|Sun, sea & sand|
In the meantime, here’s an old article I came across the other day, whilst tidying up my growing number of Word documents. It’s about a holiday I took, nine years ago, to the Maldives. I’m not sure why I originally wrote it, although I do remember publishing a much truncated version on Trip Advisor. There is very little mention of beer in the post, but as this blog is as much about travel, as it is about beer, I thought it worthy of seeing the light of day.
Read on and see what you think, particularly if you’ve always fancied getting away from it all and relaxing in that special place in the sun.
|Taking it easy|
A holiday was definitely in order and a lazy relaxing one at that. The Maldives seemed to fit the bill perfectly. One of my regular customers had holidayed there on several occasions and although he and his family were keen scuba-divers, he thoroughly recommended it as a place for just chilling out. as well.
The helpful lady at the other end of the line sorted me out an all inclusive package to a resort called Equator Village on the Island of Gan, in Addu Atoll. A quick look at the map revealed that this is about as far south as you can get and still be in the Maldives. The rep had already told me that I would be crossing the Equator, so that sounded worthwhile in itself. We agreed dates, she confirmed the price, I confirmed my credit card details and that was it. I had just over a month to wait before departing for seven days of sun, sea and sand.
A couple of hours later the captain announced that we would shortly be making our approach to Male Airport. Male is the capital of the Maldives, but the international airport, which is the main entry and exit point for visitors to the islands, lies a mile or so off the coast on what is totally re-claimed land. It was hazy as we made our approach, so I didn’t see that much, but after making a faultless landing, our plane taxied back to the terminal and after the aircraft came to a halt we got ready to disembark.
|Took my chances on a big jet plane.............|
As I had none of these items in my case I was not too concerned, and more to the point was not picked out to be searched anyway. Once through to the arrivals hall I spotted a man carrying a card bearing my name. “Mr Bailey, please come this way quickly”, he said “your transfer flight is waiting to depart”. Having just passed through arrivals, my guide hurried me back to departures. Fortunately it was only domestic departures, but he was correct, the twin-engine, propeller-driven plane was due to depart shortly. What followed was a piece of amusement, as after my main suitcase had been weighed and checked in, I was instructed to step onto the scales, complete with my hand baggage, to be weighed as well! After that, it was up the steps and onto the plane.
|Never let them tell you that they're all the same.........|
For many years, the island of Gan was home to the Royal Air Force, during the time in which the Maldives were a British dependency. A large concrete runway, capable of accommodating large transport planes had been constructed, because the base was once an important staging post in the supply of Britain’s far-eastern interests, such as Hong Kong. Although the RAF departed in 1976, the air-strip is still in daily use with two daily connecting flights to the capital. The authorities have constructed a large, modern airport terminal with the idea of allowing direct international flights between this remote, southern part of the Maldives and the rest of the world. The RAF connection did not end at the airport, as Equator Village, the resort I was staying at, was formerly the NCO’s quarters.
I enjoyed a couple of cold beers with my buffet lunch of chicken soup, followed by tuna with saffron rice. Unfortunately the only beer available at the resort was a canned one, imported from Indonesia and brewed by a subsidiary of Heineken called Bintang. Although I count myself as something of a beer connoisseur, I wasn’t really expecting much else. Instead I was looking forward to trying some interesting cocktails come the evening!
|Swimming pool - minus the bats!|
At dinner that night, Ibrahim was as good as his word and sat me with a couple from Bristol called Tony and Anne. I recognised them from the flight over from Male. Tony had been stationed on Gan 30 years ago, during his time in the RAF, and was on a nostalgic visit back to the island. It was interesting to hear him describe over the next few days, what had changed on the island since he was last there. After dinner, I sat in the bar with him and his wife for a while, before retiring to my bed at 9.30pm to catch up on some much needed sleep.
Afterwards I borrowed a bike from reception and set off to explore a bit more of the island. I was allowed to keep hold of this bike all week; parking it up on the veranda outside my chalet when it was not in use. It had a handy basket on the front, but no gears. This was not a problem though as the island is to all intents and purposes flat as a pancake, but it was extremely hot and humid. I purchased a sun hat from one of the souvenir kiosks, as well as a bottle of water. I cycled one way as far as the airport, before heading in the other direction across the concrete causeway leading to the neighbouring island of Fedhu.
|The imaginatively-named Bushy Island|
The resort’s management were certainly keen to ensure their guests didn’t go hungry, as between lunch and dinner tea and cake were on offer. Despite doing a fair amount of swimming, and taking care not to stuff my face too much, I still managed to pile on several pounds during the course of my stay.
|Pick your own|
I have mentioned a couple of times previously that this was a chill-out holiday, and that’s exactly what I did, spending much of the time relaxing by the pool, and leaving the bike riding until the sun was starting to set. I did do a bit of snorkelling, having borrowed a mask plus set of fins from the German couple in the adjacent chalet, but found it difficult to see much owing to the fact I need to wear glasses in order to see things that are more than a few feet in front of me!
|Beach barbecue - note complete absence of shade!|
|Enjoying a cold one!|
One thing I ought to mention is that my stay in the Maldives was just a few days away from the Spring Equinox. Gan is situated practically on the equator, and thinking back to my school geography lessons I remembered that at midday the sun would be directly overhead at this time of year. It wasn’t quite, seeing as the equinox was still a few days off, but at noon it was plain to see that the sun cast practically no shadow!
I would certainly recommend visiting the Maldives. Our winter and early spring (November – April) are the best times to visit when this is the dry monsoon season with blue skies and virtually wall-to-wall sunshine. Between May and October the hot days are frequently interrupted by storms and tropical showers. There are literally dozens of resorts to choose from, ranging from top-of-the-range luxury accommodation to more basic and down to earth resorts similar to where I stayed. In between there are places to suit all pockets and tastes. Most resorts are much closer to the Maldivian capital, Male, and transfer to then is often by boat, or sometimes sea-plane! I would definitely recommend going for an all inclusive package though; otherwise restaurant and bar costs will soon mount up. Wherever you stay though I am certain you will have a fantastic time.