The Handsomest Man in Cuba

a bicycle escapade

by Lynette Chiang,

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As of 2015, this book is awaiting reprint, but you can easily find them second-hand on the web, or you can obtain one of the last remaining Globe-Pequot copies from the author
Google e-book, Jan 2012
Globe-Pequot (paperback), USA/Canada, Feb 2007, ISBN 9780762743902
Piper-Verlag/National Geographic Adventure Press (paperback) as "Cuba Particular", Germany, Nov 2008
Small Wheel Press (paperback), self-published Nov 2004, USA/Canada - no longer available
Random House/Bantam (paperback), June 2003, Australia/NZ - no longer available
Lynette is represented by Peter McGuigan of the Foundry Literary + Media Agency, NY - Peter is an avid cyclist!
Book Cover


" ... about as gutsy a bargain traveler as they come."
New York Times Book Review 2 June 2007

"In the glut of Cuba travel books, this one really stands out."
The Sun Herald /Sunday Age (Australia)

"One of the best on-the-road travel books of this generation."
- The Launceston Examiner

"The only time you will put it down is when you finish it."
- Australian Cyclist

5stars reviews | Other Reader Reviews


Contact Lynette [galfromdownunder at gmail dot com]
Speaking | Bio | Blog | Home

LATEST NEWS | Facebook | Blog | Where to buy
Jan 2015 top 10 pick (Cuba)

May 2009 Interview with Julie Schwietert of Matador Travel

October 2008 Interview with Kate Bezar of Dumbo Feather

November 2008: The Handsomest Man in Cuba was released as "Cuba Particular" by Piper-Verlag/National Geographic Adventure Press, Germany. Thanks to Stephanie Abou and Peter McGuigan at Foundry for their literary evangelism | Read German Reviews
Sample chapters:
Chapter 1, A Cuban Christmas Search Inside the Book
Chapter 8, La Casa de Lolita (PDF)
Chapter 13, The 55-cent Hotel (PDF)
Chapter 19, A Loiter Too Far (PDF)


5stars reviews | Other reader reviews

2009 German Edition Reviews

2008 Wend Magazine, October 2008

2007 Inside Cover Blurbs from the front of the 2007 edition (PDF)

New York Times Book Review, Summer Reading Edition, 2 June 2007

For real adventure, readers would do well to turn to THE HANDSOMEST MAN IN CUBA: An Escapade (Globe Pequot, paper, $14.95). Four years before her arrival in Cuba, Lynette Chiang chucked her computer programming job, three-bedroom house and boyfriend in Sydney and set out to travel the world, inviting readers to join her midway through. By the time she hits Cuba, she has already mastered the art of the Bike Friday, a fold-up bicycle, and learned to travel on the cheap and skinny, entering the country with a small stove, a tent, a sleeping bag and $2,000 in cash. Chiang isn't a purist - she'll get off her bike when necessary or convenient - but she's about as gutsy a bargain traveler as they come ...Read more

Library Journal, April 2007

Australian vagabond Chiang's travel memoir on Cuba works on several levels. For American adventure travelers, there is the excitement of traveling to a place your country basically forbids you to go. For solo female travelers, there are the pleasures and horrors (beware of flashers in the city of Cienfuegos) of exploring a place on your own terms. For cyclists, there is perhaps the challenge of bicycling Cuba's long and varied terrain. Although Chiang sees fantastic sites, it is really the people she meets who provide her with her fondest memories. Average Cubans share their daily rations with her, welcome her into their homes or yards (for camping) for days, and basically show her a good time. But it is not all idyllic. Besides being assaulted in Cienfuegos, Chiang falls victim to petty thefts, harassing touts, price gouging, and the general oddness of Cuba's version of tourism separation. Through it all, she keeps her good sense of humor and a positive outlook. Wonderfully literate, entertaining, and insightful; recommended for public libraries. writer Larry Varney, Jan 2007

If you're looking for the bicycling equivalent of Steinbeck's Travels With Charley, you've found it. All along the way she does what every good writer does: she takes us with her. I may not go to Cuba this year, or even the next, but The Handsomest Man in Cuba has left me feeling like I've already been there, and want to go back. Read more

Cycle Publishing , Robert van der Plas, Jan 2007

This is a book not just for bikies, not just for tourists, and not just for those with one of the usual axes to grind about Cuba and its regime. This is travel literature at its best. Whether you are a cyclist or not, whether you'd contemplate visiting Cuba or not, The Handsomest Man in Cuba is one of the best travel narratives you'll ever read. -- Rob van der Plas is acquisitions editor and publisher of Cycle Publishing, and himself the author of a handful of bicycle books, covering everything from touring to racing and and from commuting to bicycle technology.

From the foreword to the USA edition by Joe Kurmaskie aka Metal Cowboy , July 2004:

The first two wheeled travel adventure I've read in far too long that is more than just a pretty face. By turns, introspective, charming and thoughtful, The Handsomest Man In Cuba packs in what so many travel adventures discard; the emotional landscape of a country and the interior map of the person exploring it.

Review in the Eugene Weekly Winter 2004-5 Reading Guide :

... she works her way deep into a culture that few people in the U. S. know. Chiang's resourcefulness and buoyant spirit make her adventures fun to read. Her willingness to describe her self-doubts and bouts of loneliness make the book even more compelling - Cecelia Hagen

Review in The Sun Herald (Sydney)/Sunday Age (Melbourne), August 3, 2003

SMH Caroline Baum Lynette Chiang In the glut of Cuban travel books, this one really stands out. Written by a Chinese-Australian solo cyclist who rides a folding bike, it is lively, well-observed and goes off the beaten track. Chiang captures the generosity of Cubans who have little or nothing, but prefer friendship to money. Although cashed up with dollars, she admits to being less generous than her hosts, making her an unusually honest narrator - by Caroline Baum, editor of Good Reading magazine, 2003
Pictured: I ran into Caroline in 2008 at a book reading some 5 years after she wrote this review. Here I am jogging her memory by showing her this webpage on my Blackberry! Find her at Two Heads Media

Review in The Sydney Morning Herald, July 14, 2003

Backpacker travel yarns, for want of a better term, vary hugely in quality, ranging from the banal to the insightful. Sydneysider, computer-science graduate and one-time advertising copywriter Lynette Chiang's adventures in Cuba and Central America are very firmly at the insightful end of the scale. They are written without pretension from the vantage point of an astute, but essentially naive, traveller. Chiang (nicknamed "La China" in Cuba) abandons the security of suburban Sydney, buys a "small wheel, folding bicycle" and heads for Havana. She lives close to ordinary Cubans and, with considerable understanding comes to see them as poor but warm, generous and friendly. Sensibly, she eschews the current post-Bryson vogue of seeing everything in humorous terms and trying to turn every adventure into a stand-up routine. The result is a song of praise for the humanity and simple decency of Cubans.

Review in The Launceston Examiner, June 28, 2003

This is one of the best 'on-the-road' travel books of this generation. Chiang takes us on an expedition by bicycle through Cuba. You can almost feel the wind in your face. Here is an intensely personal tale of what it is like to eat, drink, dance and be merry among Cubans. Sex and soap opera get a cigar, with an athletic woman who is anxious to avoid the tourist traps. She tells how, despite what we Westeners would consider appalling poverty, everyone appears happy and at peace. "No matter how poor or disillusioned, wretched or enlightened, every Cuban has someone to go home to," Chiang says. "Every Cuban would be missed at a dinner table." This book is practical too, advising which bike to buy, which saddle to get and how to have serious fun in one of the few remaining communist countries. - by Martin Stevenson

Australian Cyclist Book Review Review in Australian Cyclist, September 2003

The only time you will put it down is when you finish it - Peter Sutherland Read full review

Big fat cigars. Tropicana dancing girls. Mojitos. Hemingway. A guy named Fidel. This is not a book about the Cuba you already know. The Handsomest Man in Cuba is an intensely personal, on the road tale of what it is like to eat, drink and be cautiously merry among ordinary and extraordinary Cubans, as told by a lone traveller who can take almost everything that's flung at her - and just about everything is.

From pedalling across the country on a small folding bicycle, voyaging to Trinidad with the world's worst sailor, fighting off feet-eating mosquitoes and males with mucho calor (loosely translated as a lotta hotta testosterone) and adapting to a country that hits the pause button for precisely one hour every day for a syrupy soap opera, Lynette Chiang unveils a wild and crazy land that embraces life, a little food, a lot of love, a huge family - and her.

La China as the Cubans call her, discovers a people who earn as little as $10 a month, yet refuse to accept money for help, arguing that friendship is better. Who are rationed one bread roll a person per day, but insist she take their share 'for energy'. Who might have to choose between a bottle of shampoo or food in any given month, yet who seem strangely more at peace with themselves than the average wealthy foreigner.

This is not just a story about Cuba, but about what people were like just before the world started spinning too fast to jump off.
cuban kids lonely planet View Lynette's trip photos

See route map (180k, 150dpi JPEG file)

Some people I visited that you might like to visit too Some people have visited these folks and shown them a copy of this book! Take them bike parts, guitar strings, watch batteries, vitamins, aspirin, tools. And if you manage to run into Roberto, the Handsomest Man in Cuba, take a picture of him for me - unfortunately my camera broke. Update June 2009: Someone did!
Lynette, in short:

At 34, Lynette Chiang fled a decent job, three-bedroom house, fastish car and a nice bloke in Sydney and, armed with a congenitally poor sense of direction, set off to see the world on a folding bicycle. Her distinguished careers include that of computer programmer, failed waitress, commis-chef, manager of a mountain-top hotel, creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in Costa Rica and swanning about outside Windsor Castle in the freezing cold dressed as an English Lady. She has lived in enough countries to learn that to not fit in, is part of the experience. She claims she developed a personality only in the past six years. Read more of her bedtime stories on
chiang cuba vermont HANDSOMEST MAN PRE-2005 HISTORY

USA Bike Friday 2004 Book Tour
Sep 1 - Nov 10

Blog (archived)

Press Kit Flyers, images, reviews, sample chapters & interview ... more

Pictured right: Kicking off the USA tour in Vermont - Montpelier State House
Random House Australia book tour
July 2003:
chiang cuba pages and pages mosman
Above: July 28, 2003: My extended family plus some at the Mosman Library/Pages and Pages Bookshop signing. CW from L: Nic, Elisa, Mum, Gillian, Scott, Louise, Dad, David, Chris, Janette, Anne, Andy, friend, Robert, Michael, Fabian, Lynette, Nada

Blog | Photo Gallery

Quicktime Movie Clips of Tour
Day 1: Sydney 1.6Mb
Siimon Says 1 Mb
Day 2: Melbourne 1.2Mb
Good Morning Australia 8 Mb
Day 3-4: Brisbane 3.7 Mb
Day 5-7: Canberra 2.6 Mb

Media voice test for Random House: Lynette talks a little about her trip (1Mb Quicktime movie)

Read my review of the Lonely Planet Cycling Cuba Guide for Australian Cyclist, May-June 2003

Take a peek at the Australian edition

The Life and Times of Taam Sze Pui, (see online bio of Tom See Poy), a few pages from my gold-panning great grandad's personal memoir, circa 1925, Cooktown, North Queensland. He left his village in China 1877. A photocopy was made available to students at ANU Dept of History, 1978.



Monday, 28 July 2003, 7:00pm
Venue: Lynette Chiang will be speaking at Mosman Library in conjunction with Pages and Pages Booksellers. Mosman Square, Military Rd, Mosman.
Ticket bookings Tel: 02.9978.4090


Tuesday, 29 July 2003 at 7:00pm
Cosmos Bookshop, 112 Acland St, St Kilda
Bookings and Information: 03.9525.3852

Wednesday, 30 July 2003 at 6:00pm
Dymocks Booksellers Flagship Store, 234 Collins St, Melbourne
Bookings and Information: 03.9660.8500

Friday, 1 August 2003 at 6:45pm Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St, Bulimba
Bookings and Information: 07.3899.8555

Saturday, 2 August 2003 at 2:00pm
Avid Reader Bookshop, 173 Boundary St, West End
Bookings and Information: 07.3846.3422

CANBERRA - thanks to Rob Hurle and Tom Worthington for organizing this one!

Wednesday, 6 August 2003 at 4:00-5:00 pm
Dept Computer Science Seminar , Room N101, CSIT Building [108]
Information: Tom Worthington FACS, Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd ABN: 17 088 714 309 PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617
Visiting Fellow, Computer Science, Australian National University
Publications Director, Australian Computer


Saturday, 9 August 2003 - during the day
Peter's of Kensington on Anzac Parade Kensington. This is where my mother Irene Chiang works. Look for the Chinese woman with a broad Aussie accent in the Alessi section. She will sell you my book. Be warned!

RADIO/TV appearances

Monday 28th July
11:40am - ABC Radio 936 Hobart. Available statewide
throughout Tasmania
11:00am- ABC Regional Radio WA. Available in all
areas of WA except Perth.

Tuesday 29th July
1:15pm - 3AK Melbourne
1:30pm - ABC Radio 720 Perth

Wednesday 30th July
10:00am - Life Matters, ABC Radio National.
Available around Australia
2:15pm - ABC Radio 774, Melbourne

Thursday 31st July
3:30pm - ABC Radio 666, Canberra

Friday 1st August
2:30pm - ABC Radio 891, Adelaide. Available
throughout South Australia

Media to air the week following the tour:
Good Morning Australia (Channel 10) either 31st July
or 1st August
3RRR FM, Melbourne
SBS Radio
ABC Radio 612, Brisbane. Available around Queensland
Radio 4BC, Brisbane
Radio 2SER, Sydney
The Courier-Mail
The Canberra Times

Lyn with Ivan and Mirella in Trinidad Random House Team
Lynette with Ivan and Mirella in Trinidad (see Chapter "Long enough in Trinidad") Lynette with the Random House Team in Sydney. Front: Fiona Henderson, Head of Publishing (Bantam Doubleday), Lisa Bardetta (Marketing Strategist); back: Penny Page, Media Strategist.

Copyright 2004-2010 Lynette Chiang All rights reserved
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