Friday, January 30, 2015

Experiencing Male, Capital of Maldives

Like anyone who hails from an English speaking country, i have always wondered the basis for the name of Male, capital of Maldives; was it the result of a ridiculously high ratio of men in the city? 

By the time i travelled to the capital city, i am still none the wiser about it origins although we should always remember it bears no resemblance to the English word we know of since the country's official language is Dhivehi; the citizens were, however, highly conversant in English! 

Male (pronounced as Mar-lay) was mentioned in a widely shared online article as a place of attraction tourists should avoid as there was nothing to do. 

In my walk from the jetty to Villingili Ferry Terminal, the above would be one of the nicer buildings i saw (there were not many) and it housed the President of Maldives' office. 

In that roughly 45 minutes walk, I could somewhat agree with the statement that Male doesn't have much but this would be the place where large group of locals congregate and would still be a place to visit if the local experience is something you look forward to. 

Furthermore, i didn't manage to check out the local markets which should be an experience on its own. If given a chance, i would have stayed in Male for one day to check out in detail what else it has to offer, just for the fun of it. 

Despite being one of the densely populated islands in Maldives, Male was pretty clean and i didn't get the overwhelming feeling of being inundated by many, many people. 

Cars and motorbikes were plentiful for an island smaller than Pulau Ubin

Safety enforcement was lax as no motorcyclist wore any helmets and even the men cleaning the facade of a shop on level two were not properly harnessed! Damn, they reminded me of the time i had at Forest Adventure

As Maldives is an Islamic country, no alcohol is allowed to be sold with the exception of exclusive islands catered for overseas tourists. Hence, you can bottles of sparkling juice in its replacement! They do look like beer bottles though. 

Guess what else we chanced upon!

A cemetery! Guess this would be the last place many tourists would hope to stumble upon even though the tombs were nothing like the Muslim tombs we see in Singapore. Or maybe i am wrong; this is not a burial ground?

We thought we have finally reached the ferry terminal as many people were entering into this building. Turned out it was the hospital! Haha.

Colourful wall murals spreading education messages. 

We had to ask our way around and finally got to Villingili Ferry Terminal! Damn, there was nothing on the signboard that indicated "Villingili"! Whatever the case, Maldivians are friendly, so do not hesitate to ask!! 

With over two hours to spend, i would recommend a place near the terminal where you can rest your feet, in air-conditioned comfort! Look out for the above building and go to the sea horse brasserie cafe! There was even free wifi! 

For cheaper, local fare, check out the local food street i mentioned before and dine with the locals. Check out my post here for the details. 

Don't want to spend money? Then sit in front of the jetty and enjoy the fumes of lazing boats with their engine running under the hot sun. 

Time finally came for us to board the ferry to Maafushi! 

Passengers boarding other ferries to other parts of Maldives. By the way, Maldives maybe small in land area but it has over a thousand islands spread over a huge area. Hence, taking a ferry / speedboat is a slower mode of transport with many people opting for seaplanes or domestic airlines. 

This may not be a scene tourists would see if they go directly to the resort islands from the airport; a rubbish boat. 

It's unfortunate that almost all tourists have the impression that everything is perfect in Maldives without even trying to know more about the country.

Not everything is rosy in the country and you would be surprised to find scenes less than poster perfect. Is it bad? Not to me since every country has their own set of problem and it's better to be aware of them rather than assuming everything is fine. 

Anyway, it's time to leave Male for Maafushi! 

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For my Maldives itinerary,
click HERE.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Local Food Street @ Male [Near Villingili Ferry Terminal]

When one talks about food in Maldives, it's always about how expensive they are and coming from a region where hawker food doesn't really quite burn a hole in my wallet, i was immensely worried when i was planning for the trip! 

Turned out the situation wasn't as bad as expected and i am going to share the location of a local food street in Male, near Villingili Ferry Terminal where most travellers to Maafushi Island would likely pass through. 

First thing - a cup of coffee! I actually asked for normal coffee and when the waiter asked if i wanted milk, i just nodded my head without realising it would be a cup of milk with a scoop of nescafe powder! Horrid, especially for someone who is mildly lactose intolerant!

The half chicken sub was much more memorable in comparison; for one, it was served warmly toasted and when i first sank my teeth into the bread, there's only one word to describe it.

Delicious! The ingredients were pretty plain but i could definitely feel the fresh, sweet crunch of the cucumber and lettuce which thankfully, didn't feature any bitterness. The pieces of chicken slathered in light, mild spicy mayonnaise added as a meaty flavouring in my opinion and were nothing more.

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Location Map
As above (Blue Star is the location of the shop i went to). 
The first one along the street.

Price
Coffee Milk - 15 MVR
Chicken Sub (Half) - 25 MVR
Note: 1 S$ = 11 MVR
[Subject to GST and Service Charge]

Additional Information
There were more than ten different shops along the same street to choose from for meals and we selected the one here because it appeared to have more customers! 


For my Maldives itinerary, click here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Maldives on a Budget - Six Days, Five Nights Summarised Travelogue!

Sorry for the lack of update! My physical body has been unwell for the past few days; high fever, frequent bouts of nausea peppered with short sessions of diarrhea. In short, a torturing period!

Whatever the case, i am slowly on the mend and thought i should break the limbo by publishing my Maldives itinerary first! As usual, please bookmark this page and check back periodically as i will update the hyperlinks for detailed information as i go along!

Day One (21 January 2015)
[7.00 am] Cleared Singapore's immigration and proceeded to check out terminal 2 of Changi International Airport; nothing much has changed and we spent the rest of our time in the mini-theatre watching the super hilarious "Hot Shots"!

[8.55 am] Boarded the plane and it took off roughly at about 9.25 am.

[Maldivian Time 10.28 am] You know Maldives is near when passengers start exclaiming at the spectacular view of islands and atolls! By the way, Maldives is three hours behind Singapore; hence, it may seem like only ninety minutes have passed but it was in fact 4.5 hours.

Male (pronounced as Mar-Lay) - the capital of Maldives; at 1.7 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide, this capital island was insanely minuscule even though you can still find cabs traversing its streets.

[10.30 am] The airbus landed safely on the tarmac of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, well ahead of the scheduled landing time of 11.20 am! For those residing in local islands (instead of resort islands where things are usually priced in US$), you may change your US$ or Singapore dollars to the local Maldivian currency at the airport. The rate was 1 US$ to 15 Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR).

With a growling stomach, Alex insisted on having Burger King which cost an exorbitant US$13.50 for a chicken sandwich meal! While he was enjoying the expensive meal, i walked around the airport to take more photos; the water was so impossibly green and clear!

[11.35 am] As we were not blessed with funds to pay for speedboat that would bring us directly to our hotel in Maafushi island, we had to make do with the cheaper alternative; take ferry from airport to Male and then take another ferry from Male to Maafushi.

[11.45 am] The 10-minute ride was similar in distance from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin and as we still have three hours to spend before our next ferry at 3 pm, we decided to WALK from the terminal to Villingili ferry terminal which was on the other side of the capital!

[12.30 pm] Well, didn't know it would take us so fast but no matter what, it was time for me to have my lunch! A chicken sub from a local restaurant shall be my first Maldivian meal for the day!

[3.00 pm] Left on time to Maafushi! Compared to a speedboat, the twice a day ferry (except for Fridays) cost only 22 MVR (about S$2) although the time taken to reach Maafushi would be about 2 hours.

Resort islands - unfortunately, many foreigners have the impression that this would be what Maldives has to offer and choose to hold back on travelling to this beautiful country until they build up their kitty. I shall share with you on my expenses later in this post and you would be shocked to find out it wasn't as bad as initially thought!

[4.41 pm] Maafushi Island and standing at the jetty were staff members from the various hotels on the island who were there for two purposes; to warmly welcome you and to help you with your luggage!

After checking in to Kanni Beach Hotel, we were briefed on the activities that we can join for a fee, the equipment that we can use, time of the buffet breakfast etc.

[6.00 pm] Caught the amazing sunset at the private beach at Maafushi where ladies were allowed to put on their bikinis and parade legally!

For dinner, we had a buffet priced at only US$10 a head! Contrast that to the Burger King meal Alex had earlier in the day!

Day Two (22 January 2015)
[6.30 am] All rise and shine for an activity filled day at Maldives! We signed up for a day trip with the hotel that included snorkelling at three places and a lunch thrown in at the sand bank! Before that happens, time to fill up our tummies first!

Still had some spare time before our day trip started and we hopped onto the complimentary bicycles provided by the hotel to check out the local island! It was halfway through the exploration that i realised something was missing; my iPhone! I could not quite remember if i left it in at the hotel restaurant or it could have slipped out of my pocket when i was cycling.

[9.35 am] Given that we were nearing the start of our day trip and i had re-traced the same route twice with no iPhone found, the only last thing pending would be the CCTV in the hotel. Since the IT personnel would not be available until late afternoon, we opted to continue with our day trip.

The snorkeling at Maldives was no doubt impressive and we covered turtle reef, banana reef and shark point! The only issue i faced was the choppy waves which, after a while, had a dizzying effect on me!

[2.00 pm] Totally tired out by the time the speedboat sent us back to Maafushi Island. There were more important work waiting for us; the investigation of the missing iPhone which drew an inconclusive blank. I had no other choice but to make a police report.

[6.00 pm] Spending quite a bit of time at the police station and once that's done, we chanced upon an excursion centre (basically a local tour agency) that had been reviewed favourably on Tripadvisor and bought an exclusive island package for next day!

Day Three (23 January 2015)
[9.00 am] Following another good breakfast at Kanni Beach Hotel (i am not sure why people were complaining so much about the food there), we set sail to the exclusive island housing the Adaaran Club Rannalhi resort!

[9.20 am] To gain entry into the postcard perfect resort, a nominal entrance fee must be paid and depending on resorts, some would cover lunch and in the case of Adaaran, unlimited drinks at the cocktail bar and lounge too.

Reefs were in abundance surrounding the island and i had a marvellous time checking out every nook and cranny! The waves were still as strong as the day before but at least i can still find my footing in the shallow water.

[5.30 pm] Arrived back at Maafushi and it was at that time that i felt that i was running a fever although i brushed it off as having spent too much time in the sun! Didn't even have appetite for dinner and stole a few morsels from Alex's dinner at Rehendhi restaurant and cafe.

Day Four (24 January 2015)
[9.00 am] Despite not feeling well, i am not going to waste the package we signed up the day before; another exclusive island that appeared breathtaking in the pictures shown to us; Rihiveli Beach Resort!

My verdict - the whole island was surrounded by a very shallow level of sea water and in order to see fishes and coral reefs, you have to venture much further and this could be tiring, especially for one who was sick!

After hearing that dolphins can be found nearer to the "outskirts of the island", we rented a canoe! Maldives has not been kind to me; the catch on my underwater camera came undone while i was canoeing and sea water seeped into the device!! How can an underwater camera be of such flimsy made?!?! :(

[6.00 pm] The speedboat assigned to pick us up was late for an hour! Not one to wallow in self pity (the missing iPhone, the spoilt underwater camera, the fever etc), i took pleasure in enjoying the sea breeze and the wonderful sunset!

[6.40 pm] Had dinner buffet (at US$10 each) at White Shell Beach Inn with two new friends from Singapore! The wok fired tuna spaghetti was seriously yummy!

[10.30 pm] Met up with the two ladies again as they had found a place where we might be able to see those luminous phytoplanktons! Pity luck wasn't on our side.

Day Five (25 January 2015)
[1.30 pm] I was incapacitated and managed to drag myself out of bed at around this time. I can feel the heat of my body and even though i had popped paracetamols in my mouth every few hours, the mind was in a daze and there was literally no urge to take in food.

[1.50 pm] From my exploration a few days ago, i was aware of the existence of a health centre. And it shall be the health centre i am destined to visit that day. 

[3.00 pm] Shortly after a late brunch at Beachwood Hotel where i had received positive reviews from a group of Taiwanese, i took the pills (including a suppository up my ass) and went to bed. 

[8.30 pm] Damn!! We were supposed to wake up at 6.30 pm to arrange for speedboat transport back to Male the next day! Sometimes, in life, things happen for a reason and it was due to this lateness that we got info of a US$20 a person speedboat deal from this shop known as Aachaa. This was in stark contrast to the US$50 per person we would have to fork out otherwise.

Day Six (26 January 2015)
[7.38 am] All set to leave Maafushi for Male! If i wasn't unwell, i believe it would be hard for you to drag me out of the local island! However, i really didn't have appetite for anything except for a bowl of plain porridge by Mom. 

[8.30 am] When asked if we would like to disembark on Male or directly at the airport, we opted for the latter; i figured that we could always pop by Male later if time permits, so long we can store that huge luggage we brought with us! 

[9.18 am] Turned out i was simply too weak and decided to check in to the airport instead. There was a Dome cafe inside the departure lounge that was really comfortable for a sick man like me. Sad i could not utilise the free wifi though as it required a mobile number. 

[11.40 am] Plane departed ten minutes ahead of time as i guess everyone had already boarded. Bye bye Maldives; you have not been good to me this time and i hope you would treat me better the next time i visit! 

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Total Expenses
Airfare - S$308.00
Hotel - S$772.55 (twin sharing)
Miscellaneous Expenses - US$500 should be sufficient

Note: You can cut down further on accommodation as i stayed on one of the more expensive hotels on the local island. For the miscellaneous expenses, i changed US$500 in total and still have about US$50 left after purchasing some expensive mementos! 

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