I was beginning to feel a little burned out at work towards latter 2010. I felt I needed to travel someplace outside the country, to re-energize myself and to regain my focus. Somewhere where I could simply relax, without going about much. My travel budget was almost non-existent since I had undertaken a major travel earlier in the year so my options were quite limited. My colleague and friend, who had traveled me with a couple of times in the previous year, also felt the same. It was while discussing that it emerged that I had sufficient air miles for two return tickets to Maldives and that my friend had a Maldivian friend from university, who had invited her for a visit. So that is how the two of us ended up going to Malé, one October weekend, after checking that it was ok with her friend to host me as well.
The capital of Maldives is a place that travelers usually skim past on their way to the resort islands. Our weekend though was based in Malé and we enjoyed it very much. This must have been the first trip that I had taken without reading something about the place before going there.
I discovered several things that endeared Malé to me:
- It was the first time that I had landed at the international airport, in the capital of a country, which was on its own island. We had to take the airport ferry from the airport island to the city.
2. Walking around Malé was fascinating. I felt that if I were somewhere in the middle of the city, it would take me at most 15 – 20 mins to walk to any end of the island. The island has an area of 5.8 km2. The narrow streets, in the residential areas, were rather charming. I would have expected that the lack of space would have prevented the use of vehicles but there were so many motorbikes parked everywhere, as well as cars plying the main roads.
Our host’s mother, whom we visited a few times during our visit, mentioned that bicycles had been the most common mode of transport in the city decades ago and lamented the influx of automobiles with increase in wealth generated from tourism. She still continued to use her bicycle to get about the city.
3. The beautiful waters. I haven’t seen shades of blue of the sea as I saw them around Malé, and I didn’t even go to the less inhabited islands. We enjoyed taking short rides, on public ferries, simply to go across the waters. Most of my photos from my weekend are of the sea. It was beautiful.
4. Since we did not have any specific plan for our weekend, besides relaxing, we were content going out on leisurely walks on our own or with our host. During these leisurely, slow-paced moments, I experienced something that I felt was sort of unique to Maldivians – at least to those living in Malé. We would start from the apartment, just the three of us – our host, my friend and I, and we would walk over to her mother’s place for a chat and then meander to another relative’s place, all the while the group becoming bigger as some relatives or friends would add to the group continuing on, while others remained behind at a house. It was such a relaxed group all the way, but was full of surprises as one didn’t exactly know where one would end up or how many would remain in the group at the next place we stopped at. One evening, we ended up at the rooftop restaurant of a hotel, which was our host’s favourite. Another night, we ended up by the jetty area, where there was an open air concert organized by Alliance Française.
5. I enjoyed my Maldivian breakfasts of roshi and mashuni on the lovely rooftop area, at the nearby Seagull cafe. While roshi and mashuni resembles one of the popular breakfasts of Sri Lanka, roti and pol sambol, in its description, it does taste and look different. We did try out a couple of other restaurants for some meals, but this was my favourite meal in Maldives, besides the one I had at the home of our host’s mother.
6. We were in Malé, coincidentally on the weekend Maldives was hosting the Hay literary festival. The festival was being held at Aarah island, the official private island retreat of the President of Maldives, which had been opened up to the public for the first time to host the Hay festival. Since our host’s mother was talking about her recently published work at one of the evening sessions, our hosts and some of their relatives wanted to go for that particular session. We had to hire a speed boat, as there was no public ferry at the time the group made it to the jetty. Going on a speedboat was so much fun and we made it just in time for the session. After the session, we walked around the island, enjoying some food and exploring the island. I remember the food stalls, live music, the carnival atmosphere but for some reason, that I don’t exactly remember, the only photos I took at the island that night was of the coconut trees. So, here’s one of those photos of the Aarah island coconut tree 🙂
It was a delightful weekend, very much relaxed and filled with lots of wonderful conversations particularly with our host’s creative mother, good food, leisurely walks and surrounded by beautiful waters.
Have you visited Maldives? What were your impressions of Malé?
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