiting this crazy, little heaven of Europe.

  1. Visit one of the most famous coffee shops of the city

The city of freedom in several aspects. Among others smoking weed, hash, marijuana is legal, so according to this the meaning of coffee shops turned into something different: an establishment with good vibe, original interior, nice nonalcoholic drinks and wide selection of weed.

We chose the iconic Dumpkring, which is located in the heart of the city center. It is one of the most popular coffee shops of Amsterdam offering an outstanding smoke menu, fresh smoothies, shake (the strawberry-white chocholate shake is a must) and tea with unique flavours. This place with its bohemian ambiance is perfect both for young and old, local and tourist having good chance to hang out.

The staff is really professional and friendly so dear „smoke virgins” no worries: if you are a first timer, they will advice you the perfect smoke (marijuana, hash, kush) according to your wishes.

  1. Rent a bike and discover the city

/For the andventurers: cycling from Amsterdam to Keukenhof/

Amsterdam – and the whole country – is super bike-friendly assuring the essential infrastructure and background. However, it can be little adventurous for not experienced tourists. Anyway, if we want to get a dash of real Amsterdam-feeling, renting a bike is the best way.

Bike rentals can be found on every corner of the city for reasonable price (10-12 €/day). It is really easy and cool to visit the old streets, museums and other points of interest by bike. If you have about enough of hustle and bustle of the urban area and there is an adventurer lost in you, there are several options for cycling to surrounding towns.

As we were in the Netherlands in springtime, we tried the following: cycling from Amsterdam city center to Keukenhof to see the „world’s flower garden”, where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Please note, that the garden is open to the public between mid-March and mid-May only. It is better to purchase the tickets in advance – all day trip or combined with other programmes – online. The park is perfect for chilling, nice lunch (menu for 15€), long walks and unique photos in ocean of tulips. If you do not want to go in, there is another alternative to rent a Keukenhof bike for taking a ride around the magical tulip fields.

I advice cycling straight from Amsterdam for those only, who are motivated enough to bike 75 km there and back. It is a flawless way to deepen your Dutch experience in every sense.

About tips for long distance biking in the Netherlands you can read here.

  1. Stamble on secret bars of Amsterdam

Oh yes! My favourite part is coming: experimenting with matchless drinks while traveling. You can choose from certain drink related programs, which are elements of the national gastro culture.

The Heineken Experience is highly recommended for beer fans. The Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal is a Genever Distillery established in 1679 provides Old Dutch liqueurs, genevers and fruit brandies made by traditional craft methods, which you can try in its Tasting Room.

The perfect ending of sightseeing can be Hiding in Plain Sight (HPS), which was selected as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. The bar is open evenings only. You can sip your excellent – made of high quality ingredients – cocktail by candle light guessing HPS riddles hanging on the wall. These are real brain-teasers for free shots.

  1. Museum trip is a must

Amsterdam can be a true paradise for museum fans. Very diverse museums, galleries, old, secret hiding places are waiting for you. As the city is full of them, I would like to give some ideas related to different themes.

For art and painting lovers there is a never-ending list of museums. The Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam has the largest collection of paintings, drawings and letters of Vincent Van Gogh, while the Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum offering for its visitors nice experience about the country’s art and history. If you are addicted to books, you can enjoy the authentic atmosphere of the museum’s library.

For more fun we checked the Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which has a really colourful, crazy exhibiton, we loved it. Something more special, unusual hides the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum, the Micropia or the Red Light Secrets.

  1. Sleep on a boat

If you want some extra seasoning for your stay in Amsterdam, this type of accommodation is a flawless idea!

Due to price-boom of city’s flats and houses people began to get settled on their ships. Nowadays some of them operates as a boat hotel. To be honest, it was one of my favourite shelter while traveling. I recommend warmly the Hotelboat Amsterdam located in the heart of the city, from where almost everything is available on foot.

The price includes the breakfast, which we enjoyed on the deck in beautiful sunlight, whilst evenings is it possible to delight in nice sunset sipping wine.

  1. Swing on top of the city

’Over the Edge’ is Europe’s highest swing 100 meters above Amsterdam.

If a little adrenalin is what you need, I assure you, this is your place. For my brother it was fun at its finest, but for those – like me – who fear, I recommend something to drink from the bar as encouragement.

The tower houses an exhibition, restaurant and a roof top bar, which is perfect after your cool flying experience or – worse case – mini horror story. Anyway, it can be a good point of bucket list!

  1. Canal Cruise

Canal cruising in the Netherlands is like gondola ride in Venice: relaxing option for sightseeing and romantic pastime at the same time.

There are several alternatives to enjoy the view and learn about the Dutch history from the water, like small boat cruise, semi-open, candlelight or Amsterdam dinner cruise. Due to amazing weather we chose an open boat cruising in narrow canals with a really cool guy, who showed us the highlights and boathouses pointing out the consequences, what happens, if there’s too many people at a house party on the water…

If you have nice weather during your stay, I advise to book open cruise to catch the sunset while enjoying a drink or a nice dinner.

  1. Discover the Red Light District

Welcome to one of the most interesting, in some cultures still outrageous district – separate world– of Amsterdam. First of all, it is much more than simply restaurants and bars functioning as tourist attractions.

Before a pub crawl I have something different for you as evening program: Red Light District museums trip. What’s on the list: the Red Light Secrets, the Sex Museum and the Erotic Museum, I assure you: you will have a unique evening/night. We visited the Red Light Secrets, which has very special atmosphere with its real, „face to face” exhibition. I found positive, that it was at the same time mystic and educational. You can take a visit behind the scenes of the oldest profession in the world reading about facts and personal stories. The museum points out, how it feels to sit behind the window, how it feels, when people are staring at you…

At the end of the tour wild confessions of other visitors can be found. I was reading, smiling and I was impressed: how easy it is to share our deepest secrets with unknown people.

  1. Take a look into the world of waffles

I personally love tasting sweet from all of the world, actually I could do this all day and night. If you have the same feeling to these amazing creations of gastronomy, Amsterdam is your city.

First of all I want to clear the difference between the traditional Dutch stroopwafels and the waffles, which can be found almost everywhere in Europe and in USA.

The stroopwafel is made from two thin baked layers with caramel syrup filling in the middle, first appeared in Gouda in 1784, while the waffles’ origin is from the ancient times of the Greeks. It became famous in France and Belgium having specific size and shape.

The streets of Amsterdam present the sweet treat on every corner. From the huge sugary paradise to cute, tiny shops you can find everything, what gives you dose of happiness hormone. Let yourself dive in this kaleidoscopic world of goodies choosing tempting toppings, sauce and base – like oreos, fruits, marshmallows, caramelised nuts, ice-cream or nutella – for your waffle. The stroopwafel is a must and if you have more space in your belly I recommend to taste the hand-made cookies and the mini pancakes.

  1. Chilling on the beach

The Netherlands is not only about Amsterdam, canals and windmills. After busy days in the capital it is pure pleasure to sit on the beach listening the sound of waves, which is the nicest music for my soul.

We visited Noordwijk, which was love for the first sight: its unspoilt nature and stunning beach enchants everyone, while the beach bars, restaurants offer delicacies from the sea and cool drinks. My favourite is La Cubanita serving Spanish tapas and amazing cocktails with touch of Cuban feeling, whereas in the Pannekoekenhuisje you can choose from more than 30 different pancakes.

I am a big sunset lover seeking for the epic spots everywhere while traveling. After discovering the Walk of Space – the seafront promenade – don’t miss the magical colours of Dutch sundown.

How to spend a short weekend in Taipei?

How to spend a short weekend in Taipei?

Moments in Lungshan Temple

Taipei can be at the first view like a jungle of huge buildings and mind blowing toys, especially with Hello Kitty on every corner. But even so I fell in love with this surreal city due to its amazing temples and delicious food.
I prepared a 2-day itinerary, a small mixture of sightseeing and gastro touring, which can be changed for longer stay as well. However, before we jump into this virtual journey, I would like to share with you some tips reffering to the public transport and money exchange.

About the public transport:

The shuttle or taxi from the airport is nearly three times more expensive, while the public transport is much more affordable, easy and very well organized.

From the airport you can get the Airport Train right to the city (145-150 TWD), after this you have to take the MRT, which stops at the most frequented points of Taipei. You can buy tickets at ticket mashines, but if it is confusing for you – what I can understand – there is always somebody to help you. In terms of costs I recommend you to buy a ticket for 24-72 hours or the Fun Pass, which can be used all day long and includes 12 attractions.

About the money exchange:

In Taipei there is no money-changer, what means you have to go to the bank to have some local money. In this case please mind the opening hours and can happen, that you have to stand in a queue.  You need to have your passport, furthermore intact banknotes are accepted only.

As in Taiwan it is pretty difficult to make yourself understood in English, a Chinese-English offline dictionary can ease your journey.

After these helpful infos I would like to share with you my 2 days itinerary in Taipei, in the capital of Taiwan.

Day 1.

As I mentioned, it is really easy to get to the city from the airport. In order to visit the most points of interest, Ximen District can be a good initial point for your Taipei-adventure not to speak of the accommodation.

Tasting of the real Taiwanese breakfast is the best start before you immerse yourself into the world of beautiful temples and heavenly delicious bites. Maybe that is why I visited Taipei for short trip…I did not want to leave this country like a big meat dumpling gained plus 5 kilos!

As a tasty energy bomb I advice to try the pancakes filled with spring onions, topped with eggs, different omelettes or pen-fried dumpling with creamy pork inside. I am a person, who could die without sweets and creations of best bakeries, so I had to take a look into these luring places. I have to say, visiting of the local bakeries and tea houses is a must. You will find something for sure, that meets your taste.

After the breakfast I walked around the area in order to get a pinch of Taipei-feeling. The tiny streets in the junge of skyscrapers hide the paradise for foodies. Thousands of food stalls, local restaurants provide the authentic Taiwanese delicacies.

The worldwide famous Bubble Tea, Taipei

I tried the Bubble Tea, which can be found in Taipei on every corner. It is a very popular Taiwanese drink, very well-known in Europe as well. It is milk tea containing tapioca pearls or fruit jellies according to your choice.

The Gate of Integrity

Sipping the original bubble tea my next stop was the Liberty Square, home of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. This famous national monument was built in honor of Generalissimo Chiang Kai shek, the first President of the Republic China. At the beginning of the square is the Gate of Integrity, one of my favourite architectural jewels in Taipei. To the right is the National Theatre, to the left, the Concert Hall: ideal examples of Chinese buildings.

the National Theater, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

The Memorial Hall is located at the end of the square waiting – with its unique octagon shape – for the visitors.

Peace Park 2/28, Taipei

The next hidden treasure of the city is the Peace Park 2/28, which I discovered accidentaly. It is one of the oldest parks of Taipei designed traditional with beautiful ponds and Japanese gardens. There is an aphiteather, the National Taiwan Museum, an old radio station – today home of the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum – and the Taipei Memorial 228 Monument, which was built to remind us of the Taiwan’s White Terror period. Visiting the museum you can learn about the rich history of this country, while walking through the gardens you will definitely find tranquility and peace. I really loved this place watching the chatty locals and the woman, who eternized the magical, precious moments in this park by her paintings.

Waterfall of the Lungshan Temple

From here the Lungshan Temple is an easy walk. It is a must while visiting the Wanhua District, because it is one of the oldest temples in Taipei, very well known – of course always crowded – and not to mention, that it is one of the „Big 3” (must see temples in Taipei). On the other hand the Lungshan Temple is very special, because it is not place for one religion only, but Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian faiths are welcomed equally.

The Lungshan Temple

The whole temple complex is very detailed and richly decorated: dragons, phoenixes and other mystical creatures can be seen everywhere. I spent here an hour just sitting on the floor and I observed all these praying and chanting people, who simply enchanted me.

Praying man inside of the Lungshan Temple

And now is coming the program, that never can be missing from my list: to find a cool spot for watching the Taiwanese sunset. This is the Elephant Mountain, easily accessible from the city centre, and even the trail is not very back-breaking, perfect for those, who are less fit. I adore this place thinking about it, like about a small green island in the middle of concrete jungle. From the top we get a fabolous panorama with the shiny Tower Taipei 101 fleeing into the sky. If you have companion, it can be memorable to dive into the golden world of the dusk with a small picnic busket and wine.

As a perfect end to the day I warmly recommend to have a colourful dinner at one of the Taipei’s night Markets, like the Guangzhou, the Shilin or the Huaxi Night Market. For dessert after dessert I would definitely take a foot massage!

Day 2.

I devoted my second day for visiting Beitou, home of natural hot springs of Taipei. My opinion is, you simply have to see this remote, cute close-to-the-nature part of the city. Especially if you are tired of hustle and bustle of the urban area, just take your swim-suit, towel and let’s have some pure Taiwanese bathing experience.

On the way to the Hell Valley

Before I got immersed in pleasures of springs I took a look at the Puji Temple, which is located a short walk up the hill. This is one of the few Japanese-era Buddhist temples pointing the traditional Japanese architecture full of harmony and serenity.

In garden of the Puji Temple

Among several Buddhist temples countless other attractions can be found: the Hot Springs Museum, the traditionally built Plum Garden and the Library.

The Beitou Thermal Valley

My very best and favourite place is the Thermal Valley or the „Hell Valley”. Regarding to springs in Taipei I have to mention some infos. The local springs contain three different varieties of sulfur, that is the reason of their mesmerising colour and – often – disturbing, strangling smell. The green sulfur occures in Beitou, Taiwan and in Akita, Japan only. This type of sulfur gives the magical emerald green colour of the Hell Valley. I spent a lot of time here just staring at the sulfuric steam rising up from the water.

The magical view of the Hell Valley

This place has a mysterious atmosphere and something calming at the same time. The valley is perfect spot for making pictures and timelapse videos, but I have a bad news as well: there is a fence around the water for security reasons, because the water is highly corrosive. So before you would like to jump for a little swim, trust me …You do not want to be cooked!

In relation to the thermal baths there are different etiquette rules referring to gender and swim-suit. From the luxurious, private spa rooms to the local, authentic thermal baths, from naked bathing to less „free spirit” swimming costume dip there is everything to get pampered. You will find the perfect thermal bath for sure, which fits your taste and your wallet.

For foodies I have something special here, in Beitou too. For having lunch the Manlai Hot Spring Ramen providing amazing ramen is a cool idea, while the Sushi Express is 100% fun waiting for exciting dishes, which arrive on conveyor belt. Before leaving the Thermal Springs the tasting of hot spring eggs is a must!

Lunch at Sushi Express, Taipei

As I am an insatiable sunset-lover, I found again a mind blowing good spot for watching the twilight. This is the famous, third tallest building in the world, namely the Taipei 101. The building has 101 floors providing remarkable view for its visitors. The tower is open until 10 pm. so you have a chance to catch a wonderful sundown at the top – 382 m high – of the city and be amazed by little lights under your feet.

After this phenomenal scene you can stay for an outstanding dinner at Dai Tai Fung located in the tower or go for a gastro night to one of the city’s night markets, like the Gongguan Night Market or the Raohe Night Market.

As you see, Taipei is an incredibly diverse metropolis offering for all of us something different, something special. One thing is for sure: if you love to eat, if you are enchanted by new flavours, this city is the right destination for you.

The heavenly good must try delicacy of Ay-Chung, Taipei

My summary, what to eat in Taipei:

  • Baobing: dessert made of condensed milk, fruits, ice-cream, peanut and azuki beans.
  • Baozi: small buns filled with meat or vegetables.
  • Beef Noodle Soup, called as Taiwan’s national food, so it can be found everywhere.
  • Me Sua: tender pork intestine with noodles, kind of soup seasoned with garlic and fresh coriander. I recommend to try it at Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle, established in 1973, serving heavenly good Me Sua.
  • Pineapple Cake
  • Bubble Tea
5 things I have learned in Cuba

5 things I have learned in Cuba

 As I spent one month in this incredible destination, I decided to share my stories, experiences and tips separate in different posts.

First of all, I have to mention that Cuba is a very unique, in many aspects different, hard-to-understand country. While visiting it you need time to get the real essence of cuban way of thinking and mentality.

The marks of the Spanish colonization and the Soviet Union can still be seen in the architecture, what gives a bit confusing image about – mostly – Havana. The lack of basic food articles may seems unbelieveable but still: it is true. On the shelves of the stores you can find several types of local tomato sauce, rice, pasta (penne or spaghetti), some biscuits, marmelade and never ending choice of rum. The meat, chocolate or the shampoo are definitely luxury items. Everybody can decide, that it is the result or failure of the communist state or of the economic blockade of the USA. Anyway, one thing is sure: Cuba is something, what you have to feel, to taste and to touch, simply you have to arrive while traveling.

Since I was a child I wanted to see this remote country. Watching movies with cuban scenes I always was so fascinated: how they can be so happy, so life-affirming, if they are so poor, so „not free”?

After spending here a month I got the answer and even memorable moments, experiences.

 

1.My first encounter with the Yoruba

 

Miramar was one of the most famous districts of Havana full of noble hotels, restaurants providing glamorous events in the 1950s. Nowadays it is a small empire of embassies and secret parks. For architecture lovers I recommend just walking around to see the charming examples of colonial style.

 Colonial style villa, Havana

 

 

 

 

 

 

I personally loved these fabolous houses, villas, which hide cigar smelling secrets from the good old days, but for me the biggest experience was something else: seeing a unique ritual, which was creepy and magical at the same time. I wanted to see the sunset – like always – but instead Afro-cubans came to the beach holding a rooster, knife and wooden musical instruments. They started to make music, to chant or kind of sing while sacrificing the live rooster for the God. The animal blood sacrifice is important to connect to spirits – orishas – as well.

This mysterious, secret „world” impressed me, though most of the people are thrilled with horror seeing a sacrificial ritual. It was my first encounter with Santeria while sipping my very first cuban mojito. Santeria is a pretty common religion in Cuba, which combines spanish catholic elements with african Yoruba.

2. The cuban recipe of happiness

I know, this is maybe the most difficult question to answer in the whole world, but still the version of the Cubans is very close to my heart. My opinion is, the meaning of happiness is very subjective depending on biological, psychological, or religious aspects. It can be so different on every corner of the world: while the one seeks for happiness buying a luxurious car, the other find it in balance and harmony.

 Rundown house, Havana

Seeing the poverty, the destitution and the endless smile, the spiritual freedom of the locals at the same time – the freedom given by Cuban music – I tought, I was sure, they are happier than any rich man. The food, I mean the availability of certain articles is limited or simply they do not exist. Some items are for us normal, trivial, whilst for them it is unavailable, equal to the luxury. They live often in abandoned houses and villas, which old sparkles we can only imagine. In Europe it would be defined as homelessness. For them it means to have roof over their head instead of nothing.

 Hidden streets of Vedado

Walking the enchanted streets of Havana I tried to find the answer, the secret of this enviable, joyous mentality. I was sure, they are not satisfied with the system, but they are blissful for sure. Finally my afro-cuban Spanish teacher told me, what is their philosophy, the cuban repice of happiness: „We have cigar, rum and salsa. Everything else is irrelevant.”

 Dancing Salsa,Viñales

The first two things symbolize the elements of pure pleasure, while salsa is something unique, something elusive. It is definitely not just a dance or music. This dance without conventions, rules and the Cuban rythm fly you to a different world. Into the world, where everybody is equal, carefree and delighted. When I saw them dancing, immersed in the spicy melodies, I felt they were simply happier, richer than anyone else on this earth.

 I would say: rum, cigar, salsa & sunset

3. The creativity in povert

Seeing the broken down houses, the lack of food and simply the indigency, I wondered:

  • How the Cubans can afford these amazing old-timers?
  • Where do they get eggs or meat from?
  • Where do they buy all these amazing fruits and vegetables?

Well, I can safely say they can repair everything. In the majority of these wonderful cars hide different parts of the legendary Russian Lada. I am not sure, what was the „more special” adventure for me: visiting the cuban, dusty streets sitting in an old, classic Cadillac or taking a 3,5 hours drive to Vinales by a rotten, but glamorous Lada, which gives you absolutely a pinch of Russian-feeling.

 The iconic Lada, Cuba

 Cuban Oldtimers

The way to buy eggs, meat in Cuba was a real mystery for me. I lived in a fabolous house of Miriam and her husband, an old, extremely interesting cuban couple. Living with locals, I had the opportunity to take a look into their everyday-life and moreover into the fridge. To have the fridge more or less „full” they need to have realy good relations, maybe a well-developed network. Through this network they have chance to get this precious items, even if it means an all-day search. The fruits and vegetables are less hidden treasures of Cuba. Wherever you are, you will always find a Cuban selling fresh delicacies. The screw part is that it can be bought for local money (CUP) only. About money exchange you can read in my related post Tips&Tricks for Cuba.

 Selling of eggs

I find honestly admirable, how they navigate in this labyrinth of survival bringing out the best of everything.

4. „La vida se vive una sola vez, cuando te mueres, es que te llevas.”

No worries dear Readers! I will translate this marvelous thought for you, but I had to write it in Spanish, to give you the sense, the melody of this beatiful language. This theory or more philosphy was told by a cuban guy introducing me their mirth seasoned life and explaining me, why it is so important to live every moment of our life.

 Rum, cigar & salsa

I mentioned some of the cuban „Happiness-Bubbles”, so I do not want to repeat myself. But my opinion is, that the above sentence crowns the whole cuban way of thinking. If I try to translate it, to give you the chance to feel the noble simplicity of this idea, it sounds like this:

„You only live once, when you die, this is the only thing, what you take with you.”

The long and short of it is, that no matter, what happens, you can still smile and live your life to the maximum. Every day. Every minute.

5.Just take a sit and arrive!

It might sounds a bit weird, but I wanted to heighten the word „arrive”. In order to understand this matchless country, it is important, not to rush, not to hurry. The real essence of Cuba you can get through seeing, understanding and arriving.

 Sunset in Varadero

Slowly we forget to stop. Simply take a rest and look around. The Cubans still know the secret of relaxing or rather the small delights of life. The children still know, what it means to play outdoors, to enjoy running while taking deep breath, to share small „childhood-secrets” with each other. The people still can talk to each other, dance with each other immersed in the magical sounds of salsa.

Due to poverty and restriction of WiFi – not supported by the government – I experienced moments full of life. Without phones, skyscrapers and luxury.

I would summarize my Cuban Experiences in a very short sentence, which can also be a feeling or way of thinking:

They don’t have nothing, yet have everything.