Quite possibly the most distinctively traditional Maldivian dish you will find at a resort is the breakfast staple – Mas-huni. It is a delicate blend of fresh reef-caught tuna mixed with coconut, onion and a touch of chillies served on a light, thin flatbread (called “roshi”). It is light, healthy with both the tropical flavour tinged with coconut and a touch of piquancy with the chillies. It is Lori’s favorite dish in the Maldives and she has it everywhere they serve it so she has become a bit of a connoisseur (I enjoy it as well, but prefer to indulge in the sumptuous variety of the breakfast buffets more extravagantly). You can get it at most resorts. Being a pretty basic and popular dish, I haven’t featured it in the Best Of series yet, because there wasn’t that much variation. But I finally found a buffer offering worth calling out at Medhufushi. They offer two styles of Mah-Huni (until our visit, I didn’t even know there was more than one style). The Bashi-Mas-Huni is made with a squash like eggplant, butternut squash or pumpkin added.
You can not only lounge around Milaidhoo’s dhonis, but wine and dine too. They have adapted the dhoni aesthetic to their signature overwater restaurant:
- “Shaped like three dhonis (wooden sailing boats), our signature restaurant is the only restaurant in the world set on a boat in a lagoon featuring gourmet dishes of inspired island cuisine from the Maldivian Spice Route. Guests dine on the ‘deck’ of the restaurant where, underneath starry night skies, the team of chefs deliver an island influenced menu of locally inspired and sourced dishes. There’s also indoor seating in air-conditioned comfort where you can watch the sea-life below through glass floors. Expect to find seafood and traditional local flavours intelligently reinterpreted for the 21st century.”
LUX South Ari Atoll has its own wish tree, or as they call it – Tree of Wishes:
- “Imaginative and uplifting: this new Reason to Go LUX* is a chance for guests to reach for their dreams while being part of unique interactive artworks. Local artisans and in-house creatives are cultivating and crafting Trees of Wishes at each resort by adapting real trees in the flower-filled gardens and by using upcycled materials such as metals and fiberglass to make these sculptures. At night, these mystical shapes are dramatically illuminated. And, in line with the LUX* Tread Lightly program, each objet d’art is utterly eco-friendly and constructed entirely in-house.”
That’s now a trifecta of arboreal adornment aspirations so I’ve add a special “Wish Tree” tag to keep track of even more that might blossom.
Wish trees are found in many traditions, but one of the most prominent is the Japanese O-mikuji (literally “sacred lot”). Wishes are written on small strips of paper and hung in a tree. They can be hung directly on branches (or other frame) or inserted into a small container for safe keeping. My parents presented us with a Wish Tree at our pre-wedding celebration party where guest wrote wishes for the betrothed couple and hung them on decorated branches. Ayada has introduced this tradition with the romantic twist of placing the wishes in tiny, heart-shaped glass bottles (thanks Paola). So if you want your Valentines wishes to last forever, you can give your love a message in a bottle on a tropical island.
Amilla Fushi takes villa innovation a beyond architecture and design to entirely new concept with its Wellness Tree House. The villa is more than accommodation, but better described as an entire experience centred around well-being:
- “The one bedroom Wellness Tree House by Bodyism at Amilla combines a secluded spa, fitness and healthy eating experience in the treetops so that your entire wellbeing is holistically cared for.”
Refreshing the body and spirit isn’t confined to a few appointments at a spa, but instead is woven into nearly every part of your stay. The villa package includes trainer who visits and all of the sodas and energy drinks and junk food are removed from the room and replaced with healthy ones.
Also, with its rare tree house setting, certainly the most uplifting stay in the Maldives.
You have to use Google Maps satellite imagery to see the entire expanse of spa treatment rooms at Sun Siyam Irufushi which features more than any other resort with 20 pavilions in its wellness complex. They are all connected with sinuous water-lined paths snake across the palm-shaded estate.
Maldives resorts themselves are adorned with aesthetically enchanting white sand. One of the most distinctive are the long, narrow spits of sand jutting out into the ocean. The longest stretch of sand (as a opposed to a long beach on a long island) extends from Finolhu’s southern side for an entire 1.8 kilometres. Typically, such arenaceous promontories lead nowhere in particular except an expanse of blueness. But Finolhu’s takes you to a number of resort treats including the best parts of the house reef and the its first rate Crab and Fish Shack.
Maldives resorts offer a number of ubiquitous features – jetties, infinity pools, pina coladas but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. A major motivation for my “Best of the Maldives” series is exploring the incredible variety across sometimes very simple amenities. Like the foot rinsing that every villa has to cleanse feet from beach walks (or walks anywhere on the sand covered property really). The simplest are tubs to dunk your feet in. Sometimes they add a locally-inspired hollowed out gourd ladle. But the most elaborate I have come across is Dhigufaru’s double cleanse station. A faucet (not too uncommon) coupled with a flexible shower hose. The latter is especially helpful for sand on the legs or elsewhere if you have interrupted your walk with a leisurely sand wallow.
“God is in the details.” – Anonyous
Another wall cover, though this one is at the smaller end of the size spectrum. One of the things I enjoy celebrating in the “Best of the Maldives” series is the array of little touches that make a property distinctive. A great example is Soneva Fushi’s electrics cover.
When you renovate or build a house, you quickly figure out that the biggest costs can be in the finishes. Depending on your taste for elegance and quality, simple fixtures like knobs, trim, fixtures and even light switches can get very pricey. They are like mini pieces of art with which you interact every day. And when you need bunches of them across the building, the costs really add up. I loved Soneva’s approach which was not only in keeping with its all natural design, but also put their money into local carpentry rather than importing some extravagant Swedish designs.
Kandima not only has a distinctive horizontal surface, it also boasts one of the most striking vertical surfaces in the Maldives (in fact, you can also see one of the walls behind the table in yesterday’s post). Such hanging gardens are as wonder-ful now as they were in times of Babylon. Last spring, we visited Singapore who’s signature attraction are such gardens draped over giant palm tree shaped frames and illuminated at night with colourful lights set to music. That’s taking natural materials and green design to an entirely new level (well, at least the second floor). Thanks Paola.