Best of the Maldives: Turkish Refreshment – Ayada

Ayada - Turkish lounge

Today is International Coffee Day. And for those who want to celebrate with a cup of extra high test, the quintessence of caffeinated elixir is considered by many aficionados to be the Turkish concoction where the consistency is more stew than broth.

The Turkish even have a traditional saying which underscores the sanctity of this buzzing beverage – “Bir kahvenin kirk yil hatiri vardir.” It means “A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship.” It is used to remind us that friendships should not be taken lightly and we should invest in them for a long term commitment.

And an afternoon refreshment at Ayada’s lounge is just the place to leisurely enjoy that friendship. Packed with Ottoman ottomans and the Turkish delights of Turkish Delight, you can also partake of a wide range of teas and shisha as well.

Best of the Maldives: Chilean Wine – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - Chile wine 2

Chile National Day. Chile can take pride today in many of its contributions to the world not least of which are its world class wines. Often found in the value bins of the supermarket wine section, the country’s hot sunny days with modest precipitation and cooling breezes make it a proper paradise for viticulture. It produces a wide range of not only well-priced, but exceptional quality varietal wines including sleek Cabernets and clean Chardonnays. And to toast Chile today you need a word with the Sun Siyam Irufushi sommelier.

Their collection includes one of the most distinctive wines from the Andean slopes and a pioneer of Chilean ultra-premium Wines, Montes Alpha M (see photo at bottom)…

“This extraordinary wine represents a dream come true for the original founders of Montes: to produce a ‘first growth’ that can stand alongside the world’s other finest wines. Production of Montes Alpha M is extremely limited and vintages are only released if our head winemaker Aurelio Montes considers that the quality of the wine is up to demanding standards. Aurelio goes as far as painstakingly selecting individual grapes rather than bunches at harvest time, in his aim for supreme quality, eliminating variables that might compromise quality. Coming from the best vines at our Finca de Apalta estate, considered by many to be Chile´s best red wine terroir, Montes Alpha M has become the icon benchmark for other Chilean wineries to follow. Montes Alpha M is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (10%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petit Verdot (5%). Basically it is Bordeaux blend with intense dark red in color. It is a powerful wine with beautiful soft, rounded tannins. The wine is elegant and has a very well-defined character. The inclusion of Petit Verdot adds an extra element of complexity. There is a pleasant and harmonious marriage of fruit and French oak. It is perfectly balanced, full-bodied and voluptuous mid-palate with a rewarding, lingering aftertaste of mature grapes and a level of acidity that reflects its superb structure. Wine maker tried their best level to bring the wines up-to the Bordeaux wine standard. 2006 Montes Alpha ‘’M’’ is one of most popular wine in the luxury wine cellar dinner at The Sun Siyam Irufushi Maldives. It is for guest experience to match the Bordeaux chateaux with Chilean Montes Alpha ‘’M’’ 2006. This wine will be able to keep for more than 20 years. “

The complete Chilean Wine Selection at The Sun Siyam Irufushi Maldives reads like a Chilean geography lesson…

White wine

  • ·Aconcagua Valley
    • 2012 Errazuriz ‘Estate Reserva’ Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%
    • Casablanca Valley
    • 2012 Errazuriz ‘Estate Reserva’ Chardonnay, 12.5%
    • 2010 Montes ‘Alpha’ Chardonnay, 14%
  • San Antonio Valley
    • 2012 Emiliana Novas Sauvignon Blanc, 13%
    • 2012 Emiliana Signos de Origen Chardonnay, Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier, 14.5%
  • Central Valley
    • 2013 Poco Mas Chardonnay, 13%
  • Maipo Valley
    • 2011 Undurraga ‘Aliwen Reserva’ Chardonnay, 14%
  • Rapel Valley
    • 2011 Emiliana Adobe Gewurtztraminer, 14%
  • Curico Valley
    • 2013 Montes Classic ‘Riserva’ Sauvignon Blanc, 12.5%
    • 2011 Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, 13%
  • Maule Valley
    • 2008 O. Fournier ‘Centauri’ Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%

Red Wines

  • Casablanca Valley
    • 2009 Montes ‘Limited Selection’ Pinot Noir, 14%
  • Central Valley
    • 2013 Siete Soles Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, 12%
    • 2010 Undurraga ‘Aliwen Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, 14%
  • Maipo Valley
    • 2009 Marques de Casa Concha ‘Concha Y Toro’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%
    • 2006 Undurraga ‘Founder’s Collection’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 14%
  • Colchagua Valley
    • 2012 Fuzion Shiraz, Malbec, 13%
  • Rapel Valley
    • 2011 Montes ‘Reserva’ Merlot, 14%
    • 2009 Montes ‘Reserva’ Merlot, 14%
    • 2010 Caliterra ‘Reserva’ Merlot, 13.5%
    • 2007 Montes ‘Folly’ Syrah, 15%
  • o 2011 Caliterra ‘Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5%
  • o 2009 Montes ‘Purple Angel’ Carmenere, Petit Verdot, 14.5%
  • o 2009 Montes ‘Alpha’ Carmenere, 14.5%
  • o 2009 Montes ‘Alpha’ Shiraz, 14.5%
  • o 2006 Montes ‘Alpha M’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, 14.5%
  • · Maule Valley
  • o 2007 O. Fournier ‘Centauri’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Cargignan 14%

Viva el vino!

Sun Siyam Irufushi - Chile wine

Best of the Maldives: Australian – Amilla Fushi

Amilla Fushi kangaroo

G’day Amilla Fushi! The latest addition (opening today) to the Maldives slate is the resort beaut in the Baa atoll with a fair dinkum Oz flavour. In fact, in the anticipation of its development, a bonzer furphy hit the net that owner Tom McLoughlin was even importing a few joeys. One of the Maldives Complete’s barmy army (thanks Verena) did come up with the above snap of the only ridgy-didge boomer on the island.

With bottler down under barbie-master Luke Mangan you can expect big mobs of corker tucker that you can wash down with your favourite amber liquid or dead dingos donger cab sav.

A going off from the sparrows fart to arvo barbie time.

Ace!

Best of the Maldives: Swiss – Maafushivaru

Maafushivaru windsurfing Swiss flag

 

 

The Swiss have long sought the refuge from the altitude in the low lying Maldives and until recently were the 10th highest country in terms of visitors. And the ultimate Swiss resort seems to be Maafushivaru. For a long time, a resort fully owned, operated and marketed by the Swiss-based Kuoni company primarily for the Swiss market. Despite the fact that Maafushivaru is now available to a range of markets, Swiss are still as much as 50% of the guest population.

The residents and management are not the only Swiss qualities. Maafushivaru is one of the smallest resort islands. It also really struck me for its sparkling cleanliness with carefully groomed beaches and paths. Its sand especially is as plushly soft and blindingly white as an alpine snow drift.

Gueti Reis!

Best of the Maldives: Venetian – Nika

Nika reception

 

I’ve done lots of country ambiences, but this is the first “city” ambience. I chose it for today, a bit out of order from the tour itinerary, because of its connection to my wife’s and my anniversary celebrated today.

I wouldn’t be the first to dub the Maldives the “Venice of the Tropics”. Something about being by the water evokes romance and relaxation. And being surrounded by it in every nook and cranny all the more so.

But Nika takes its connection to “Venezia” much more than metaphorically. The owner is actually from Venice himself and still lives there part of the year. The reception (photo above) resembles some antiquated arched grotto, the rooms are decorated with gondola models, pictures and other paraphernalia from Veneto. The channel markers in the lagoon are even authentic “palinas” (the candy-striped mooring poles)!

In recent years, we have been visiting the Maldives mostly in July and very often are there for our anniversary (just missed this year though). When we we much younger, we gave ourselves an anniversary gift to Venice, but both our lives got so packed with professional commitments that we kept postponing it until it fell off the calendar. To make up for the five year wait, on our 15th anniversary, I re-gave the same gift…but I added a trip on the Orient Express (a nod to our honeymoon train ride to Montreal from North Carolina) and a stay at the iconic Hotel Cipriani. It was like our planned 10th…with interest. It was one of the most memorable and romantic trips in our 28 years together. A symbol of how things just get better with time.

Venice and the Maldives…two of the world’s most iconic destinations for romance. And in Nika you find them both!

Felice anniversario, bellissima Lori!

 

Nika poles

Best of the Maldives: Americans – W Retreat

W Retreat american

Independence Day! Well, American ‘Independence Day’. As it happens, the Maldives celebrate their independence in July as well (on the 26th and also from the British). On this American high-holiday, the place to be is W Retreat.

Americans have always been a bit of a minority visitor group in the Maldives. It’s just a bit far to travel (the other side of the world really), when the east coast folks have the tropical delights of the Caribbean on their doorstep and the west coast has the South Pacific. USA was not even in the Top 10 of visitor arrivals (in fact Switzerland and Korea sent more people to the Maldives than the USA) so there are no detailed, published stats for USA alone. But the Ministry of Tourism does breakout arrivals by region including stats for “Americas” of which the vast majority will be from USA. The Ministry reports 162 million ‘Americans’ visited in 2012 (compared to 534 million Europeans and 232 million Asians). The growth in recent years has been roughly on par with that of other areas showing that the Maldives allure is spreading literally all around the world.

The W Retreat tells me that about 7% of its guests are Americans, which is at least double the average across the country. The Ministry report says that Korea, (the lowest tracked country at #10 in share of arrivals) had 2.5% share in 2012 so USA has to be at least below that.

The American link by the “W” has nothing to do with the former President “George W”’s namesake, but starts with its parent, the Starwood group, one of the leading American hoteliers in the world. Americans are addicted to obscenely high service levels for which the W Retreat is renowned so perhaps that too is part of the appeal.

Best of the Maldives: Turkish – Ayada

Turkey flag

 

 

Happy Turkey Day!

No not American Thanksgiving. But the National Holiday of Turkey, ‘Republic Day’. And the resort of the day is Ayada.

Ayada is owned and managed by a Turkish company and it reflects its Ottoman roots throughout the resort. From the Turkish Hammam baths to the Ottoman lounge

“From the serenity and tranquility of the Maldives to the vibrancy of a café in Turkey, Ayada Maldives showcases the beauty and unique experience of sipping authentically brewed Turkish coffee and specialty teas with a wide array of traditional shisha at the Ottoman Lounge. The lounge is reminiscent of a traditional café in Turkey with the Ottoman style furnishings complete with intricate light fixtures and low seating.”

?erefe!

Post Script – For a Turkish language website on the Maldives, check out www.maldivler.com.tr .

Best of the Maldives: Thai – Anantara Veli

Anantara - Loy Krathong

Happy Loy Krathong!

“On the eve of the 12th lunar month, Anantara Resorts Maldives is proud to present a traditional evening of Thai cuisine and Krathong – flower-shaped candlelit rafts – in celebration of Loy Krathong, The Festival of Lights, under a full moon at Baan Huraa restaurant. As a resort company steeped in heartfelt Thai hospitality it gives us great pleasure to introduce and celebrate one of the most beautiful Thai festivals with our story-collecting travellers from around the globe. Our resorts encapsulate the excitement of discovery and exploration that comes with entering new territory and, though we are celebrating the Festival of Lights outside the Kingdom, I cannot think of a more perfect setting than the greatest paradise on earth to express good wishes to our guests and team members and to look to the future as we float our floral offerings on the night.”

With its romantic trappings (full moon, flowers, candles), as well as its aquatic and even ecological origins, the Maldives has to be one of the best places on the planet to celebrate this endearing Thai holiday…

“Popular legend holds that the celebration is an expression of gratitude to the goddess of water ‘Phra Mae Kongka’ for having extensively used, and sometimes polluted, the water from the rivers and canals. It is also in part a thanksgiving for her bounty in providing water for the livelihood of the people.”

And in the Maldives, there is no better place to celebrate anything Thai than Anantara’s three conjoined properties: Dhigu, Veli and Naladu. Anantara is itself a Thai company which explains its exceptional catering to all things Thai. Their spa is heavily Thai themed with Thai treatments and therapists. In fact, Anatara has one of the most relaxing greetings in the Maldives as its therapists come out to reception and give all arrivals a brief, complementary head and neck message in reception. They obviously have a Thai restaurant, Baan Huraa, which is certainly one of the best if not at least the most authentic in the Maldives. It even features a vintage Thai wine ‘Dranmonte’ (vintage) according to Bala, the resort sommelier.

Best of the Maldives: German – Reethi Beach

Reethi Beach people on beach

 

 

Happy ‘Tag der Deutschen Einheit’ to my German friends.

Reethi Beach the favourite among not just Germans, but anyone speaking German. Swiss, Austrians. Still, it has an international feel with the remaining nationalities being quite a United Nations of diversity. Even Americans. As highlighted in my piece on Trip Advisor recommendations, it came just behind Villamendoo in the number of mentions on the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum. This Saxon-centric, but eclectic feel stems a lot from its Swiss background (its Sales and Marketing contacts phone through to a Swiss number). German hits you as soon as you arrive from hearing it at the desk to seeing the prevalence of German language collateral in the information racks. For English speakers, this linguistic bias is a bit irrelevant because just about every German I have met has had a pretty fine command of the English language and certainly all the staff speak English.

So here’s a glass of cold pilsner raised to all of the unified Germans celebrating in paradise today.  May you not have to spend so much money bailing out the world from economic chaos that you have to cut back on trips to Reethi Beach.

Best of the Maldives – Italians: Palm Beach

Palm Beach MondoMaldives

 

Italy has one of the strongest heritages in the Maldives along with the British and the Germans. At least half a dozen resorts are primarily Italian in clientele and background. But the ‘nonno’ of them all has to be Palm Beach.

Over 85% of Palm Beach’s guests are Italian and nearly 100% during the peak holiday season of this month. They attract the glitterati of Italian society from Italian movies stars and footballers to prominent politicians and business leaders. This dominance is evident in the prevalent Italian fare on offer down to the San Pelligrino water as well as a very Mediterranean family vibe throughout.

So how would one determine the ‘Best’ for Italians? Well, for starters, it might be the place where the Italian experts on the Maldives so on their vacation. And by total coincidence, the single day that we stopped at Palm Beach was the final day for Roberta Migliarini and Paolo Bellici, founders and operators of not just one of the top Italian sites on the Maldives, but one of the top sites worldwide – MondoMaldive.

As if their own presence wasn’t testimony enough, I did ask them what they thought the best islands for Italians would be in the Maldives. They wouldn’t be drawn into declaring Palm Beach the best, but it was very clear that they thought extremely highly of the place. They tried to make a case for some of the others, but just didn’t convince me that the others were superior (unless you wanted something different in atmosphere or offerings.., my saying ’there is no best island, only the best for you island’).

We spent the evening chatting about all thing Maldives. By further coincidence, I had just bought their guide book MondoMaldives at the airport gift store on arrival. Like their site, surely the most comprehensive resource on the details of the various resorts. They inscribed my copy “Per le vostre stresse nostre passione per le Maldive.” And to top it off, they presented me with an official MondoMaldive t-shirt (see below). Note to resorts and entrepreneurs – the MondoMaldive t-shirt features the words ‘I love the Maldives’ in the native language of Dhiveli which attracted constant remark and attention from all the Maldivian staff who saw it throughout my stay. Someone should ask MondoMaldives about selling their t-shirt as well as their book. They are a great couple as friendly and warm as their website is comprehensive and useful. I can see why their Forum is such a hit (unfortunately, it is only in Italian).

Because the resort is so popular with Italians, it is a bit unsung in other countries, but Palm Beach welcomes all nationalities enthusiastically and noted that a steadily growing number of British have discovered its charms.

Ciao bellissima Palm Beach!

Palm Beach MondoMaldives 2