One of the things that struck me in my recent fashion research is the prevalence of the Lifestyle (Fashion and Travel) bloggers. Of the 220+ subjects I discovered, 57 fall into this category. All of these share a few key things in common – (a) they are female (I have yet to find a male Fashion/Travel blog with a Maldives post), and (b) they are all attractive (bit of a cross-correlation between their being kind to fashion and fashion being kind to them).
They also tend to come to the Maldives once to tick that bucket list destination off the list and then jet off to some other corner of the world. One big exception struck me – Belinda Young.
Belinda and her sister Samyoyo have visited 14 different Maldives resorts (and One & Only Reethi Rah twice). Belinda explores a range of tropical resorts all over the world, but she keeps coming back to the Maldives.
Furthermore, her resort pedigree is truly top class…
- Maalifushi by COMO (2015)
- Cocoa Island by COMO (2015)
- Cheval Blanc Randheli (2014)
- Jumeirah Dhevanafushiu (2011/09)
- Six Senses Laamu (2011)
- Conrad Rangali Island (2009)
- Shangri-La’s Villingili (2009)
- Banyan Tree Madivaru (2007)
- Naladhu (2007)
- Soneva Gili (2005)
- One&Only Reethi Rah (2005, 2nd visit)
- One&Only Reethi Rah (2005)
- Dhoni Mighili (2005)
- Four Seasons Kuda Huraa (2004)
- Huvafen Fushi (2004)
Most of the Maldives veterans on Trip Advisor Forum have tended to frequent the upper mid-market properties. Visits to the emerging 5+ star super-premium segment (like Belinda’s list) are quite rare. And the glamorati who do go to such places, tend not to share much of their travels (though that is changing with Tweeting and now Instagramming becoming a popular activity for celebrities even on their get-away-from-it-all breaks).
I came across Belinda’s travel/fashion blog researching the Maldives fashion database. She has posted an extensive range of photos that both provide alluring snapshots of the resorts, but also feature her in many striking poses. I got in touch with her to get permission to use some of the photos and also to enquire a bit about her Maldive expeditions. She promptly responded with a warm and helpful reply. After a few email exchanges, she gladly agreed to do an exclusive interview for Maldives Complete sharing some of her perspectives (she also provided both English and Chinese versions of the interview).
· What is your favourite photo of yourself in the Maldives? 談談妳自已最喜歡的一張在馬爾地夫拍攝的照片?
The photo in Banyan Tree Madivaru [see top]. I wore my customized dress inspired the colors of Maldives. Not enough words to describe, but you know what I mean…
我最喜愛的應該是在 Banyan Tree Madivaru 的這張，當時我身上穿的洋裝是出發前特別訂做的，顏色啟發自馬爾地夫的海洋色澤。在多的言語都赘述了，我相信您看照片就可以體會了
· Which resort most exceeded your expectations? 哪一間飯店超乎妳的預期？
In our memories, One&Only Reethi Rah is the number one. But the tiny, peaceful and romantic Cocoa exceeded our expectation. It’s hard to forget the nature beauty of Cocoa Island. You must be curious why Reethi is the No. 1? I wanna to say is all about the friends…old friends and new friends made our stay really One&Only!
在我們姐妹心目中 One&Only Reethi Rah 是我們的最愛; 但屬中小型，擁有寧靜浪漫氛圍的 Cocoa 卻是超乎我們所預期的美好。Cocoa Island 的原始美相當令人難以忘懷。不過你可能會好奇為何 One&Only Reethi Rah 占居首位，我認為這完全成就於 “人” 的美好，新朋舊友的齊聚互動讓那次的住宿體驗只能用 “獨一無二” 來形容。
· What was the most romantic touch that a resort added to your stay? ? 聊聊妳所入住的飯店中碰過最浪漫體驗？
The sunset cocktail party at Fanditha restaurant in One&Only Reethi Rah. I think the major reason was that we had just been invited to join a sunset beach wedding before the party. Although I am not the bride, I could feel the joy and happiness. The moment was so precious and special.
我想是第二次入住 One&Only Reethi Rah 的 Fanditha 舉行的一場夕陽雞尾酒會；在酒會前我們受邀參加了一場住客的向晚夕陽婚禮，雖然不是主角，但我仍感受到滿滿的幸福，我相信這應該是一種情緒的延續，使得這場擁有幻彩夕照的 Fanditha 酒會浪漫指數破錶。
· You travel all around the world…what do you find different about the Maldives as a tropical destination? 常常旅遊的妳，認為馬爾地夫與其他熱帶渡假海島較不同的一面是？
We just like to travel tropical islands. The beautiful nature and isolation make the Maldives very unique destination. I love doing nothing just staring at the sea all day and feeling the time standing still…
· What is your pet peeve at Maldives resorts?有沒有你不太喜歡的飯店？
Well….I think….OH! Too difficult to answer. But back to summer of 2005, we experienced an incredible stay at Dhoni Mighili. Look at the island right now? I think I have no right to judge Safari island Resort, but can’t go back anymore! I hope the same situation never happens on Banyan Tree Madivaru.
這個問題有點難回答，如果一定要，可能要回到2005年的初夏，當時我們入住 Dhoni Mighili 就像圓了一場相當棒的航海夢。但是看看現今的島？基本上我覺得我沒任何立場去評論一家我沒入住過的飯店 Safari Island，但對於我們個人的 Dhoni Mighili 印象，我們真的回不去了～這點，我希望不會再次發生在 Banyan Tree Madivaru。
· Reethi Rah appears to be only resort (Maldives or other places) where you returned…why did you visit there twice? O&O Reethi Rah Rah 算是妳們旅遊馬爾地夫所有飯店中唯一重返的，什麼原因讓你們再度入住呢？
Not only the One&Only Reethi Rah, we have been The Brando in Tahiti and Song Saa Private Island twice too. For Reethi I think there are 2 reasons. First, we went to O&O Reethi the first time, it had only opened for 2 weeks, and there were lots of small issues not so perfect as we expected. We got transfer problems on the way back to Male, so the management team invited us return and experience. Secondly, we are going to publish our travel book “Islands Chic” (introduce Maldives/Tahiti/Hawaii), we returned for more photos for the book.
其實不止 O&O Reethi Rah, 大溪地的 The Brando 及柬埔寨的 Song Saa Private Island 我們都曾經重返。對於 O&O Reethi Rah，二個原因造就了我們再次入住，1第一次時飯店開幕僅二週，一些小小的問題真的需要改進，而在我們回程馬列的接送出了極大的問題，也因為如此管理階層請我們回去再試試入住，另一個主要原因則是我們正著手準備出版我們的旅遊書 “時尚島嶼之旅“ （這本書介紹大溪地／馬爾地夫以及夏威宜這三個熱門時尚島嶼），也因為這個因素，我們也希望呈現出更多的海島旅行照片，所以我們就重返了
· The Maldives is renowned for the best snorkeling in the world, but you have seen some many tropical islands around the world. Which other tropical island comes closest to the Maldives for snorkeling quality? ? 馬爾地夫是著名的浮潛勝地，妳遊歷過這麼多熱帶海洋島嶼勝地，還有哪些熱帶海洋地點妳認為能跟馬爾地夫媲美？
I have to tell you….we don’t know how to swim…and…even a little bit of afraid the water (especially the rogue wave). So it’s shame that we didn’t really enjoy snorkeling…crazy right? But we have been to Palau long long time ago…we did snorkeling in there and enjoy it. I think the snorkeling is very good.
Bruce, 我老實跟你說，其實我們姐妹不會游泳。。甚至於有點怕水 (尤其是那種很強勁的洋流)，所以有點不好意思的是浮潛活動對我們而言並不是重點，這對於一向喜歡島旅行的人來說很瘋狂吧！不過我們也不是都不浮潛，我們曾經訪訪過帛琉四天三夜，天天浮潛，那裡的浮潛經驗相當好，我相信能媲美馬爾地夫
· What have you not seen in the Maldives that you would love to see or you think some resort should feature (maybe you saw it at a tropical resort in another part of the world)?有沒有任何特點妳會期盼能在馬爾地夫或馬爾地夫的飯店中能體會到 (也許這些特點是在其他熱帶島嶼飯店中所擁有的）
How about the special way to delivery your breakfast to villa likes Canoe Breakfast in Tahiti. But I hope it had a little different from Tahiti…it have to be in Maldives way! But I have no any idea right now.
· Do you have any favourite foods or drinks you like to have specifically in the Maldives? ? 請告訴我們妳到馬爾地夫旅行時，有沒有特別喜歡的食物或必點飲料？
Local food: chapatti (with Maldivian chili), we ate chapatti almost every morning when we were there.
當地食物 恰帕底 （當然還要配上馬爾地夫土產辣椒），我們幾乎每天早晨都叫 恰帕底
· Which is the next Maldives resort you want to visit? 妳對於未來即將開幕的新飯店最想入住的是哪一家？
But for the future resort i think it is Soneva Jani. I love the concept of SONEVA.. Soneva Fushi not yet! This is only Soneva we didn’t go to yet. I am still interested in Soneva in Aqua…but don’t know when will it open!
如果是對未來即將開幕的飯店而言，我最期待 Soneva Jani，因為我太愛 SONEVA 集團了，雖然我唯一沒入住過 Soneva Fushi （這也是我唯一一家未入住過的 SONEVA 品牌飯店），也許 Soneva in Aqua 正式啟航時也許有緣份入住
· Which resort is the one you would most like to return to? 有沒有任何飯店是妳想再度重返的？
Cheval Blanc Randheli is the resort that I would want to return to. I was the one of the first grand opening guests of Cheval Blanc. Unfortunately, they had lots of issues I had encountered during my stay (I don’t want to mention), but the most important thing was that I didn’t travel with my elder sister Samantha (we always travel together), so I want to experience it again with my dearest.
Cheval Blanc Randheli！我是 Cheval Blanc 開門第一天就入住進去了，但很可惜的是可能剛開業很多事情皆未上軌道 (多到我懶得再提了)，但最要的一點是當時我的姐姐 Samantha 並沒有跟我一起同遊，我們姐妹感情相當好，也是最佳旅伴，我相當希望能跟著她再次入住 Cheval Blanc Randheli ，因為我知道現在一切都上軌道了，我不會失望的
· Do you have any favourite “shots” you like to get (my wife and I always get a photo of us in front of the resort sign)? 分享一下妳所喜歡的特別攝影定格 （像我跟我老婆總喜歡在飯店標誌前拍照）
The bottle of water with resort logo (I love the resort logo on the bottle…not all the resorts have it!)
有飯店標緻的玻璃瓶裝水 (我喜歡有飯店 logo在瓶身上的那種，但不是每間飯店都會有的）
· Any tips to offer first time visitors to the Maldives?對於第一次造訪馬爾地夫的朋友們有沒有任何建議？
Bare foot anywhere as you can…you will miss the sand in your toes when you back to city.