I had a massive 3 week trip planned. A week with Chloe, my best friend and in all shapes and forms otherwise my sister, in Santa Cruz, California- followed with a 2 week binge trip to the Maldives. It was our second time globetrotting together, the first being in 2012 after graduating from high school. We went to Prague, Czech Republic for a TEFL course, and that will be a separate post for you to indulge in!
The week in Santa Cruz was relaxing and enjoyable. Having family there, I hung out with my cousin Michael trekking on the ridge, through a creepy old zoo ground, and popping out onto the Santa Cruz Golf Course, followed by some legit AF Asian cuisine during a Hawks game. This was all followed by drinks and an Italian (VEGAN!) dinner another night with my Aunt Teri and Uncle David. There was much needed catching up to do with my family while Chloe finished up her finals that week.
Then there was the actual take off. We left San Francisco, flew over the North Pole for about 14 hours, layover in Dubai for an awful 12 hour layover in the middle of the night- I showered in the airport bathroom and Chloe tried getting some extra sleep.
As we flew into the Maldives we were snapping pictures of the coral islands, making up what are referred to as atolls, scattered across the aqua horizons of the Indian Ocean. As our planes landing was delayed, we circled the island for an extra half an hour and the excitement for our tropical getaway set in.
We landed and proceeded to be passively nudged in line, as manners were not of importance to other passengers while waiting to go through security checks. After all, we weren’t ALL trying to go enjoy this beautiful country. After the hustle and bustle of the airport security, finding a taxi for our hotel after waiting an hour for them to pick us up, we ended up on a long curving rode in Male, the capital, leading us through what I would consider a less visited and ill-maintained part of the country. There was garbage filling the streets and abandoned buildings both sides of the street we were staying on. It seemed as though everything was under construction, and not quite suited for tourism.
Within hours of walking into our hotel room at the UI Inn, with what was maybe a 1×1′ window and poor ventilation, we made a few calls and cancellations, especially after realizing that the community had little to offer in terms of shops, even for the ABUNDANCE of mosquitos we were fighting off. The next morning we hopped a speed boat and made our first stop in Huraa, north of Male. We were welcomed to a small hotel, the Sunset Holiday, with fresh juice and a young gentleman versing a list of tourist activities and snorkeling destinations, who then, along with the hotel owner, took us on a walk around the parameter of the island (10 minutes?) and showed us the “bikini beach”. This is when our trip started to twist and turn.
We realized slowly that all of the reviews saying there are only certain public spaces due to the Muslim population, were very true. Chloe having traveled to primarily Muslim countries before, doubted that we would have a hard time finding bikini friendly areas and alcohol. Our stay on Huraa was short and very awkward, especially when the housekeeper kept walking into our hotel room without asking and at one point was banging on our door to come in(?) Followed by what I remember as the same guy, trying to impress us by catching a bird, that he actually ended up killing because he kept dropping it. Not very impressive for two vegan chicks. Wanting to escape and get our drink on after days of planes and boats sober, on Christmas day we went to a private resort called Club Med Kani Maldives, which provided all of our 20-something year old needs, alcohol included. At Club Med we ran through a foam pit, swam in infinity pools, drank unlimited mixed beverages and witnessed Santa Claus come onto the beach via parasail.
A day or two later Chloe and I went on to the third island, Thulusdhoo. Here we met extremely hip kids at our hotel, Batuta Maldives Surf View Guesthouse . We were on the main tourist beach next door to a few surf lodges, owned and ran by Australian’s. Though alcohol WASN’T permitted on this island, we went out for dinner with some local guys who led us to a hang out spot where they had their extra curricular substances, hash being their “thing”. At thing point Chloe was almost on a food high, after trying a weird delicacy food made of dried-out sea corral paste on *mint? basil*? Whatever it was gave Chloe a buzz, what she described as almost an overdose on toothpaste. So here we were, on the top floor of an abandoned hotel, with 2 local Muslim boys smoking hash. Oh, and barefoot. Nobody in Thulusdhoo wears shoes.
The next day we headed across the water to Chicken Surf Point to snorkel and watch surfers go out. It was a small island that was perfect for the Instagram shots, and even better for some quiet.
The best part of every trip is talking to the locals, especially that are around the same age. We learned that everyone worked every day, one day off a month for the most part. Making around $300-$400 a month. I wish I remembered everyone’s name, but I remember their stories.
The girl we saw all three meals on Huraa for the duration of our stay was from Nepal, where she left earlier that year because of the Nepal Earthquake. She left her family behind to make money to send back home. I asked her how often she worked, and she said everyday, all three meals, and spent her one day off a month resting. She had only been to the main island and capital once since her arrival. I still get a lump in my throat imagining the sacrifices she had made. She was the only female we had met working on that island.
In Thulusdhoo, the two young guys we met told us about what it was like being Muslim. We were surprised because they were so remote and so fluent in English. They knew English, Arabic, and the Maldives had their own language as well. I kept a piece of newspaper because the Maldivian script was just so insane to look at. They told us the laws and how they go about drinking and smoking and being boys. Usually their way of legally drinking is by going out on the Safari boat rides or going to the resorts for the day. They told us basically any native Maldivian was related, and they laughed at my jokes about kissing your cousin. They said there wasn’t much dating going on.
Unfortunately, Thulusdhoo was the most fun island with the nicest people, but we already called home during our awkward experiences at Huraa to get tickets to Hikkaduwa Beach in Sri Lanka. After a week on the islands and a little thirsty for more, we hopped on a three hour ferry boat, ending our stay in the Maldives watching a little boy throw up in plastic bags that the attendant continued to throw out the window and into the ocean.
My recommendations for the Maldives:
-Explore the little islands
-Get to know the locals
-Go to a resort for a day or two of luxury
-Don’t contribute to the littering, all of the trash was being burned and thrown in the ocean