Merry Christmas from the Maldives

I haven’t written a comprehensive ‘I did this, then I did that’ travel post in a long time. This wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, just a gradual shift in the way I wanted to write my posts. However, I think a lot of people might be really interested to know more about the What, Why and How of my recent Maldives trip so, sit back with a cup of tea, here is my incredibly lengthy and detailed account of the entire trip!

Location

The Maldives is one of those destinations that a lot of us dream about, mostly for two reasons. One, living the luxurious villa resort life. Two, crystal waters, clearer than what comes out of your tap at home. For those of us that live in South East Asia or thereabouts, it actually isn’t that far of a destination. From Malaysia, we flew with SilkAir to Singapore, stopped for a 90 minute layover before continuing the journey with Singapore Airlines to Malé, Maldives. Our ticket said Singapore Airlines but they were actually code sharing with Silk Air so the plane we boarded was pretty much identical to the one we were just on. Both planes were a bit old but hey, they weren’t the reason for our trip. The flight duration from Singapore to Malé was about four hours.

Choosing Accommodation

With choosing our accommodation, we knew we wanted something akin to the wanderlust inducing villas we had seen on Instagram. We didn’t look into hostels, hotels or B&B options but you can vacation affordably in the Maldives, such as at the Holiday Inn Kandooma. In terms of luxury resorts and private villas, there are tonnes available such as Conrad Maldives Rangali Islands (which houses Ithaa one of the world’s underwater restaurants), Gili Lankanfushi and COMO Cocoa Island. A lot of these resorts are located on small islands, of which they take up the entirety of the location. As such, your time in the Maldives is wholly dependent on how much you enjoy your accommodation and its facilities as you probably won’t be going anywhere else. We decided to go with Anantara because there are multiple Anantara properties in the Maldives. As a guest of Anantara, you are free to roam to any of their resorts which meant more places we could explore and more restaurants we could dine at. In the Maldives, there are Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Veli and Anantara Naladhu. Dhigu is family friendly while Veli is purely for couples. At Veli, children are not allowed on the island until past 6 pm at which, families can come over to dine at the restaurants here. Naladhu is on a whole other level of indulgence as it’s a private island and the villas are far more spacious. Of these three, we chose Dhigu because on average, it is slightly cheaper than Veli and because of its family focus, it seemed like it would have a bit more of a buzz to it.

Anantara accommodation in the Maldives also automatically comes with the breakfast buffet included. You can also opt for the half-board option which comes with breakfast and dinner at one of the F&B outlets, or full board which is breakfast, lunch and dinner. Remember that you are stuck at your resort and your dining choices are limited to the restaurants owned by Anantara. As such, a half or full board might be a good option because then your meals are included and it works out to be cheaper than if you order a la carte for every meal. We didn’t go with either but in hindsight, we probably should have gone with half board. Because what we did was eat breakfast as late as possible to tide us over for most of the day until dinner which we had at the outlets. As someone who usually plans holidays around food, I didn’t find that food itself was much of a drawcard and treated it more like a necessity. The food we had throughout our stay was pretty average so I definitely preferred to fuel up on what I liked to eat for breakfast and spend minimally on dinner. We also brought snacks with us to the Maldives like rice crackers, nuts and fruit. Instant noodles might be a good option too, if you are so inclined.

Day One

Arriving at Malé airport was slightly anti-climatic as it’s very small but hello Maldives! After collecting your bags, you’ll be met by a staff member from the resort. He or she will escort you with your bags to the waiting area in the arrivals hall. There are multiple air-conditioned rooms that surround the hall which are all managed by specific resorts as a place their guests can congregate and unwind after the flight. This is so that we’re all together ahead of us departing Malé by boat to get to our respective resorts.

The boat ride was about 40 minutes long and they stopped at Veli first before Dhigu. Upon arrival, we’re greeting with a literal song and dance, a welcome drink and a dedicated staff member who explained the facilities and gave us a tour on a golf buggy before taking us to our room.

At Anantara Dhigu, there are multiple villa options, whether on land or over water, a sunrise or sunset view, and the optional private pool. We chose a sunset over water suite without a pool. The land villas have entrances that open up directly to the beach and your own personal tanning deck chairs.

The over water villas have an outdoor deck area that leads directly into the ocean water! It’s no stretch at all to say that this felt like the ocean was our own pool already. Having not stayed at a villa with a pool, I’m not really qualified to say, but I don’t think it’s necessary as you’d want to make the most of your time in the ocean.

No filter, no photoshop and these photos still don’t do justice to how stunning it is out here.

I bought a ridiculous whale float from Kmart back in Sydney and asked concierge if they would inflate it for me. It turned out to have a ginormous gash in its tail which just meant that that section wasn’t able to be blown up.

Pro-tip: check all your Kmart goods before buying and also maybe consider not going the cheap route and getting Sunny Life floats instead!

The resort has a gym which, while minimal, has all of the equipment I need. I mostly used it as a space for me to skip with my own skipping rope.

Dinner on the first night was at Sea. Fire. Salt. one of the restaurants here at Anantara Dhigu. It’s a grill and seafood focused restaurant and you can dine on their deck which extends out to the sea.

The food was okay, it’s really nothing to write home about. It’s made to be even worse because of the stinging fine dining price tag.

Day Two

You can choose to have breakfast at Fushi Cafe in Dhigu or 73 Degrees in Veli. The spread at Fushi Cafe is really extensive. There is a middle island sort of area that is air conditioned and it is where the bread, fruit, local cuisine and cold cuts section is. Outside there is a sweet section for freshly made pancakes, waffles and french toast, a noodle section and an egg station.

For those wondering, Maldivian food is a bit like Indian food with curries and also has a lot of coconut and fish. Tuna seems to be the main theme, our breakfast selection had tuna curry, two varieties of mas huni (tuna with coconut mixed) and a ‘Maldivian omelette’ at the egg station which looked like a normal omelette with more tuna on top.

I found it a little bizarre that tuna was a staple in their food yet it seemed to usually be of the canned tuna variety. While all of it tasted alright, after giving everything a try, I found myself veering towards salads, smoked fish and tropical fruit. Obviously a breakfast buffet at a resort is not at all indicative of what any local cuisine should taste like, this is just my experience.

Aqua Bar is the outlet that sits adjacent to the pool at Dhigu. The pool itself is a beautiful infinity pool which sits right next to the beach. You can tan on a deck chair, order a drink from the bar (there is a swim up bar section too) or splash about in the pool. The sand at the Maldives is white sand but isn’t as soft as the Whitsundays. Even the sand at Bondi or Coogee Beach has a better texture. But of course the water more than makes up for it.

Upon heading back to our rooms, we took the long way around and walked along the beaches. It’s hard to not want to stop every few metres and take photos. If you’re not someone who is into photography or selfies, I’d almost caution against coming to the Maldives because that is all everyone does here and presumably all your travelling companions will want to do. Everywhere you turn looks like a postcard and as much as you want to be in the moment, you also want to capture the memory.

We had dinner booked that night for Origami, the Japanese restaurant at Veli. This would be our first time venturing to the sister resort. To get there, you walk to the end of the island for a jetty where there is a boat that goes between Dhigu and Veli, literally every five minutes or less. We were pretty hungry and it had already gotten dark so we weren’t able to get a feel for Veli that evening as we headed straight to dinner.

The food at Origami was borderline bad but part of it was to be blamed on our poor ordering that night. Somehow we ended up with two fried dishes, a plate of sushi and a really small salad. Considering how much I’m not a fan of deep fried food, I still found the sushi to be the worst of the four as the rice was way too starchy and gluggy.

If you’ve read my previous post on my experience training at FaMA in Singapore, you would know the backstory of how a cold in Sydney escalated into a viral ear infection that significantly impacted my trip to the Maldives. By the end of the second day, I think I’d lost about 80% of my hearing in my left ear and was also finding it increasingly difficult to walk straight or balance myself when in an upright position. We managed to get a hold of the resort’s nurse that night, requesting him from one of the other Anantara resorts. He told me that I had inflammation in both outer ears, but much more so in my left ear. I was given antibiotics, some tablets that are meant to help with dizziness and told that I shouldn’t go swimming or participate in any water activities that would get my ear wet.

Day Three

We had an encore performance of Day Two’s breakfast. The selection was about the same with a few minor changes to the types of curries and the types of bread on offer. Due to my limited mobility, we weren’t able to do any of the fun activities we had kept for today, like snorkelling and kayaking. We just hoped I’d feel better enough to do them on the following days.

As we had a spa treatment booked at Veli today, we decided to go a little earlier to check the resort out. Veli’s version of Aqua Bar is Dhoni Bar which also has an infinity pool. The bar itself has a pool table and a menu that includes shisha, items indicative of their more ‘adult’ persuasions. The vibe is even more relaxing here with most of the guests reading and tanning or wading about in the pool.

Both Dhigu and Veli have their own spas at their respective locations. Dhigu offers an overwater spa with packages and experiences ranging from Anantara signatures to bath rituals to ‘journeys’ which are treatments that take several days to complete. They also have a kids spa menu.

Veli’s spa is called the Sundãri Ayurvedic Spa. While it doesn’t have the overwater glam, it’s the spa which offers treatments rooted in Ayurveda, a type of alternative medicine which hails from the Indian subcontinent. The treatment we opted for was the Lotus Indulgence Massage which is 90 minutes long and is a blend of two other treatments (Shirodhara and Abhyanga). It basically involved a body and head massage using warm medicinal oil. I didn’t take any photos of the process but as you can see in the photo below, there is some kind of bowl with a nozzle suspended over the bed, which is how the oil is poured over your head. It was a really gentle but strange experience.

These treatments are meant to be for stress relief, improved circulation and also to nourish your hair and scalp.

Dinner that night was at Baan Huraa, a Thai restaurant located at Anantara Veli. This was probably the best meal we had throughout the trip.

Miang Kham, complimentary at the table, and one of my favourite Thai dishes.

Day Four

The morning of day four and I hadn’t noticed any improvement since starting on the antibiotics. We were able to see the resort doctor this time who had a look at both my ears again and confirmed that there was still inflammation in the ear canal. The dizziness however, he said may be due to infection in the middle or inner ear.

All of this is of course, extremely appalling misfortune to befall someone, particularly on a once in a lifetime trip like the Maldives. I tried to make the most of everything but whether it was a combination of the infection or the way my body was reacting to the medication given to me, I just felt sleepy the whole time. But I guess part of being on holiday is giving your body its time to rest and recover, even if that means not ticking off every activity on the bucket list.

Thinking back to this day, I don’t remember much else of what we did. I do know that I was feeling particularly lethargic right after breakfast (fourth day of eating spinach, hummus and smoked salmon) so I crawled into the deliciously air-conditioned business centre and took a nap there. At some point, I woke up because a couple of obnoxious American tourists came in and were talking really loudly so I left and found a hammock and fell asleep in that as well. Even though these are all public spaces, there’s something about being on an island that is entirely a resort, plus the friendliness of the staff and other guests, plus the general vibe of the Maldives, that makes it seem perfectly acceptable (if not normal) to just fall asleep in random places. It’s very much in the same fashion of how you’re more than welcome to jump into the ocean from anywhere, at any point in time. There is a real sense of openness in this space that Anantara has created, which I have never found at any other destination or hotel.

Despite being sick, I had so much fun. It really was so unlike anywhere else I have ever been while also living up to the hype of every travel magazine or desktop screensaver I have ever seen. If you’re interested to see more ‘real-time’ content of the Maldives, I have a Story Highlights on my Instagram page (viewable only on mobile I believe).

samanthawxlow

2 Comments

  1. Oh man this looks so awesome and I am super jealous!
    I love the water shots so much! I would be there in a heart beat in my huge huge hat! I need rights to that bathtub image! Oh I love it! I wish my bathroom looked like that!
    Kiri
    Set to Glow
    http://www.settoglow.com.au

    • Sorry for the late reply, I just saw this! I think you’d love the Maldives so much, as long as you brought enough wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen.

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