Best of the Maldives: Jellyfish Sculpture – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - jellyfish

Happy Halloween! While resorts are adorning their properties with spooky décor for the occasion, Soneva Jani’s main restaurant is permanently bedecked with a hauntingly alluring mobile of ghostly jellyfish. This post is the latest instalment in its catalogue of suspended sea life sculptures so I’ve added the handy “Mobile” tag for them.

Best of the Maldives: Soundtrack – Patina

Patina - soundtrack

Whenever we want to provide a great experience for an event or party, one of the cornerstone ingredients is a playlist to suit the guests and vibe. For example, being Halloween weekend, we are playing our Bruce’s Halloween Playlist for at our social gatherings. Patina teamed up with musicology experts MAV for an eclectic soundtrack at each communal venue of the resort. In addition, they produced a collection of curated Spotify playlists on the resort’s dedicated app to evoke to languid and refreshing vibe of the Maldives.

Best of the Maldives: Villa Wine Chiller – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - villa wine chiler

It’s great to have a selection of wines in your villa, but enjoying them at their finest can be a challenge. Getting the wines chilled can be too cold if you put them in the fridge and even too cold for some reds if you set them out at “room temperature” depending on the temperature you keep your villa at. But it Soneva Jani features your very own Wine Art wine chiller and preserver. It not only allows you to chill up to two bottles at precisely the temperature you prefer, but also it has an advanced preservation system to “cork” opened bottles. It will preserve the effervescence of the your sparklings as well as keep your wines in fine drinking shape for up to 10 days.

Best of the Maldives: Wine Shop – Ailafushi

Ailafushi - Wine shop

Want more wine to enjoy than fits in a mini-bar or under your arm on the way home from dining? Want to simply pay some store prices instead of restaurant prices for a bottle? Well, Ailafushi features an extensive wine store in its small shopping area. It includes an area where they hold resort wine tastings and includes a range of liquors and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Best of the Maldives: Dried Fruit – Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Sun Siyam Vilu Reef - dried fruit

A major acid test for me indicating the luxury level of a resort are the nibbles they serve with drinks. A little bit of savory snacks make the cocktails all the most delectable and allow us to linger longer without getting too pecking for dinner. The most basic resorts don’t offer anything, the 4-stars offer the staples of crisps and peanuts, but a luxury 5-star really needs a distinctive goodies. And Sun Siyam Vilu Reef offered us one of our favourite snacks – dried fruits. We have received various dried fruits at other resorts, but Vilu Reef and an unprecedented assortment. It turns out that they have their own food drier on premises (see photo below) so that can create dried versions of just about anything. We enjoyed the dried apples, oranges, pears, coconut with out very welcome ‘welcome drink’.

Sun Siyam Iru Veli - dried fruit

Best of the Maldives: Sand Bank Breakfast – Sun Siyam Iru Veli

World Food Day today. And the best place in in the world to eat any food was an experience we finally enjoyed at Sun Siyam Iru Veli this summer. We’ve fantasized about dining on a plot of sand ever since we first started visiting the Maldives two and a half decades ago. It epitomised the “plot of sand with a palm tree” isolation caricature. We’ve seen many of (exorbitant) dinners and even lunches such remote venues, but never a breakfast.

A breakfast is actually a great way to enjoy this sandbank location. Unlike a dinner which tends to have courses, the breakfast is more casual with more finger food (eg. pastries, fruit, pots of yogurt) that you can take in hand for a stroll around or wade into the sea to enjoy the sea-life nearby or the dappled azure vista beyond. And the morning has a particularly peaceful vibe to it which suits this indolent sliver of interruption to the gently surrounding waters.

Best of the Maldives: Garudhiya – Milaidhoo

Miladhoo - Garudhiva

One of the local Maldivian delicacies which delighted Tom Chesshyre in his book Tom Chesshyre “Misadventures in the Real Maldives” was “garudhiva”. It turns out that Milaidhoo features the dish in its “five must-try dishes at ‘Ba’theli by the Reef’ Restaurant” on Milaidhoo island

  • “Garudhiya is a famous soup of the Maldives. It is a clear broth of poached fresh skipjack tuna, perfumed with pandanus (screwpine) heart and curry leaves. For a memorable blend of tropical island flavours, Kiru Garudhiya is one of the best foods in the Maldives. It consists of fresh island coconut milk, poached fish and shellfish in a soup flavoured with island spices and curry leaves.”

“Gatecrashing Paradise”

Gatecrashing Paradise

I always bring a few books to the Maldives in the perennial aspiration to sit a read for an extended period (on the long-haul flight at least), but my actual reading never quite meets my intentions. This past trip I brought along not only a book for the Maldives, but about the Maldives – “Misadventures in the Real Maldives” by Tom Chesshyre. And it was so engrossing that I actually finished it.

  • The Maldives incorporates 26 atolls in what is described by geographers as a ‘double chain’ and the long, thin outline of the islands resembles a garland – ‘malodheep’ in Sanskrit – which is where the name of the country is believed to have originated. From ‘Money Islands’ to ‘Tempest Haunted Islands’ (as some ancient mariners knew them) via garlands and the ‘necklace islands’ (Maala Divaina) in Sinhalese.”
  • “The Maldivian connection with the sea is closer than anything an outsider can comprehend. Life on the flattest country on the planet requires mental adjustment…Standing on the beach facing inland to one of the long, straight roads on a little island was like looking along the surface of a spirit level. There are no budges, no hills.”

Chessyre tours the country from bottom to top, but in manner completely the opposite to how I and most visitors experience this tropical paradise. While we take an air-conditioned speed boat, he took a cargo ship. While we sleep on king sized beds with high thread count bedding, he sleeps on a mat. He specifically crafted his trip to explore the non-resort local islands and their daily routines in paradise. The account is a colourful and extensive perspective into local island life and guesthouses.

Despite him exploring such a non-commercial side of this luxury destination, I still identified reading his book with the sentiment he articulated about another travel book that he was reading: “His descriptions gave me that sense of déjà vu that sometimes hits you when you read about a place you’re visiting.”

Published in 2015, it is already a bit dated on some of its references, especially political, as the country is changing so very rapidly. In particular, he delves beyond the palm trees and pina coladas that are the staples of celebrity travelogues and explores such areas as:

  • Tsunami stories
  • Economic development in recent years
  • Logistics of local travel
  • Local cuisine
  • Political perspectives among the population

His summary provides a captivating depiction of the Maldives and his distinctive glimpse behind the resort curtains:

  • I was in one of the most established places of beauty on Earth (why else would all the 5-star resorts have been built?) and yet no one was about [on the local islands]. From the ground up, I could get a feel for the rich culture of an ancient maritime nation as well as a strong sense of a community of a people living in the middle of a mighty ocean…Other than Bangladeshi workers, few foreigners managed to gatecrash paradise…With the blazing sunsets on the South Equatorial Channel, gyrating currents in deserted lagoons, kaleidoscopes of coral, cascades of fish, crescents of perfect white sand, peaceful coral-stone villages, colourful birds, emerald jungle…there is no doubt about it, the Maldives has to be one of the most beautiful, colourful – and sometimes complicated – places on Earth.”

After reading the book, I reach out to Tom to see if he would do an interview reflecting on his adventures and he kindly obliged with some bonus gems:

  • What did you pack that you didn’t use?
    On my very first visit to the Maldives, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, which was confiscated on arrival as I hadn’t known the rules (but should have).
  • What didn’t you pack that you wish you had?
    War and Peace by Tolstoy or Ulysses by James Joyce – a long book I’d always meant to read.
  • What did you pack that you used the most?
    My backpack, every day, hopping on and off ferries.
  • What did you break or lose?
    A pair of flip-flops, but easy to buy another.
  • What most exceeded your expectations?
    The calm on board the cargo ship from Male to Addu – and the camaraderie with fellow passengers and crew.
  • What most disappointed you?
    Getting ferry timetable information was sometimes tricky when I went, about a decade ago.
  • What food did you most enjoy?
    Garudiya tuna broth, served with chili, lime and rice.
  • What food did you least enjoy?
    A boring hamburger at a resort hotel.
  • When did you laugh the hardest?
    During a neighbourhood party on the remote island of Makunudhoo.
  • When were you the most nervous/anxious?
    When visiting certain politicians on Male.
  • What surprised you most about the destination?
    The great distance between north and south, 500 plus miles (and the rumbling political unrest).
  • What was your favourite day?
    It was an evening, night and morning when I joined a commercial tuna fishing boat on Hulhumeedhoo on Addu Atoll.
  • What was your favourite photo?
    Passengers clambering on and off the ferry by the beach at Utheemu on Haa Alif Atoll (see below)
  • What item (smaller than a bed) that you saw would you most want to take home with you?
    No item… just memories.
  • Name a word you learned in Dhivehi?
    In Dhivehi, ‘minivan’, which means ‘independent’. Each day I would read the then ‘Minivan News’ online bulletin.
  • Name a fun fact you learned about the place?
    The highest natural point in the Maldives is 2.4 metres above sea level (I went there and ‘climbed’ it).
  • What tip would you give someone about to embark on a trip like yours?
    Pack light.
  • What would you do (if money and logistics were no object), if you had an additional day to spend at the destination?
    Sit on a jolie – a simple string mesh seat – in the shade of a palm tree by the beach on Makunudhoo, sipping lime juice, watching the waves.

Best of the Maldives: Low Carbon Cocktail – Patina Maldives

Patina - low carbon cocktails

Planet wellness is more about low-carbon than low carbs, and The Patina features a range of low carbon concoctions for your Earth-friendly enjoyment:

  • Every cocktail and spirit served at Patina Maldives, including the Fari Beach Club, will eliminate 30 grams of carbon emissions in comparison to drinks crafted at beverage outlets with conventional labels. This is thanks to the world’s first low carbon, low waste spirits distribution technology.”