Day Five : 28th March 2012
Before I continue with today, I should just wind back to yesterday. One of the highlights of a trip to the Maldives is how you get to your island resort. When I booked this holiday, it was compulsory to include sea plane transfers. And out of all modes of air transport, the sea plane has to be the best. Forget about turbulence, the sound and vibrations of the engine is more than enough to put the nervous flyer off.
Personally I love it. The smaller the aircraft the better. Even better when you can see the pilot and her assistant, along with the array of instruments before them. It’s said that many modern aircraft virtually fly themselves. Not so the De Havilland Twin Otter propeller model. So temperamental are the engines that both pilot and assistant have clasp their hands together to achieve maximum power for take off.
Once airborne the views are stunning. These little birds don’t fly very high, so at cloud level or just below, the magnificent beauty of the Maldives is laid out below like a coral patchwork. The Maldivan Air Taxis brochure has a map of the main islands, although trying to follow it is near impossible. But I do discover that Meedhupparu isn’t called that at all. It’s simply the North Atoll.
The joys of the air taxi are in sharp contrast to the resort’s evening entertainment. The guests are well fed from the substantial hot and cold buffet, and are well on the way to being sufficiently oiled too. And it’s a good job, because the main attraction is a Fashion Show in the central bar area. Given the build up – featuring the Worst Love Songs of the Eighties – I give it a miss for an early night. The last few days have involved a lot of travel.
“Hello Keveen!” enthused Lydia as she came from the pool into the bar. Lydia was one of the German party who flew over on the same sea plane from Male. Her son was also called Kevin, she’d been quick to point out when my name was called at the resort check in. Ever since then she’s been greeting me with a big thumbs up each time we meet. I don’t know her husband’s name yet as he’s barely manage to get a word in edgeways. Plus, Lydia seems keener to practice her English.
“He is everything football,” says Lydia, pointing at her husband. “Bayern Munchen, yes?. Our Keveen is called after Keveen Keegan!”
Being more discretely friendly is Ishmail, the young barman. Seeing that I’m English and sitting by the pool at three in the afternoon, he guesses “One beer?” But I surprise him by ordering a non alcoholic cocktail. Clearly this is unheard of among the Westerrn tourists, regardless of the time of day. But the temperature is a constant 30 celsius and staying hydrated is a challenge in itself.
Ishmail has worked at the resort for five months and says he enjoys it, though I dread to think what kind of money the staff here earn. They all live in a “village” of their own in the centre of the island. No sea views there, and a large fence right around it so visitors can’t see the conditions. But none of the staff appear outwardly unhappy in their work. They are almost all young men, probably no more than sixteen or eighteen, and all eager to earn tips as they serve up drinks and food.
I’m never quite sure when or how to tip when on holiday. Here, the main bar has a tip jar, so that’s easy enough. But the restaurant and housekeeping staff have no such arrangements. When I visited Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, I was so impressed with the housekeeping staff decorating my bed with flower petals each day, I shaped the petals into an arrow pointing towards the desk drawer on my final day – slipping a small tip into an envelope. I hope they took the hint.
Day Six : 29th March 2012
Exactly a year ago, I was marking my 40th birthday in New York City. The contrast twelve months on couldn’t be greater. And I absolutely love it. Then, my breakfast consisted of an almighty hangover, a knock at the hotel room door at 10am, and summoning up enough of an appetite to eat it.
This morning is a far more sober and laid back affair. Breakfast is a ten minute walk away, along the sea wall to the South Jetty, and then left up the track, past the swimming pool and into the restaurant.
“Bayern Munchen are WINNING!” beams Lydia. She’s happy. Everyone’s happy. And here’s the thing. In three days I don’t think I’ve heard a single complaint from anyone. I’ve never been on a package holiday where that’s happened. Although it’s only a matter of time, I guess.
Time is something else which nobody pays much attention to, except on departure day. Here, it’s either light or dark. The sun rises at about 6am, any cloud cover is gone by about 9am – then it’s unbroken sunshine until about 6pm, barring the occasional thunderstorm.
A walk around the entire island takes a little over half an hour and demonstrates just how well the resort is designed. Everyone has a little bit of private beach space in front of their villas. This means the communal areas like the pool and beach bar don’t get nearly as crowded as they do at other resorts. Perhaps this place is better because of the lack of Brits?
Actually, it’s better because of the lack of brats. Few families can afford to bring their kids to a place like this, and in my view it’s all the better for it. That might sound unkind, but if you want to relax you don’t want the constant sound of screaming children.
Even so, I’m eternally grateful for the soundtrack of my MP3 player, which is infinitely preferable to the dreadful mix of what seems to be the resort’s in house collection of three CDs. The first has possibly the worst selection of Eighties songs ever released, including Samantha Fox’s rendition of I Only Want To Be With You. Then there’s the Tiresome Pan Pipe Collection. Who in their right mind wants to listen to THAT at the bar? And finally, Love Songs That Even Honeymoon Couples Would Barf Too. I’m not sure whether that’s the actual title.