Monday, June 9, 2008

4 June 2008: The Maldives

The Maldives. Wow. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been to in my entire life. My boyfriend agrees. And we've done a notable amount of globetrotting. Between the two of us, we've lived in the States (California and a brief stint on Oahu), in London, on a boat in Thailand, and of course in Hong Kong...and apart from the places we've called home, we've traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Germany, Holland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Russia, Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Nepal, the Philippines... But as we sat on an untouched Maldivian beach under the stars, we shared the sentiment that this is one of the most amazing places we've ever been, and hands down the best holiday either of us has ever had.

Let me try to verbalize the setting I find myself in as I write to you. I am in our "beach bungalow" which is as far from a beach bungalow as you could imagine, because it is a Four Seasons beach bungalow on the Four Seasons-owned island of Landaa Giraavaru. Absolutely enormous: vaulted ceilings, sliding doors that open out to the beach, which is only separated from the bungalow by our private plunge pool (ozonated and therefore chlorine-free) and a covered deck. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that this is a two-person occupancy, as outside alone, there are two poolside lounge chairs, two beach lounge chairs, a couch, a table, a swinging platform, and a platform IN the ocean. The oversized classic Four Seasons bed has a mosquito net around it for when we want to sleep with the doors open (but I somehow still managed to get bitten on the eyelid again, can you believe it?!). The bathroom alone is quite possibly bigger than our flat in Hong Kong, with the longest bathtub I've ever seen, both an indoor and outdoor rainshower, and complete with, mais bien sur, a bidet. And although the bungalow is completely open to the beach and the outside gate is more for appearance than function as you can walk around it on both sides, it's completely private.

It's rainy season here so the weather's been a bit unpredictable, but the intermittent showers simply make the moments of sunshine that much brighter.

The water is clean and clear and warm. I daresay I have never been in nicer oceans. My boyfriend the dive master has gone on 2-3 dives a day, and has seen octopus, reef sharks, rays, turtles, and whale sharks. I merely snorkel the surface, but I've seen some stunning coral reefs with vibrant and sometimes funny-looking fishies...including my boyfriend who I swear must have been a fish in a past life. When we were staying on the yacht, we saw spinner dolphins playing, spinning up and out of the water. They're tiny, and so cute!

The yacht we stayed on was the Four Seasons Explorer. WOW. We were so lucky, with only one other couple on board and 26 crew members!! From marine biologists to avid divers to fishermen who could catch fish with their bare hands, we had true ocean lovers on board. The chef's meals were so varied and delicious that with each subsequent meal, I proclaimed "THIS is my favorite meal!" And there's nothing like having fish immediately after you caught it the grouper (lightly steamed to perfection) our fellow guests caught or the 8-lb trevally (bbq'd to perfection) my boyfriend caught. The wait staff immediately caught onto our tastes and always anticipated our needs: iced coffee mid-morning, fresh lime soda with mint in the late afternoon, peppermint tea before bed. Everyone was so helpful, friendly, and somehow there when we needed them without overwhelming us or taking away from our privacy. It was 5-star service but so personal and comfortable we felt like we were at home. We all knew each others' names and my boyfriend and I were honestly sad to leave them. In fact, I still miss everyone and hope I will get to see them again in the future.

The Republic of Maldives is comprised of 200+ inhabited islands and 1000+ other islands with vegetation, mostly within atolls of varying sizes. I think we're having the best possible full experience of the Maldives, having spent the first night in the capital city of Male, four nights on the yacht, and another four nights on land. From in the ocean, on the ocean, on various islands, and even from seaplanes in sky... I've never seen anything like it. Breathtakingly beautiful.

I've practiced and meditated on sand with the ocean water lapping at my feet, on the rocking boat (talk about a challenge to maintaining balance!), on the outside deck hut with the fall of cleansing rain, and on the platform in the ocean under sunshine (which really is coaxed out with Surya Namaskar!)...always with the sound of the ocean joining my Ujjayi.

Love, practice, and travel. This is my life's happiness.

My man has just returned from his morning dive. We're off to do some sailing (by which I mean he will sail as I hold on for dear life) followed by an afternoon at the Ayurvedic spa. We had an enlightening consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor yesterday. From a quick read of our pulses, he determined our doshas and gave an impressively accurate account of our personalities. With this information, they are mixing oils individually suited for our needs, using fresh herbs from their garden.

Like I said... WOW!

I'm posting this back in Hong Kong. It's been quite a shock to return to gloomy weather (black rain? come on!), the busyness of the city, the never-ending sounds of construction... We're suffering from PMD, post-Maldives depression! :P Good thing we have our photos, the highlights of which I've uploaded here. There are a lot, so I recommend viewing the Detail option, where you can view multiple photos per page but still see descriptions. Enjoy!