Happy 4th Birthday Custom Mongkols!

It was on this day four years ago at Friday Night Fight’s Rumble on the River show that we displayed our first set of handmade prajiouds. I remember I only wanted to do the prajiouds because I felt there was too much pressure to try and get a WHOLE set done just a week or so before Joel’s fight. That week was filled with a number of trips to fabric stores to get the right materials and a whole lot of trial and error to get the right stitching down. Strings and a bunch of unfinished pieces all over the house that I was just not satisfied with. Then I finally came up with this:


Just a month later I made two entire sets. One was for Rami and his team at Rami Elite and one for Joel. Both were displayed at the Take On Productions show in September 2013:

 


Seeing what we created and how beautiful the fighters looked when walking out to the ring or performing their Wai Krus lit a fire in us that has yet to burn out. Now, we are in our fourth year and have made hundreds of mongkol and prajioud sets, mini car mongkols, and keychains… and we are nowhere near done. We are always looking for ways to perfect our craft to satisfy all of YOUR needs and we love that all of you have supported us even through the changes we’ve made.

We really want to take this time out to thank all of the people that support us, especially those that have stuck by us from the very beginning. We value the friendships we’ve made and the love that you all show us everyday. Joel and I want you all to know that we appreciate your business, your feedback, and your love for Keeping the Tradition Alive. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for believing in us and giving us a reason to continue and we hope that you continue to support us for years to come!

Love always,
Jillianne & Joel
❤ img_3232-1

Cuba Travel Advice & Recommendations:

Before I left for Cuba, I did a lot of research and asked A LOT of people who had already traveled to Cuba, about their experience. I got mixed reviews, super helpful tips, and some great recommendations. So I figured I’d mix all of that together plus my experience to better assist you if you plan on visiting Cuba 🙂

THE FIRST THING I AM GOING TO RECOMMEND: DOWNLOAD THE APP MAPS.ME
This was a life saver! Thanks Mikey!
This app allows you to search for places and look up directions without the internet

Flights and things flight related:
We flew on JetBlue and it was great (as always). We got the flights about 3 months in advance and they were pretty cheap, but I have heard that they are super expensive now, so plan as early as you can. The one thing that sucked with our return flight is that they cannot refill their food options in Cuba. So whatever they have left from their last flight is what they have. Other than that, it was fine. JetBlue offers free wifi, movies, music and direct TV so you can’t go wrong.

I think Delta does direct flights as well!

I recommend you get to the airport 2-3 hours early. We got lucky and the line for the visa was short as hell, but I have heard that the line can get pretty long, so to play it safe, get there early. You also want enough time to get through security because we all know that line is a headache too.

The visa is $50 and you pay for this at the airport. I am not sure about other airports but at JFK, it was credit/debit only.

Passport: Make sure you have enough pages! I think you need about 2-4 to travel out of the country otherwise you have to renew. Also make sure your passport has 6 months or more left before it expires. Joel had to renew his before we went because it expired two days before the 6 month requirement. The JetBlue agent I booked my flight with told me they are super strict about that 6 month requirement!

Accommodations:
Airbnb is my go to when traveling with a group.
This was our place:
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14712354?checkin=06%2F01%2F2017&checkout=06%2F06%2F2017&guests=6&adults=6&children=0&infants=0
It was in Vedado, which is quiet and safe and about a 7-10 minute car ride to Old Havana and many other places
Vedado is a good area and has more spacious rooms than other towns I saw and I saw plenty because I was looking for rooms for months. Old Havana is hit or miss so be very careful if you book something in that area. A lot of the apartments around there are SUPER run down. However it can also be in the touristy area of Old Havana which may be nicer, but you also can’t really confirm the exact location until you book.

Melia Cohiba Hotel
Hotel Presidente
Hotel Nacional
Read More »

CUBA 3/12/17 & 3/13/17

SORRY for the late post!
I have tried to write this blog 3 times and it keeps getting deleted, so I am crossing my fingers this time that it doesn’t. This post will be of our last full day and our last morning up until our flight 🙂
ENJOY!

DAY FIVE:

Our last day 😦 We planned on having a beach day today for our last day, but we also didn’t want to waste time at the beach, when there’s so much more we wanted to do and see. We started our day around 8 AM, had breakfast and talked a bit longer than expected with our breakfast parents. We left, got back to our apartment, got ready, and walked over to the Malecón to hail a cab. We got one driver that said 40 CUC and then another cab that said 15 CUC. Its ridiculous what some people will try to charge, especially since you’re a tourist. But whatever, we got in the $15 cab and made our way to Santa Maria beach. Our cab driver was pretty cool and played music we were familiar with. The ride was smooth and we were told it would take about 30 minutes or so to get there, and it only took us around 20 so that was a plus. We only planned on staying 1.5 hours and the cab driver offered to stay, but said to make sure we are back at the car after an hour and a half otherwise what he was charging us wouldn’t be worth it for him and he would be wasting too much time just sitting around. We took his offer, and good thing we did because getting a cab around the beach is not easy at all. Most of them that were there were just waiting for people too. We got out the car and walked over to the beach. The sand was so soft and almost white. The water was CRYSTAL CLEAR. There was a sign that stated the prices for umbrellas and chairs, and we saw everyone using them, so I thought it was mandatory. We walked over to a few chairs and an umbrella that were vacant and we were quickly approached by a man that said they were reserved. So we walked a little farther away and just put our blanket and towels down. As soon as everyone sat down I went right into the water. It was warm and super calm, I LOVED IT. Joel, Michael, and Jess joined me for a little. Once we were done, we went to soak up some sun and dry off. We were over the beach pretty fast. I’m usually not, but I also didn’t wanna spend HOURS there on our last day. So we packed up and met our cab driver right on time.
**There was a restaurant right by the parking lot that let us use their restroom, just an FYI if you are interested in going and wonder where you can change or use the restroom**. We got in the cab and made our way to Chinatown. We were starving, so the guy brought us to a restaurant that is supposedly one of the best in that area. We get there and its PACKED. Theres also a wait list and they were not sure how long it would be. We didn’t want to waste time and wait so we just walked around Chinatown and waited to see if we came across another restaurant. Chinatown is super small and it seemed like a lot of things were closed and it wasn’t too crowded. We walked around for a bit and just hailed a cab. We got a cab to take us to Hotel Nacional for 4 CUC and it wasn’t THAT close either. We get to Hotel Nacional and it was filled with tourists. But that’s expected because this is considered a national monument. We walked inside and everything was old and outdated, but beautiful, nonetheless. There were a few art pieces on the walls and other historical displays around the hotel. We went out to the garden and people were sitting outside, eating and drinking. There were also two restaurants out in the garden. One that overlooks the Malecón. We walked around the hotel.a little bit more and checked out their pool area ( even if you are not staying at the hotel you can pay to use their pool and there’s a restaurant and bar by the pool as well). Once we were done, we went to try and find something to eat. Read More »

CUBA 3/11/17

DAY FOUR:

So the last three days have been taking a toll on us and by the fourth day we were so tired, but we still got up at around 8ish for breakfast and headed across the street. Again, the table was set and we were asked to wait in the living room until the food was out. We ate breakfast and talked to our breakfast parents when we were done. Hours quickly flew by so we decided to head out to get ready. We hailed down a cab at the Malecón again, and made our way back to  Rafael Trejo boxing gym (the gym we visited the day before). Jessica, Ralph, Joel, and Mike brought gear to donate and we decided to drop it off today. Joel and Michael donated their stuff to the Rafael Trejo gym and Jessica and Ralph donated their stuff to a gym that was around the corner. Once we got to the Rafael Trejo gym, we saw a bunch of kids and teens warming up for some inter-club sparring aka smokers..lol. These kids are tough and it was so much fun to watch! We stayed longer than we planned on staying but none of us mind watching some fights. Once we left the gym, we made our way to a local brewery that was kinda dead, but the breeze was amazing since it was right on the water. We stayed for some drinks and to just relax. Sitting at a table next to us was a group of people who were definitely from the states and we could tell because we could hear their accents. One girl in particular sounded like she was from New York, so we asked them if they were American, and just like we thought,they were! We introduced ourselves and spoke to them for a little while and one of the girls, Dash, told us that she actually lives in Cuba with her husband. She owns a Afro-Latino tour company and was taking the group around on her tour. I wanted to do the tour so bad, but it was a bit on the pricey side, and we also had no time for it :(. Once they left, we finished our drinks and headed out to find some food. We passed a cute little restaurant that sold sandwiches, mojitos, beer, and some other drinks and it was super CHEAP so we sat down and ordered. Right outside of the restaurant we saw these kids playing and when I went to snap a photo of one of the girls stopped and smiled. Some of the kids were barefoot and their clothes and bodies in general were dirty from playing in the streets. They were so damn carefree and I loved it. They came by and talked to us for a bit and I was able to get a cute photo with them. We finished our meals and walked a few blocks to hail a cab.Once we got back to our block, we sat by the Malecón and had a mini photo shoot(LOL) and enjoyed the amazing view. We were told that the Malecón is one of the most popular places for the locals. There’s no cost to just sit there and hang out. A few nights that we walked along the Malecón, we would see people dancing, playing music, drinking, and just enjoying each others company. After our photo shoot, we went on a mission to look for a store where we can buy some beer! Read More »

CUBA 3/10/17

DAY THREE:

Breakfast was scheduled for 9 AM with our “breakfast parents” who live across the street from our Air BnB. When we walked into their apartment, we saw that the table was already set but, breakfast dad asked for us to sit in the living room while they brought out the rest of the food. We were presented with a plate of fresh fruit, warm bread with butter, coffee, warm FRESH milk, fresh fruit juice( this day it was Guava juice), ham, FRESH cheese, eggs, and last but not least fried TARO bites ( just mentioning them makes me miss it, they were delicious). Once we were done eating, they started to clear the table and they brought out our dessert: FLAN, yup… FLAN FOR BREAKFAST! When we were done, you can tell that they were kind of shy but we tried our best to make conversation with them.We asked random questions and they started to open up to us. This was the most difficult part for me since I don’t speak Spanish as well as I understand it, but I tried my best to keep up. They explained as much as they could about the Cuban lifestyle, what their lives are like, etc. One major thing I learned from them is that we take SO MUCH for granted. Compared to them, we really do have it good. Some interesting things they told us were:

  • About 1,500 people apply for a U.S. visa a day and only about 5 % get approved. BUT, the majority of that 5 % cant even afford to purchase a ticket out.
  • They receive a set amount of goods from the government per person a month. For example a set portion of rice, beans, cooking oil, about 5 eggs, etc. Basically, all of their portions are controlled.
  • Doctors make somewhere around 50 CUC a month aka LESS THAN WHAT A CAB DRIVER CAN POTENTIALLY MAKE DAILY.
  • Cuba just got internet a year and a half ago. Wifi is accessible on some phones and you are only able to connect at parks or hotels, AND they’re not allowed to have it in homes.

This is just a few of the many things we talked about with them and we sat there for hours.

After breakfast, we went back to our apartment, got ready, and head out for our Old Havana walking tour. Amalia actually set this up for us with a friend of hers, Maidolis. We walked over to the Malecón to hail a cab and we got a purple 1950’s Ford. At first he told us $20 for the 7 minute ride, and we said HELL TO THE NO and then he said “Okay, fine. $10!” LOL. We hooped in and made our way to Old Havana. We were instructed to meet Maidolis in the “Ceiba del templete” and Amalia told us she would be wearing a teal shirt, which didn’t really narrow it down much. Lol. But anyway, we found her and she was with her husband, Nelson. We started the tour around Old Havana. The architecture and beauty of all the buildings in Old Havana is really something, but this is such a touristy area that I got sick of it pretty quickly and it didn’t help that it was soooooo HOT. But, we continued walking around while Maidolis talked about certain buildings and their history. We knew we were close to a boxing gym that we wanted to visit so we asked them to help us make our way there. Maidolis had to leave, so she asked her husband to walk us there. He brought us there so we can get familiar with where it was and the guys and Jess can talk to the instructor. He wasn’t there yet so we were told to come back around 5PM. So the last thing we asked Nelson to help us with was to bring us to a a place where we can buy souvenirs. He brought us less than 2 blocks away and we entered this HUGE warehouse looking place with a bunch of souvenir vendors. Also known as a tourists nightmare. You could not walk around this place without someone trying to show you what they are selling and they barely budged with the prices. Anyway, we walked for a bit and before we left we bought some cigar holders and key chains. Read More »