The Journey to the Maldives
After spending six days in Singapore, it was time to head off to my next destination. My original plan was to visit Sri Lanka, but when everything went awry within the region I live in, I could not take the chance of getting a Sri Lankan visa only to find out I could not leave the country I live in and let the Sri Lankan visa go to waste. Therefore, I decided to head to the Maldives.
The Maldives is a place I had heard about occasionally, but it never placed very high on my list of "to-do places." I only knew the Maldives as a place to go for resorts and spending time on a beach or doing water activities. While those types of things are nice, I always like to be a bit more local if I can and be out and about checking things out. This desire actually helped me develop my relatively frugal travel plan for the Maldives.
Probably 95% of the people who visit the Maldives spend a majority of their time on one of the many resorts that are sprinkled throughout the area and rarely ever leave the island unless it is for excursions or to depart the country. The other 5% percent are people who either work or do business there, and then there is me.
During the course of my research with the Maldives, the one common theme was the price. Pretty much everything I read, people made continual mention that the Maldives is not a cheap place and that it can leave a dent in your wallet. However, this is if you opt to stay at a resort which was what most visitors tend to do.
The prices differed somewhat, but when I looked at resorts out of curiosity, I found that the going price was about $300 per night for average ones. Of course, the better the resort, the pricier it is, so I saw prices ranging from $300 to $1500 and up. For people who plan to stay at a resort during their stay in the Maldives, I can see why they say it is expensive. In that case, it would of course be quite expensive and hard on the wallet. However, I was going to do something a little bit different that not many people do.
I did not plan to stay at a resort, nor did I really want to this time. Personally, I am not a particular fan of resorts, and I would much rather be out and about exploring. Therefore, I opted to do something that almost all travelers to the Maldives never do. I decided that I would base myself in Malé for the entirety of my stay, and I would explore from there. This option would not only allow me to get a more local experience, but I would also be able to save a bit money. If I return to the Maldives, I will definitely look at a resort since I think that could be an experience in itself.
Finding a hotel in Malé was not difficult. I found a hotel that was located right in the city center for a very reasonable price, and it seemed relatively close to most of the attractions in the city. It is important to keep in mind that Malé is the most densely populated city in the world. It has a population of about 130,000 people packed into an area that is roughly 2 miles wide (5.5 km). As a result, it would be very easy to explore without having to traverse long distances. Exploring Malé would not be an issue; exploring some other islands would be.
Since the Maldives is made up of over 1800 islands and atolls, getting between them is via ferry. This is would be the most difficult part of exploring. The ferry schedules are not clear if you're not a local, and some ferries to different places run only certain days and may not return for a day or two. This would make doing day trips a bit complicated, but I figured I would figure it out more when I arrived there. If anything, I could ask the people at the hotel how to do it if needed.
Getting to the Maldives from Singapore was quite easy. It was a relatively quick flight from Singapore with an hour and a half layover in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and then it was about a 2.5 hour flight to Malé.
Upon arrival in the Maldives, I got pulled aside by customs and questioned as to why I was spending my holiday in Malé and not a resort. I just told the customs agent that the resorts are too expensive, and I wanted to see how locals lived. He looked at me strangely and once again asked me why I was staying in the city and not a resort, and I once again gave him the same reason. He then let me pass, and I headed to a meeting point given by the hotel. This is where I experienced my first obstacle.
I was told by the hotel to visit a particular counter in the airport arrivals area to be transported to the hotel. When I arrived at the counter, no one was there. Luckily, there was a guy in the counter next door who was able to call the hotel. After waiting for a bit, a guy from the hotel showed up and took me to the ferries. It is important to note that the airport is on one island, and the city is on another. Therefore, you need to take a 15-minute ferry ride to reach Malé. When we got to the ferries, I bought a ticket for 10 Maldivian Rufiyaa (.65 cents), it was already full, so we waited for a bit, and when the next ferry came, I got on, and the guy said he would contact the hotel with the ferry number.
The ferry ride itself was pleasant and easy since the waters were calm. Upon reaching Malé, everyone disembarked, and I looked for my contact from the hotel. They were not there. I waited and waited, but I saw no one. This is when I started to get anxious. I was in a strange new country at night, and I had no idea how to get to the hotel. In addition, all the taxis that passed had passengers. While standing at the jetty trying to figure out my next move, a guy tapped me on the shoulder, and I saw the logo from the hotel. Apparently, they were given the wrong ferry number and had been waiting for awhile.
As we drove to the hotel, my first impression of Malé was the huge amount of motorbikes and the narrowness of the streets. In addition, there were few if any traffic lights, and people just crossed the street while motorbikes swerved past without any concern. To me, it looked like an accident waiting to happen. However, we got to the hotel with no problems, and as I was waiting to be checked in, I was given a glass of tea. Eventually, I was checked into a room on the top floor. The room itself was reasonably large and had a door leading to an outdoor balcony/smoking area. To be honest though, since I was in the middle of the city, I was not expecting a beautiful view of the ocean, and I did not get one. Because of the density of the city, there are constantly new buildings going up, and my view consisted of apartment buildings and construction sites. However, I knew very well that I would not find the image of the pristine beaches and beach huts in this place, so I was not disappointed. I knew what I was getting when I booked the hotel.
Since it was relatively late by the time I got to the hotel, I was quite tired. Therefore, I decided to briefly unpack and then head to bed. The last thought that went through my head as I fell asleep was that I had finally made it to country #73.