TO TRAVEL OR NOT TO TRAVEL TO CUBA, holidaying in the sun-soaked Caribbean island has always been contentious. Taking a trip to Communist-run Cuba can seem challenging, thanks to the tension with its frenemy America, the beacon of democracy.
Of late, the American government has again issued a travel warning. This time, it’s too dangerous to visit because of “health attacks” on American embassy workers in Havana, Cuba’s capital. Then, there’s Donald Trump. The US president re-imposed restrictions on its citizens’ travel to Cuba, backpedalling on Obama-era efforts to thaw relations.
Ironically, politics is also the reason why Cuba is still on many a travellers’ bucket lists. The restrictions – be it on trade or travel – has turned Cuba into an intriguing time-capsule. The colourful classic cars lining the streets are a tourist attraction as well as a reminder of United States’ trade embargo bent on crumbling community revolutionary Fidel Castro’s regime.
Modern day cars are already finding their way onto roads with the ban on car imports lifted. The old-world charm of Cuba may become history as influences from the outside world trickle in. Think more access to the still-scarce commodity of the internet, and welcoming foreign investments with open arms. Last year, the Cuban government reportedly inked US$2 billion worth of deals with foreign investors largely in the energy and tourism sectors.
These are reforms to stimulate the stagnating economy under the leadership of president Raúl Castro, who took over the reins from older brother Fidel in 2008 and is set to step down in April 2018.
So, before commercialisation takes over Cuba at high speed, book yourself on a trip to the Caribbean island.
Who is the photographer?
Photographer Alan Lim ticked Cuba off his bucket list almost a decade ago, spending five days in its capital Havana and Trinidad, an old town in central Cuba.
“It has always fascinated me, these countries like Cuba and North Korea, which are closed off to the outside world,” says Lim, who runs creative house Eleven Photography.
Cuba was part of his itinerary of some 10 countries, when he satisfied his wanderlust after leaving Singapore’s flagship newspaper The Straits Times. During his 12-year stint at the paper, he shot the portraits of political heavyweights such as Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin and Lee Hsien Loong.
The seasoned photographer speaks to Keyyes, recounting how he captured the sights of a Cuba trapped in a time warp for over 50 years.