Faces of Cuba

When travel to Cuba was opened up early last year I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity. I know there were workarounds, but I hadn’t had the draw to take me to our neighboring island yet. I took off at the end of November, my only plan to do a portrait series around Havana and the small, western city of Viñales. I tend to jump around when I travel, and I really wanted to concentrate on fewer areas this time. It didn’t hurt that Viñales has stellar climbing.

People want to know about your experiences in Cuba. The thing I tell everyone that asks, the Cuban people are amazing. They made my trip incredible.

Rodney, a tattoo artist who lives near the skate park, acts as an older
brother to a lot of the young kids that skate at the park.

One of the things that surprised me about Cuba was the diversity – there were people of every color of the spectrum, from Caucasian with blue eyes to very dark African. It was pretty amazing seeing no discernible difference in how they treated each other.

Raul is a climbing guide in Viñales, and he not only showed me the best climbing but also brought me into his tight-knit group of friends. Traveling alone can be…lonely, but the people you meet along the way always make it worth it. 

I might get into more details about my trip later, but overall it was an awesome trip. It was easy to get to and easy to get around; the people are so welcoming, hospitable and friendly; and the country is incredibly beautiful. I definitely want to make it back as soon as possible!

Siem Reap, Cambodia


My time at Green Climber’s Home in Thakhek, Laos was great, but after nine days I was feeling pretty beat up and ready to move on. I knew I wanted to spend a couple days on an island and determined that Cambodia made the most sense on my trip trajectory.

I said my goodbyes to my new friends at GCH, and with a few other climbers, took a tuk tuk to the bus stop. I was going to Pakse with no plan other than to find transport to Siem Reap as soon as possible. When the bus arrived in Pakse I ended up meeting a couple from France that was also on the bus and we went in search of hostel together. The only thing availble we could find was single room with two beds, so I shared a room with this couple I just met. In the morning, I snuck out before they woke up to catch the early bus to the Cambodian border.

The Cambodian border….

Before the bus stops at the border, we pick up a man that gets on and says he will streamline the entry visa process for everyone, but there’s a catch. The entry visa is $40, but the man wants $50 from everyone. I already had my entry visa, so I just ignored him. Turns out the extra $10 was for bribes to the Laotian and Cambodian border guards. I went through on my own.

I passed my passport through the window to the Laotian guard, he looked up and asks for the $5. “I’m not paying you extra just because you’re doing your job.” He looked at me, frustrated, fliped open my passport and stamped something in it. He quickly handed me my passport back and yelled “next!”.

I followed the slow-moving, confused crowd across no-man’s-land to a medical tent we were directed to. They pointed a thermometer ‘gun’ at me, tell me to fill out a form, then ask for $1. I just stand up and leave. They’re supposedly checking for Ebola, but neither border requires the form, so therie’s no point to do this or pay for it.

100 yards from the Laotian border, I handed my passport to the Cambodian guard. He looked at my already purchased Entry Visa, peers up at me, and asks for $5. “I’ve already paid for my Entry Visa. I don’t owe you any more money.” He flips through my passport book and hands it back to me without stamping it. “You don’t have an exit stamp from Laos.” I don’t know what the Laotian guard had stamped, but he hadn’t actually shown that I was leaving the country.

I scurried back across no-man’s-land, worried that the bus would leave me. I might have made little bit of a ruckus as I returned to the Laotian border, demanding that they actually stamp my book. Finally, one of the guards reluctantly gave me the stamp I needed to “leave” the country. The Cambodian guard looked at me with equal disdain, but stamps my visa anyway and allows me to enter.

I guess I should be more careful with border guards, I’m entering their country, but I refuse to pay bribes.

After waiting around for hours at the border, we’re loaded onto a small micro-bus. I get set in the front passenger seat, and all our bags are loaded as a barricaded between me and the rest of the passengers. I effectively had a 6-hour private car ride to Siem Reap.

I took a dorm room bed at Garden Village Guesthouse, at the recommendation of the bus company. It was a good price, and it had a pool (highly recommended). I ended up meeting some great people here.

Siem Reap is a pretty nice town, with something for almost every type of traveler. The draw for travelers is definitely Angkor Wat, but I met several ex-pats just enjoying living there as well. Good cheap restaurants line the tightly winding streets that run into the river. Along the river, there are more expensive places. There’s a party scene, and quiet areas.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to pay the $20 for a day pass into Angkor Wat. I typically don’t pay to go into things when I’m traveling cheap (and I was surviving off a fixed amount of cash that I had borrowed from Xavi), but some friends convinced me it was worth it. As I was considering what to do, I rented a bike and spent a day trying to connect with the locals, something I hadn’t really gotten to do on my trip so far. I do this by taking portraits of the people I meet.


1208-SiemReap-0142 1208-SiemReap-0151 1208-SiemReap-0158 1208-SiemReap-0162 1208-SiemReap-0165 1208-SiemReap-0166

Ice delivery. Might be best to avoid ice in your water.

1208-SiemReap-0173 1208-SiemReap-0177 1208-SiemReap-0178 1208-SiemReap-0183 1208-SiemReap-0185 1208-SiemReap-0188 1208-SiemReap-0189 1208-SiemReap-0190

There was a pretty girl selling fruit, but she wasn’t keen on having her photo taken.
So I shot her fruit.

1208-SiemReap-0191 1208-SiemReap-0194 1208-SiemReap-0197 1208-SiemReap-0199

I’ve eaten a lot of fresh coconuts, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had. The meat was so delicious!


1208-SiemReap-0202 1208-SiemReap-0206 1208-SiemReap-0210 1208-SiemReap-0214 1208-SiemReap-0219 1208-SiemReap-0229

I sat and watched these kids for probably 20 minutes, jumping into the river with pure joy.

1208-SiemReap-0276 1208-SiemReap-0283 1208-SiemReap-0285

I ended my exploration of Siem Reap at a large temple that was a bit past where most of the tourists go. It was quiet and offered me some shade from the blazing sun. I don’t often spend a lot of time in temples, but I enjoyed a lot of the quotes attributed to Buddha engraved on a lot of the statues.


Next: Angkor Wat. Be sure to subscribe!