I can’t believe that my six month posting is almost at an end. Just four more days here in the Maldives before I head back to Canada permanently. Yikes. I feel very sad. I always feel sad whenever I finish a contract. The intensity drops and then the reality hits. You mean I have to do laundry again? Cook for myself again? Clean again….UGH! Not have any more exciting things to discover every day until the next trip? Surely you jest? Surely life is more than just daily routines? And more than talking about what the kids are up to and what the best investments are for one’s portfolio? Surely there is more to life than that? I’m sure there is.
Our image of the Maldives is of beautiful white sand beaches, endless oceans, upscale resorts and perhaps one of the last paradises on earth. Having made it my duty to try out as many of these island resorts as I can afford and take time off to do, I can say with certainty that the image is definitely true. For a large US pricetag, you too can have a piece of paradise.
What some might not know is that the Maldives is a developing country. It only won its independence from the British in 1965. Until just recently, the government did not allow any opposition and there had been several coup attempts. A new government came in last year. The sewers don’t have capacity, Male the island, is one of the most densely populated per sq. m in the world, the streets just barely have room for two cars side by each, and the scooter and car traffic makes crossing the street or even walking on the streets dangerous at all times.
Point is – the image of the Maldives as an expensive tourist vacation spot – while it is absolutely true – hides a lot of the problems that are endemic in the country. Like a drug/heroin problem, like domestic violence and rampant child sexual abuse.
Of course, these problems are found in many countries but for me, I like having a reality check. There is always a flip side to paradise.
Only as I left the Maldives did I see the overall pictures of the over 1,190 islands that make up the Maldives. Just south west of Sri Lanka (which itself is just south of India), the Maldives has about 200 inhabited islands, most of which are only a foot above sea level. From the air, the islands look like big pus pimples in a deep blue ocean.
The islands are definitely the paradise that everyone raves about. And they are as expensive as people say. But idyllic. Take the time to do your research on the over 80 tourist islands – they range from about 90$US a night to over $25,000 US but then you have the whole island to yourself.
In my 8 days there I stayed at two resorts. They all have their own pluses and minuses and focus on different things. Of course the Maldives is a haven for scuba diving and snorkelling. The fish are so amazing. We saw stingrays, parrot fish and so many other beautiful fish in a rainbow of colours. The best part of it was snorkelling in a multi coloured swimsuit and having the same multi colour fish swim around you. Very cool.
Of course most of my time was spent working in the capital – Male. A cross between Havana and Miami with a slice of narrow, cobble-stoned streets that maze around the island in no apparent pattern. When I walked off the boat at 630pm it was Ramadan and all taxi drivers had disappeared off the streets to break their fast for the day. I wandered the city for an hour looking for my hotel – with my backpack, my laptop and my purse. Thank goodness I packed light! Like New York, Male has built tall buildings to accommodate the population and take maximum advantage of being surrounded on all sides by blue, blue water. Ironically, the beach in Male is an artificial one!
I certainly look forward to exploring the country a lot more. Here are some pics of the islands and Male.