Travel

I Flew Almost 24h to Cuba Only to Find It’s Quite Similar to Asia – Updated

When it comes to Latin American country like Cuba, what pops on your mind? Exotic culture, sensual music, sexy people… “Despacito” and “Havana”, perhaps?

Been to Cuba in April 2018, I agree with that. However, there are things that many people, especially Asian, will find it shocking when they travel to Cuba. That’s mainly because we don’t realise that Latin American countries are underdeveloped.

After sitting on the plane for almost 24 hours and feeling my a$$ flatten like chapati, quite a number of things made my jaws dropped during my 15-day tour. I was like, ‘I traveled from far far away to find this??’.

Although surprising, I enjoyed the trip! It’s a memorable trip for me, therefore, I’ll dedicate April blog posts about the trip. Here are a few things in Cuba that are similar to Asia:

Cuban dry their clothes (and have breakfast) on their rooftop

i travel to cuba and find it's similar to asia

Some Asian people still dry their clothes on the rooftop, especially those who live in rural areas or villages. However, I guess it’s an uncommon and exotic sight for European or American travelers.

Most of the rooftops in Cuba are very wide and multipurpose. The locals aren’t only drying their clothes on the rooftop but also having their breakfast and relaxing time. Some even turn their rooftops into restaurants!

rooftop breakfast in cuba
Having breakfast at the rooftop is surprisingly enjoyable and peaceful
a typicial cuban rooftop place to relax
Sit back and get some vitamin D or beautiful sunset view

The nostalgic alleys and roads

the road trip in cuban streets

I don’t know about you, but the alleys and roads in Cuba remind me of Indonesia. I’ve been to the low-income areas and they look similar. The colourful buildings, potholes on the road, electric cables hanging loosely…

bicitaxi in cuban street in the morning
Tricycle, becak, tuk-tuk… whatever you call it, Cuba has it too

When I showed these photos to my parents and aunties, they weren’t impressed. They couldn’t help but wondered why I chose to visit Cuba when there are many beautiful, well-developed countries to visit.

Is it because I’ve been to Europe often? Maybe, but that’s not the main reason. I’ll share with you guys in the next blog post why I chose to visit Cuba.

Also read: 5 Things People Got Wrong About Joining Tours

The ‘back home’ street foods

a street food seller offering snacks in havana cuba
Is that fried wonton?

You’ll see some street food sellers at the roadside or walking around in Cuba, including big city like Havana. So far, I never see people walking around selling snack in Europe. This thing only happens in Asia, Cuba, and perhaps other Latin American countries.

people queueing for street food in cuba havana street
cuban street food seller with friend snacks
Fried chicken and banana chips, anyone?

Banana chips are quite a thing in Cuba

o'riley banana chip havana cuba, famous cafe

Do you love banana chips? So do Cubans! The locals here eat banana chips as appetizer or snack. Most of the time, the banana chips in Cuba are savory while in Asia we usually have two choices – sweet or savory.

The photo above is the best banana chips I’ve ever eaten in Cuba. It’s served at one of the hipster and well-known restaurants in Old Havana, O-Reilly 304.

european and asian tourist enjoying mojito in o'riley havana cuba
Thank you Vivianne for recommending this place!

This place is famous for the tacos and alcoholic drinks. I almost cried tears of joy when I bit my taco.

The tropical trees and fruits

cuba fun facts solo traveler blog

I had two free days in Baracoa, so I decided to visit a cave on top of a hill. Luckily, mi amigos – Robert and Simon, wanted to go too so I wasn’t alone. On the way, we met a local man on the beach who then became our guide.

tourist visiting fruit farm in cuba during sunny day

Before we reached the cave, we visited a plantation full of banana, palm and cocoa trees.

a visit in fruit farm with cuban banana
Cuban bananas are thick and sweet

Coconut milk is special in Cuba

Grilled fish with coconut milk gravy in cuba
Grilled fish with coconut milk gravy

One night, when all of us were seated for dinner in Baracoa, our tour guide, Camilo, recommended us to try the house’s special sauce. He said the sauce was very tasty but fattening. It’s so special that we either love it or hate it.

I was so curious, so I ordered a grilled fish with the special sauce. When I took a bite, it turned out that the special sauce is made with coconut milk!

elderly travellers celebrating wedding anniversary while traveling in havana cuba
Surprise wedding anniversary celebration for Janice and hubby

Emm… I often have coconut milk-infused sauce or gravy back home. Personally, ayam opor and gulai ayam, which are also cooked with coconut milk gravy, are tastier.

Yuca is one of their staple foods

Steamed yuca. Image source: Martha Stewart

Two days before I returned to Kuala Lumpur, I decided to take a day trip to
Viñales to see a tobacco farm. During lunch, my tour guide explained that he liked to eat grilled tuna with yuca.

cuban cigar in cigar farm vinales on sunny day
The reason why I was willing to spend so much for Viñales day trip
(although I’m not smoking)

I asked him what yuca is, he said sometimes Cuban will replace rice with yuca. When the waiter put a plate of cassava on my table, I was like, “Ooo… so THIS is yuca!

Vintage street musicians

vintage street musicians in cuba playing guitar and singing

I know, street musicians are everywhere. However, street musicians in Cuba are more well-dressed than those in Asia. Look at them, they’re wearing shoes!

I’m so happy that I bumped into them while in Santiago. The singer doesn’t know my name but to my surprise, he sang “Santa Clara” for me!

Apparently, titi aka tiny whitebait is quite popular in Cuba

titi popular cuban seafood dish
Fried titi aka fried tiny whitebait

Titi (a kind of fish) is quite popular in Cuba as it only appears in a certain period in Cuban seas. When Camillo, our tour guide, informed us that we could take a cooking class with titi as the main dish, I was quite tempted to do it.

However, considering my tight budget for the trip, I decided not to. But Robert, my Dutch friend, was so interested so he signed up for the cooking class. Afterward, he shared with me some photos.

a male tourist joins cooking class in cuba
Robert is cooking the side dishes

When I saw the photos, I got another “A-HA!” moment.

APPARENTLY, TITI IS THE TINY WHITEBAIT THAT I OFTEN EAT BACK HOME.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, we often deep-fry the titi and serve it with rice. Sometimes, we will sprinkle them on top of vegetable soup or fried them with tempeh and ground peanuts.

However, in Cuba, titi is fried then served with a sauce which is made from coconut milk and cabbage. Robert loves the crunchy-salty taste of it! But that’s not all! Cuban also eat titi with some kind of paste (he can’t identify it).

So friends, what do you think about my findings of the similarities between Cuba and Asia? Do you have a similar experience when traveling? Do share with me in the comment section 😉

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