Saturday, August 12, 2017

Maldives, 2017


" My 6 days 5 nights in Maldives - my first exploratory visit; experiencing the sunny side of life & saying hello to sun, sand & sea in Maldives from 6-11/8/2017 together with my travel buddy, K C Leong & his spouse "  

Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia > Huhulmale > Male City > Huhulmale > Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In Late 2016 & early 2017, I purchased online 4 Air Asia promotional tickets departing Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to Xian (China), Manila (Philippines), Jakarta (Indonesia) & Male (Maldives). I am glad that I was able to visit according to schedules all these 4 cities, free & easy, one on solo (Jakarta) and the other three  cities with my travel buddy, KC Leong, my Qigong mate and also a sunshine runner. 

I had in the past visited North India (New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Kashmir, Manali, Mcleod Ganj, Simla, Leh & Ladakh ) & Sri Lanka, so the time has come that I should do a visit to Maldives, my dream country & a short flight time from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) - merely 4.5 hrs ! This dream has really come true for me in 2017 ! 

Maldives is one of the 10 smallest country in the world (the other four smallest countries I had visited are ie Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino & Vatican City). Maldives have 1,190 tropical islands spreading over 90,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean, the world most dispersed country !  

Given the small size of Male city, Hulhumale town (airport side) & nearby atolls, you could easily do a walking tour as soon as you land in these places after a short ferry ride, the main stream of public transport in Maldives. You can also opt for a faster speed boat (public & private) service or the more expensive seaplanes if the atoll you are staying is located far from Male city or airport. Most of the private resorts are able to arrange airport transfers to the atoll you stay as soon as you land in Male airport ! 

August is a low season in Maldives so hotel accommodation is reasonably low (US$80-US100 for a double or triple bed room) in comparison to the high season, which can be double in price especially from December to April (the dry season). 

The weather in August is around 29c to 30c during the day and the sea breeze makes it quite pleasant to do a walking tour in Maldives during the day & evening. But expect intermittent rain which happens in most of the afternoons and lasts for 2-3 hrs. Due to a bad weather, our atoll visit to Rasdhoo and a submarine undersea tour (booked by KC's wife) were canceled (no show) so what a big disappointment to our group, if not, our  group visit to Maldives would be a wholesome one ! In travelling, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose due to factors beyond our control or lady luck was not with us at the time of our visit ! 

Taxi fare to major hotels (normally a 3-5km ride) in downtown area is around US2.5 - US$4) inclusive of 1-2 pieces of  luggage. The established hotels in male city or Hulhumale have their own transport to take you to ferry terminals or airport for a fee. As most of the streets in downtown Male are made of small lanes, so be extra careful when you open the taxi doors (left or right) as either sides have motorists zooming past ! The town buses in Hulhumale do not allow passengers with luggage to board  their buses so just beware of it !

Food prices sold in major supermarkets or provision shops are double or triple that of my home country, Malaysia and if you love spicy food, Maldives is the right place for you to dine but without a beer or alcohol drink as Maldives is a Muslim country ! But in private resorts, this may be allowed but check first before your booking ! Most of the processed food & beverages sold in supermarkets or provision shops are fully imported from nearby countries. 

Total Expenses incurred (6 days): Rm1,562 + MVR601 = RM1,733 (US$405) per pax - based on cost sharing of food, public transport & hotel stays for 3 adults

Air Asia airfare: Rm783 (US$183)
Hotels (5 nights, triple bed room) : Rm1,344 + US$18 (green tax) + US$186 = Rm2,217 (ie Rm739=US$173 per pax, cost sharing for 3 adults)

- 1) Newtown Inn Male Airport, (1 night): Rm378.54 (US$88) inclusive of Green Tax (Deluxe double + 1 extra bed) 
- 2) House Clover Hotel, Male City (2 nights): Rm483 (US$112.80) x 2 (Superior room, triple beds) + US3 x 3 x 2 nights for Green Tax
- 3) UI Inn, Male Airport (2 nights): US$102 + US$84 inclusive of Green Tax) - Honeymoon suite, triple beds 

Food: 450MVR
Groceries: Rm20
Airport Bus: RM6 x 2 (Kuala Lumpur) + 20MVR x 2 (Male Airport)
Ferries: 43MVR
Sundries (sea sick pills): 8MVR
Taxi: 60MVR

Exchange rate: US$1=Rm4.28, US$1=15MVR, RM1=3.50MVR

Travel Highlights :

1) Male International Airport (everlasting smiles as soon as you land after a short, transit or long flights from your home country)


2) Hulhumale (ideal for an overnight stay before venturing out to atolls, Male City or nearby private villas by speed boats etc) 



3) Male City (buildings standing tall but watch up for motorists zooming in and out of the narrow side lanes around the city) 



4) Vilingili Public Beach (ideal for a day or night visit, 24 hrs ferry services from Male City !) 


5) Thilafushi (an industrial site, not touristy but just enjoy the ferry ride)


6) My travel buddy, KC Leong, a sunshine runner & spouse (3 musketeers from Malaysia-boleh roaming free & easy in Maldives) 



Going to Maldives for whatever reasons ie snorkeling, honeymoon, water sports, sightseeing or "eating wind" etc. How about having  a haircut first in Male but certainly not a pay cut if you are looking forward for a 4-5 star private villa moonlight stay costing US$1,000 a night ! After a local hair cut, you will certainly look like a typical sunny Maldivian experiencing the sunny side of life in Maldives !


D-1 Huhulmale, Maldives 2017


Day 1 Sunday 6th Aug 2017 - As our Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur arrived at Velana International Airport, Male at around 8.15pm, there was not much to do on arrival except taking an airport shuttle bus to our hotel in Hulhumale, located about 6.6km from the airport. Our sweet dreams about Maldives start from tonight ........

1) Taking a LRT train (RM$1 senior) from SS15, Subang Jaya train station to KL Sentral station, Kuala Lumpur


2) Boarding Skybus airport bus from KL Sentra > KLIA2 (bus ticket Rm6, senior)


3) Boarding Air Asia Flight No AK 72 departing Kuala Lumpur 06.55pm arriving  Male 08.10pm (Air Asia ticket Rm783=US$183 return)


4) Dinner at Little Wok, Food Court, KLIA2 - fried rice Rm9.50 prior to the flight


5) Arriving at Male International Airport around 08.15pm, Malaysia is ahead of Maldives by 3hrs.  


6) Not knowing how much we need to spend on food, ferry rides etc for the following day, the first thing we did was to walk to a Maldives bank at the airport to exchange some local currencies. For a start, our group used a US$50 dollar note and this gave us 750 MVR local currencies, in small & big notes (US$1=MVR15) - a great start to pay for local transport & general expenses on Day 1 ! Malaysian currency exchangers do not offer Maldivian currencies so bring along a stash of clean & neat US$ dollar notes to Maldives you should be okay ! If you have some leftovers of Maldivian currencies after the visit, keep them as souvenirs at home - their notes & designs look very attractive ! 


6) Taking a Male Airport bus to our hotel in Hulhumale (MVR20=Rm5.70 one way)


7) Overnight stay (1st night) at Newtown Inn, Nirolhumagu, Lot No 10488, Male International Airport - Rm378.54 (US$88) for a Deluxe Double with an extra bed, online booking via agoda.com. The deluxe room was small so there were no much space to move around after an extra bed was added. After a hot shower, we retired to bed at around 22.00 eagerly looking forward for the next morning to see Maldives in daylight ! 


A great start upon our arrival !  What awaits us from tomorrow onwards is equally exciting as our group is very keen to explore and catch a glimpse of Maldives - a dream is about to fulfil  in our world of travelling thus far !  


D-2 Male City, Maldives 2017


Day 2 Monday 7th August 2017 - our main focus for today is to explore Hulhumale town, the Eastern beach & a ferry ride to Male city for an overnight stay. It is also convenient for us to take a public ferry from Villingili Ferry Terminal, Male City to Radshoo Atoll as we had booked a hotel for our overnight stay on the 3rd Day.

The hotel we stayed, House Clover Guest House, is an apartment building right in the center of Male City. The hotel is within 20 minutes walking distance from the Hulhumale Ferry and Airport Ferry Terminal, Male City and also the Villigili Ferry Terminal  ! 

As there is little agricultural & food production in Maldives (most of the basic & essential processed food are imported), food prices here are generally 2-3 times higher than our home country, Malaysia ! 


Image result for male city tourist map
Male City Map

1) Free Breakfast at Newtown Inn, Male, you will get a decent morning breakfast in most hotels you stay in Maldives ! 



2) Morning stroll near our hotel in Hulhumale town, 6 km via main road from Male Airport. Most of the local people are housed in government built low rise apartments. The local Red Wave supermarket chain dominates the retail industry here. 

Mini market in Hulhumale
A double storey shops & cafes building in downtown Hulhumale
Government owned apartments
Red Wave Supermarket in Hulhumale town - a popular supermarket chain in Maldives
Nirolhu Magu is the main road in Hulhumale

3) Eastern Beach behind the Newtown  & UI Inn, Hulhumale. August is a low season month so the beach is quiet with fewer tourists, mainly from China & nearby countries ie Sri Lanka & India. Ideal for a morning or evening walk on the sandy beach or take a swim or indulge in water sports. 


4) Maldives government levies a Green Tax of US$3 per person per night for hotel stays, collected in advance on line booking or paid cash when check-in


5) Hotels along the beach front & main streets at Hulhumale - US$70-150 for a double room during the off peak season in August. During the peak season from Sept > March (dry months), expect to pay a higher room tariff and we were told  that the rate is quoted on a day to day basis so make sure you have a secured booking prior to your arrival. 


6) Local travelling agencies offering various services in water sports, speed boat rides to nearby atolls or villas, snorkeling, food & beverages, casual dining etc at the Eastern beach, Hulhumale. So pick your choice to suite your budget ! 

Seafood dishes - Chinese style cooking 

7) Local hotels offering day tour packages to tourists in Hulhumale - day tripper prices (08.00>17.00 varies) to nearby atolls or popular resorts or villas ranging US$100-150 per person inclusive of a speed boat ride (return transfer), resort entry pass, buffet lunch, access to beach & swimming pool, beach towel  etc


8) Street art on a walking path in Hulhumale near the garden & ferry terminal


9) Morning tea at a cafĂ© in Hulhumale - KC loves drinking teh-tarik - Malaysian style ! But he ended been served a glass of milk tea, not the cup of tea he wanted - so near yet so far in taste ! 


10) Hulhumale Ferry Terminal - taking a public ferry to Male City (MVR5.50=US$0.37=Rm1.60 one way), a 15 mins ride. Ferry rides are a way of life in Maldives. A new bridge is now under construction linking Hulmale airport to Male City and hopefully by the end of 2018, the link road is ready for use by the public. 

Dark cloud hanging over the sky - heavy rain in the late afternoon in Male City 

11) Arrival at the Hulhumale Ferry Terminal in Male City 






12) A standard taxi fare notice for passengers,  a surcharge for peak hour from 12pm to 6am, additional charge for more than 1 luggage (10MVR). Our group of 3 paid 35MVR (US$2.33) with 3 pieces of luggage for a tax ride to our hotels but expect to pay a little bit more if you encounter a driver who does not stick to the standard pricing ! 




13) 2nd night stay at Male city - Due to an afternoon shower as the roads were wet & narrow, our group decided to flag a taxi (US$5) near the Ferry Terminal to House Clover Hotel, Ma. Anaarukalee Shaheed KTM Hingun, Male City; our apartment room unit (Rm483=US$112 for a triple beds) is located on the 9th floor but the reception counter is at the 5th floor. An additional US$3 per person per night was collected by the reception as payment to Green Tax imposed by the local government. This was one of the best hotels we had stayed in Maldives. Online booking via agoda.com





14) Late afternoon walking tour around Male city - free & easy with the guidance of a hotels' city map & an offline GPS Male google map, frankly it is not that easy to get lost in this smallish city ! 


Male City street names - difficult to spot on ! 

15) Rasfannu Artificial Beach, Western Male City - very popular for locals to picnic & for family recreation 
















16) Tsunami Monument




17) Villingili Ferry Terminal - public ferries to Rasdhoo Atoll, Maafushi, Guihi & Villingili Public Beach depart from Villingili Ferry Terminal, important to check the timetables for departures to various destinations serviced by this terminal.




18) The Local Market - same area as Fish market; selling mainly local fruit & vegetables grown in Maldives, yams & betel nuts homemade pickles etc


19) The Fish Market - just west of Independence Square; mainly Tuna varieties eg skip-jack tuna & yellow fin tuna bought by locals



20) Time for a dinner (19.00) at a local restaurant called Athama Palace; KC spotted this restaurant when he was scouting for a good place to dine tonight. So we found it and had our first Maldivian dinner in Male City; yummy yummy fried rice (using the best quality extra long grain Basmati rice) with tuna & eggs plus a plate of half grilled spicy chicken for us to savor ! This dinner meal for three comes with mineral water costs 205MVR (US$13.67=Rm58.50). What a highly satisfying meal before we retired for bed after a long productive day exploring the Male city !