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The Handsomest Man in Cuba: An Escapade

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  130 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
An engaging, witty account of the people, customs, food, and culture of Cuba framed by a fascinating approach to travel. With only a folding bicycle and a towable suitcase, Australian Lynette Chiang spent three months touring Cuba, eshewing tourist hotels and typical iteneraries in favor of an unpredictable day-to-day existence among ordinary citizens. She discovered a pe
Paperback, 280 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Globe Pequot (first published 2003)
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Heather Jackson
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This is not a travel guide; it's one woman's experience cycling through Cuba in the cheapest and least touristy way possible. If you want to learn about what to see in Cuba, this is not the book. If you want to get a feel for the people of Cuba (albeit just through the author's eyes), this book could be interesting to you. Though I did not enjoy the author's stinginess with the locals (a trait she even berates herself for, though she doesn't stop haggling with them). According to this book, Cuba ...more
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone going to Cuba
The description of Cuba is very good, but it is extremely hard to enjoy the portrait of the author. Not until towards the very end does she address her own inability or unwillingnness to help and truly show compassion.
Part of my immersion in Cuba reading, this one about an Australian woman (who is half Chinese!) who spent three months biking across Cuba was another one I found at the library. She traveled from one end of Cuba to the other, with no clear plan or agenda, and definitely "on the cheap". She readily admits she has no sense of direction and put herself in some pretty risky situations but also made the sort of deep connections with people she happened upon that are every travelers dream (well, at l ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
To understand how even I am surprised I like this book, you have to understand that I have taken my bicycling vacation in Door County, Wisconsin, every year, almost without fail, for the past 23 years.

The reason is pretty simple: I know where everything is. For purposes of these vacations, I'm not interested in learning something new, meeting different people or even testing my physical endurance. I'm there to relax, period.

And why not? After all, I can curl up at the end of the day with a book
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was bored and kept reading in hopes that something would change. I thought for sure that something really cool would happen any second, but the story remained the same through out. She rides her bike, eats, meets people briefly, encounters things that are new but there isn't much passion and depth in the way the book is written so I wasn't pulled in. I am very interested in Cuba so I though I'd get some insight into a sultry yet forbidden culture, but alas, not in the way I was hoping for. For ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Forget about the Guidebooks to Cuba ... Lynette has written about the everyday life of ordinary Cuban people. She takes you with her on a journey around Cuba. She shuns the tourist routes and expensive hotels and instead she lives on a small budget staying with the people she meets on her travels. The book is about their life, their culture, and how they survive on a modest income.

The book is very readable and offers not only an insight into Cuban life but also into Lynette's life as well.

I onl
Nov 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book really got me excited for my upcoming trip to Cuba! It's a little outdated if you're looking for a contemporary account of life in Cuba (the currency has since changed, and I suspect that recent upheavals on account of Castro's ill health have changed the climate as well), but based on what other modern day accounts of anglophone travelers in Cuba (not much!) it's probably the cream of the crop! I can understand why some readers may find the main character's inner monologues a bit tedi ...more
Not much really "happens" in this book, but it's an interesting window into the division between "tourist" cuba and cuba for cubans without dollars (most of the population). The Australian author tours all over Cuba with a collapsable bike. She has a snarky sense of humor, which can be amusing, but she is always trying to wheedle a "cuban-rate" deal on everything she does (food, lodging, etc) and then later feeling guilty about how she could have provided some nice family with a few dollars (whi ...more
Aug 08, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: wanderlusters, people interested in Cuba
Lynette Chiang travels across Cuba with nothing but her Bike Friday, a special folding bike that is her main mode of transportation. She tries to live as cheaply as possible, though it is apparent she is a foreigner there, and sometimes gets charged more for being such. Along the way, she learns about the generosity of Cubans, and also how Cubans get by with such little rations. In some places she sees how the culture is uncorrupted by capitalism, in others (mainly near Havana) she sees how hust ...more
Daniel Hansson
Jan 05, 2008 rated it liked it
A travel diary / novel by a multi-cultural Aussie travelling by bike (no not motorbike) from one end to the other of Cuba. She (the author) paints a range of beautiful pictures with words, either she does it very well or it is simply my expectations of Cuba and my lively fantasy but either way it makes The Handsomest Man In Cuba worth reading. Don't know if it is my expectations that I should blame again but when a story sets place in Cuba... I mean, in this novel it is just not enough happening ...more
Ken Schoville
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Travelers/Bikers
A great look at living on the road in a little seen country-for Americans. Besides being an adventurer of the first degree, Lynette Chiang is an engaging author with a unique sensitivity to the "rich gringo" living on the local economy and not looking too cheap in dealing for food and accomodations, and not giving away everything in a sense of guilt and saving the world.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A witty, sharp, articulate book. Cyclists will be immediately attracted by the narrative of solo trip through Cuba, and on this ground alone the book is gripping. Still this is no more a book about cycling than The Old Man and the Sea is a book about fishing (without putting the author's prose in the same league as Hemingway's, as pleasant as hers is). An obvious recommendation for cyclists and those interested in Cuba. Even more so to those who above all do not want to lead boring lives.
Leigh Hannah
Nov 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting journey, yet told in a style that becomes a little bit bland. Not a lot happens in the book, however Lynette paints a pretty fascinating picture of Cuba in the early 2000's. Her relations with the locals sound intriguing, yet we never really gain full access to the conversations or the personalities revealed. This fact makes the book somewhat disappointing as there really was something in this book that captivated me and kept me turning the pages.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-travel
Much better than I thought it would be. Most cycle touring writers don't have a lot to say other than "went from here to here". Lynette Chiang's writing is different and better. Insightful and interesting! Recommend it to cycling friends who like to travel. It's more about the people she met along the way and not the cycling (which is probably why I liked it more than other books of this ilk!)
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I've read many travel books and cycling books but Lynette Chaing's keen eye and personality makes this book very special. I found myself re-reading paragraphs just to experience Lynette's delightful humor again. I loved her observations and commentary about Cuba, cycling, and people. It's like "Eat Pray Love" meets "Into the Wild".
Catherine Woodman
I read this in preparation for my trip to Cuba--i have not yet gone, so not sure that the perspective of the author is actually correct, but it reflects what I am expecting, so thought it was solid but not brilliantly written.
Apr 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
An OK book about a trip through Cuba. Gives me the feeling that almost anyone could write and publish a travel narrative given an interesting enough trip (it's that amateur). Still, I learned a little bit about Cuba.
Jessica Dally
Apr 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Still reading this book which tells you something about it... in fact it's currently back on my bookshelves as others have taken it's place. I will finish it eventually, but not at this particular moment.
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
An amusing travelogue of an Asian Australian young girl bicycling around Cuba and writing about her perceptions, experiences and thoughts on the country.
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Any book about Cuba is worth reading. A light and entertaining cultural insight..
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
C Really not that great, boring travel book. Maybe she could have written an essay but not much happened and it really didn't hold my attention. Disappointing.
Marge Greenwald
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not just a travel book but a journey through Cuba. Lots of insight into the life of Cubans. Easy, very interesting book.
Oct 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
Uninspired, poorly written, no suspense... The list goes on and on. Oh and she treats some of the people she meets quite poorly. Not a fan.
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
fairly interesting bike ride through cuba around turn of cent. author has some interesting insights in to cuban ways, as she gets off the tourist path quite a bit. fun read with maps and pics.
rated it liked it
Feb 21, 2016
TiAn Vetter
rated it it was amazing
Aug 01, 2012
Jo England
rated it really liked it
Sep 29, 2016
rated it really liked it
Sep 24, 2014
rated it did not like it
Oct 10, 2011
Bonnie Stephenson
rated it liked it
Feb 03, 2012
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“Is it the pauses, not the parties, that create the friendship?” 0 likes
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