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Friday, 19 February 2016

Things I Didn’t Expect in Maldives

It’s been a week now after I and Hiropi left the invigorating islands of Maldives. I admit I had my moments of doubts while I was there. I thought keenly of what the well-promoted country has to offer—food, people, activities, sea life, etc.—weighed their quality and cost then compared the pieces to the ones in my homeland. 

Which is better?

I think El Nido, Bali, Hawaii and other island destinations, including Maldives, are all worth visiting albeit the redundancy of activities in a familiar body of water. It's certain that you'll always find or experience something unique or unexpected.

Speaking of expectations, I sure had a lot before traveling to Maldives, but these are the things I didn't expect:

1. I didn't expect to have a complimentary coffee 'with a heart'! 

This Maldivian coffee is a little similar to the freeze-dried coffee in Vietnam. The flavor is not too strong nor too sweet but already energizing. Thanks to the UInn, our accommodation for a night in Hulhamale, we started the day with love in a cup! 

2. I didn't expect Hulhamale to have the finest sands in their public beach as well as to have a convenient public jetty transfer until 2 AM on weekdays.

The beach in Hulhamale (the island in Maldives where the airport is located) is simply breathtaking. It's framed with powdery sand and crystal clear water. Quite different from Maafushi (a local island in the southern part of Male City), here is rather tranquil and less crowded.  Tourists come here to rest and rejuvenate.

I didn't expect that from the airport, it is possible to transfer to Male City anytime until 2 AM by public jetty. HERE IS THE FERRY SCHEDULE FROM HULHAMLE TO MALE. In spite of that, I'm happy we spent our morning here as this beach couldn't be seen as anything less...

See these random fish swimming through~

A clearer photograph with this school of fish~

3. I didn't expect that the island to be a sand factory(?)

We saw this a few blocks from our hotel. An excavator was digging into this sandy soil. I believe they will construct another building here.

4. I didn't expect Huhamale to be well-maintained. Community workers sweep sand particles/ trash off the road regularly.

5. I didn't expect this 40 MVR meal at a small local diner to be so delectable. (15 MVR = 1 USD)

After buying ticket at the Viligili Ferry Terminal, we went for a quick lunch. We decided to try one of the local diners lining across the terminal road in Male. Upon seeing the menu, I asked the attendant about his recommendation and he pointed this meal. This is Maldivian Chicken rice. It may look like a normal stir-fried rice but definitely more flavorful. This serving BTW is already good for 2 people. 

It came with these crispy papadum. This accentuated the savory, flavorful taste of the chili chicken rice. 

I also didn't expect that the attendants in the local diner (karinderya we call it in the Philippines) would agree to keep our suitcases in their eatery (for free) while we walked around the city. There is no coin locker/ storage place nearby so they were really kind and helpful to us. 

6. I didn't expect that Acer, the brand of my laptop (which just died on me 3 days before I left for Maldives), to be no.1 here! Haha #troll

7. I didn't expect their narrow streets to be TOO difficult to cross.

The traffic here is crazy. Motorcycles come out of nowhere and it's difficult to understand the direction where they're going. You must be really mindful and cautious when you cross the streets of Male. Believe me, I come from the Philippines!

8. I didn't expect the public ferry ride to Maafushi to be cozy and amusing. 

Due to a longer travel time, I was worried Hiropi (or I) would get bored on the ferry or worse experience motion sickness. To my surprise, the 90 minute ride to the local island of Maafushi from Viligili terminal in Male went by really quick. The seat on the ferry is well-ventilated and comfortable enough. There are snacks on board a passenger can buy. Outside is a moving landscape and vast view of dancing sea water. The 2 USD fare per person in this public transport is not bad. 

9. I didn't expect the island to be nonfestive at night. 

In stark contrast to Boracay or other beach resorts in the Philippines, Maafushi seemed quiet at night. I don't know if it's like that all throughout the year but the nights we were there, it was not festive. There was no loud music, only Islamic call to prayer.

10. I didn't expect the beach on the other side of Maafushi to prohibit swimming in bikini and the public beach in Hulhamale to allow so. 

It was quite confusing to me. I know that there are parts in Maldives a tourist cannot wear bikini but I didn't realize that include Maafushi. Apparently, the part where people can swim with two piece swim wear is in the "Bikini Beach" - the area in the far side of the Maafushi terminal.  

11. I didn't expect the morning sunrise would be this good. I took this from our hotel doorstep.

12. I didn't expect Maldivians to be really friendly and courteous.

13. I didn't expect to see these familiar interiors. Reminds me of Malibago Blue Water in Cebu.

14. This familiar face. In my hometown this is the "nuno"

15. I didn't expect a large grey heron and other sea creatures such as baby sharks, crabs and eels to be a common sight in Maldives.

This is swimming in front of me...

This shark is so cute. I saw four of them. 

16. I didn't expect that the private island resort day pass fee to be higher than what was quoted in our hotel in Maafushi. The government tax is 22 percent. Snorkeling gears are for rent for 5 dollars each. But the experience is worth the cost. 

I almost squabbled with the Fihalhohi Island Resort receptionist when he insisted that we shouldn't use the beach lounge chairs. He even demanded that we put our bags on the ground. Imagine spending 285 USD in a resort, only to place your bag on the sandy ground? Considering that NOT ALL lounge chairs were occupied?!

Apparently, Fihalhohi island resort wouldn't provide day pass guests with mat, complimentary bottled water or swimming/ snorkeling gear - best thing to do is to BRING YOUR OWN! 

And enjoy the buffet lunch...

...especially the bitter lemon drink and the salad.

17. I didn't expect the water to be so rich and clear that we can snorkel ANYWHERE.

I realized that in Maldives, you can bring your own snorkel gear, don a mask and enjoy the underwater scenery anytime, anywhere.  

18. I didn't expect to swim with squids. 

Shame we couldn't use the GoPro, but I and Hiropi were able to swim with lovely sea creatures including reddish-brown squids. It's a unique albeit (a bit) scary experience.

19. I didn't expect this. AT. ALL. Where the heck did this come from? LOL

I don't know what to say. 

 20. I didn't expect Maldives to be this colorful.

I really like the contrast of these umbrellas against the blue sky and water, representing the lively colors of Maldivian food and marine life. I got fascinated with the fresh and inviting hues of the fruits that we ate as well as the vibrant shades of corals and fish underneath.

21. Lastly, I didn't expect Wifi access would be such a pain in the neck at the airport but then there are computer stations everywhere so passengers can still use them for free.

Maldives is a lofty destination for a reason, and it is better than I ever could’ve imagined it to be. I’m glad we booked the tickets to its sworn expensive islands. (But don’t get me wrong, you can enjoy Maldives on a budget)

We’ll be happy to come back but not soon, perhaps after we experience the other islands of the world. So Jahid, Ima and our other Maldivian friends would need to wait for a while but hopefully meet you instead as you decide to pack your bags and find your way on a ferry to Maafushi!

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Thank you for reading this article, if you have questions/ insights/ wild reactions please feel free to comment down below. 

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