| January 26, 2017

Playa Larga

Travel

Playa Larga was never on our itinerary when we were in Switzerland and came in discussion only after we saw a lady from the information desk in Havana. We have always refused to go to Varadero, which is a sort of Cancun, with big hotels on the beach, so we have been recommended to go to Playa Larga. We did! And it was the best decision we ever took.

Playa Larga is situated in the Bay of Pigs and it is a very rough and undeveloped place. Pretty much an unpolished diamond. You are basically in the countryside. There are wonderful beaches, some caves you can visit, places where you can do scuba or snorkelling and natural parks. As we did lots of these in Mexico, we decided to stay only on the beach. Playa Larga reminded me a lot of my grandparent’s village in Romania, with horse drown carriages, roosters waking you up every morning and people knowing and greeting each other all the time.

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We ended up booking an awesome place on AirBnB. We had to buy a VPN and pretend to be booking it from the US, as AirBnB did not work for us while we were in Havana. Because of the Internet problem in Cuba, I highly recommend you to call any place you decide to book to let people know you have booked online. Especially if you book only a few days in advance. I did it and they have been very thankful for it. Plus, Cubans love speaking on the phone. And via the phone they can also book places for you in other cities, transportations or any activity you wish to do.

We did not have much choice left online when we booked Playa Larga, but we ended up in the best possible place. We stayed with a family who has been renting rooms for a year and had big plans of developing their casa further, as well as their services, which we already found extremely elaborate and professional. They had two rooms to rent out and offered to cook for you if you wanted to eat there. We chose to have both breakfast and dinner at the house and never regretted it a bit. They are awesome cooks and the presentation was 3 Michelin stars worth.

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We even went out on our first night with Alejandro, the 25-year-old son of Alina and Acebo, our awesome hosts and found out a lot about Cuba, its regime and how people perceive it. If you ever go to Playa Larga, stay with them and I promise you will not regret it. You will see what hospitality really means and how generosity and open mind-ness look like. I have not felt so good in a long time. And is has completely ruined all our experiences after, as they raised the bar so high. And perhaps you even get the change to go out to “24”, the only place they have as a bar open 24/7.

And in the end, our trip was more about the people than the places we have visited. In Playa Larga we met extremely intelligent people, who even had a PhD degree and who decided to take life easier and greet people in their casa. And oh boy they did it so well! Not only they were extremely intelligent and educated, they were well versed in a lot of topics and knew exactly what happened outside their borders. We could talk about everything and communication with them was very fluent and easy, that even Dan understood all of it without needing any translation. They don’t speak English and we communicated only in Spanish, which was a great plus both for me as I got to practice my Spanish and for Dan who got to understand it all and even speak a bit. Next time, he does the talking J.

We met friends of Alejandro and once again, we were surprised by how many things they knew and how incredibly good our conversations were. Alejandro taught us how to dance, well the basics, as he said we definitely don’t have the Cuban rhythm in us. I hope one day we can prove you wrong Alejandro and show you what good dancers we really are!

On this evening we learnt more about Cuban culture and their beliefs. Cubans are very proud of their system, a socialist system that includes and helps everybody in the country. Health and education are free of charge, and they also receive monthly goods (rice, sugar, oil etc.) for a very small amount of money. Cuba offers accommodation and a job to all its people and they can all lead a correct and good life, seasoned with lots of music and rum. The only problems they mentioned was the spending power they have as a result of their jobs, which does not offer them the option to invest in a car or travel. Travelling, even around Cuba is not easy for most of them, and can prove expensive. They also don’t have the option to leave the country easily and this is a deeply rooted pain. I really hope one day they will be able to resolve it.

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Salaries in all industries are quite low. A few hundred CUC as the lowest income. If for people this could prove ok and helps them lead a normal life, for businesses this is a disaster, especially if businesses accept the two currencies Cuba currently has. The reason is that banks will accept one CUC as one PESO when businesses deposit the money, which in reality one CUC is 25 pesos or so. This is the reason why so many Cubans go into hospitality. First of all, the studies are offered for free by the government and secondly, they get to double their low income with tips from tourists. Tips are highly necessary for the to lead a good life and these do not mean so much to us. I would encourage all of you to always have a few CUC on you for tips, even when you go to the restroom, if you want to get toilet paper that is.

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We have developed a great relationship here in Playa Larga and I am sure it is one we will keep for a long period of time. I made a wish that one day I will go on holidays there again, stay at their much more developed casa, find the same kind people, and hopefully, the same relaxed and virgin atmosphere in Playa Larga. And by then, Dan will speak more Spanish and we will have an even better flow of communication.

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These are their details and contact. Don’t hesitate to use my name if you wish to book the place. Or contact me and I can help you with it!

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Photos by moi with my phone.

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