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Monday, October 24, 2011

journey to a floating island

After nine hours of flight, two transits and five minutes of boat ride, and having slept for only few hours in between, I reached Male, the capital of the archipelago of islands, Maldives. By then I was, literally, quite unstable, only made worse by the feeling that I was standing on some kind of a floating island, surrounded by blue sea from every corner.
Until that time, I thought travelling was one of my fortes, because I have done that, in worst of situations. I have climbed the rugged mountains through muddy trails, braving leech and lechers. For a delicate woman, such travail is a feat in itself.
This time, the trip to Maldives was a five star luxury on offer. Nothing could have been better. But I think, the abrupt transition in mis-en-scene, from the high mountains to the blue seas, took its own time to sink in.
Walking down the street, I was feeling wobbly, although nothing unusual for the people in Maldives. I feared I may fall down into the sea, and be engulfed its vastness. Yet amid the fear and frivolity, it was a quiet, often lonely, experience.
I was between the vast blue sky and the sea, one above and the other just near my feet and before. Gentle breeze blew fresh sea air into the coast. I was totally awestruck by the beauty of Maldives.
From the hotel room, one of the best in Male, I could see the sea waves rise and fall, rocking against the coast and seagulls fluttering above them. In the room, a huge comfy bed just for me. The sea food was delicious. Life is good, I told myself.
The only downside was that it was quite a lonely trip. I could have used some company.
After two days of rigorous meeting, I just had a few hours in my hands to go around. What amazed me is that Male is so small that you can tour the whole place in an hour. And up till now, I was thinking Thimphu is too small for a capital.
Maldives is way liberal for a Muslim country, except for booze. Maldivians are outspoken and of course hospitable. To top it all, just everywhere, I saw couples, hand in hand. Dating and public display of affection wasn’t a taboo at all in this island country.
Everything in Maldives is imported. Fish is found in abundance, although some have been complaining it is not enough for the locals as it is mostly consumed by the tourist, and the remaining exported. (Maldives receives around 90,000 tourists in a month).
The place is really expensive so much so it literally makes a tight fisted person out of you. Two packets of chips, a small bottle of juice and two chocolates cost me USD10; a quick calculation confirmed it is equivalent to Nu 500. With that kind of money it could easily buy a meal for two in Bhutan.
But besides that, Maldives stole my heart away.
Travelling so far away from home, alone, for the first time, and getting hoaxed at a transit airport, and stuck in rain and flood, Maldives was a pleasant breather. I won’t call it a disastrous trip but I had my own share of discomfort and pain, the humdrum part of travelling alone and getting lost.
For me Male would be one of the places to see before you die. And also, who knows this beautiful island country may never exist after a few decades, if we give into the looming dangers of climate change. God forbid!

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