While not every room is so individually appointed, the distinctive décor of Hard Rock’s Rock Star Villa does evoke the spirit of individually decorated rooms that I called out back in 2014 in my 5th instalment of “Haven’t Seen Yet”. The unique design aesthetic evokes world famous artistic hotels like Crazy Bear (UK), Ice Hotel (Sweden) and Atelier sul mare (Italy).
Now they need to just take it to the next step. They should honour a rock star every year with a free visit and the villa the star stays in gets christened the “So-And-So Villa”. Sort of like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star would bring a few bits of paraphernalia to contribute to the room décor (in addition to prints of photos and concert posters the resort would have already) and the villa would have the obligatory “So-And-So Slept Here”.
· “Always be yourself. Unless You can be a Unicorn. Then Always be a Unicorn”
Happy Halloween! An occasion where all sorts of mystical creatures emerge. After more than 20 years of visiting the Maldives, I might not have seen a whale shark yet, but I have seen a unicorn. Not just once, but twice. At the Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon’s kids club who host an “awesome Unicorn Party”. Then, later at the main restaurant buffer Unicorn Froot Loops not only provided another encountered with this mystical creature, but also satisfied my American-bred addiction to high-fructose corn-syrup.
- “Cooked with 1.5kg of the finest Mud crab from Sri Lanka, this is the largest deshelled crab dish on our menu and preserves the ideologies of the traditional biryani with our own take on it. Each clay pot serves 6, includes 12 eggs and is accompanied with a Fresh Mint Sambol, hand ground on our Miris Gala and the Classic Malay pickle.”
One of the appeals of snorkeling and swimming in the Maldives is the mill pond calm waters of the sea stilled by the atoll reef topology. But any body of water, including your bathtub, can be a drowning risk. Not surprisingly, for a country 99% water, the biggest cause of fatality for guests to the country is drowning. Perhaps seduced by the placid feel, people can literally get in over their head. To help reduce the risk of snorkellers getting into trouble (or just to provide a place where they can stop and rest and maybe chat easily with their snorkel buddy), Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon have placed hi-vis floatation rings at the lagoon snorkeling spot (where they have placed a few underwater items to attract fish and provide visual interest in an area which is, and always has been, most sandy shoals.
The Maldives may not be moving the heavens, but they are moving the earth to provide more opportunities to welcome visitors. For some environmental activists, “terraforming” is as dirty a word as the mounds of dirt it involves. But I am more supportive of the Maldives’ use of terraforming. For a country that is nearly 1000 kilometres long, to reclaim a few kilometres for living or economic purposes seems quite a reasonable trade-off. Especially, if the aquatic regions chosen are more barren sandy lagoon than vibrant reef (and even then, work done with as eco-friendly protocols as possible). The entire Crossroad complex which currently includes Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon were constructed in this manner and eventually 7 more resort “islands” will be developed in the general area. The environmental study that was performed to prepare for this dramatic transformation of the ocean was extensive but nonetheless controversial among sceptics. For those who are accepting of this strategy to building their economy, the engineering scale and sophistication is quite impressive. The YouTube video above provides a taste of what is involved, but actually the History Channel (Asia) did a fully documentary programme on the project (see trailer below) to look out for if you get a chance to watch it.
The heart of the Hard Rock ambience are the ubiquitous memorabilia displays of the most renowned acts in the music world. The sprawling landscape of an entire resort provides a stadium-scale palette for the mementos of performing history underscoring their very distinctive aesthetic like a ten-foot bass tower. Like the most pioneering artists themselves, Hard Rock knows what it is as an entertainment and lifestyle offering and it is not afraid to go all out in expressing it. I find the most tedious resorts to be those vanilla concoctions that try to be all things to all people and only end up being nothing special to everybody. The vibrant vibrations vibe may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who do enjoy it, few do it better.
Various martial arts provide not just a form of fitness to train the body, but also a discipline which trains the mind as well as a provide a range of skills for self-defence. One is particularly timely for the global “Black Lives Matter” movement which has been catalysed by police violence to minorities in recent times. All sorts of political pundits and advocates have weighed in with their analyses, but I was particularly impressed with Sam Harris’ proposition that a large part of the problem is due to inadequate training of officers. In this recent “Making Sense” podcast, “Police Training & Police Misconduct” he talks to Rener Gracie is a third-generation member of the legendary Gracie Family credited with creating the self-defense system known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu about how the discipline can transform policing.
The art is perhaps also appropriate in the destination of the Maldives where the citizens are of a smaller stature. BFF is distinctive in its ability for a smaller person to neturalise a larger adversary. Jiu-jitsu came to international prominence in martial arts circles when Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Royce Gracie (Rener’s uncle) won 3 of the first 4 Ultimate Fighting Championships fighting against mostly larger opponents proficient in other fighting styles. BJJ has since become an core aspect o Mixed Martial Arts.
I had never heard of Brazilian Ju-jitsu (or “BJJ”) until I visited Hard Rock Maldives last year and saw “The Red Mat” facility. It is a training area specifically for the BJJ training they have brought to the resort. It was introduced to Hard Rock by its General Manager Tolga Unan who studied the discipline in China. Offering daily jiu-jitsu sessions for staff and guests, Hard Rock is the first 5-star jiu-jitsu resort in the world. All resort instructors are purple belts. If you’re a member of a jiu-jitsu Certified Training Center, then Hard Rock has a special discount package offer.
- “The Maldives have long been the crossroads of the world, where cultures meet, and where explorers, traders and pioneers from a myriad of different cultures have weighed anchor and helped to define the extraordinary culture and heritage of the islands. This unique attraction space, covering 500 square metres, uses stunning designs and interactive displays to explore the Maldives rich history, marine biodiversity and how local arts and crafts have shaped the islands’ unique cultural identity. This unforgettable educational experience works closely with the local community to promote their way of life and showcase the handicrafts of this remarkable island nation.”
The exhibit is a proper professional museum with slick presentation and exhibits of everything above and below the water. We received a tour of this interactive and artistic gallery by its manager Iyran. It is so packed with educational displays that even local Maldivian school children visit it.
After 20+ years of travelling to the Maldives, I’m regularly surprised to find somewhat simple things that I’ve never seen before. The latest was our transfer to SAii Lagoon and Hard Rock on a catamaran speed boat. On one hand, cats are much more stable than mono-hulls, so you would think that they would be a prominent choice to provide the smoothest final leg to your Male atoll resort. But, they are more expensive so I can understand resorts choosing the lower cost vessel. One of their biggest advantages is capacity and for smaller resorts, you often don’t get more than a few folks transferring per arrival so that space is probably not worth it. But SAii Lagoon and Hard Rock (plus day visitors at The Crossroads) is a bigger complex so they can justify the expense carrying the larger boatloads.