Friday, December 05, 2008

Malé, Maldives

Destination #1 - Malé (pronounced: "Maa-lay), Republic of Maldives

Year of visit: 2006
The Republic of Maldives is an island nation about 700 kilometres south-west of Sri Lanka. It is made up of 1192 islets whereby only about 250 of them are inhabited. Malé is the capital and largest city in Maldives. Generally, Maldivians speak Dhivehi, an Indon-Aryan language but many of them can speak good English.

Malé - Courtesy of Wikipedia

I had the rare opportunity of visiting this paradise island nation at the invitation of my Maldivian classmates back in my college days. It only took a few breathtaking pictures of the well known paradise island nation and the immediate availability of funds from my part time jobs, i'm off to Maldives!

It was too good to be true, 10 years after my last trip overseas!

I flew out of the state-of-the-art (at that point in time, i have never set foot in that airport so i went 'ga-ga' over the size and architecture of the airport) Kuala Lumpur International Airport and took a transit at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka before continuing my journey to the Maldives.

The new terminal at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

There were heavy military and police presence at the airport at the height of the civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers. A few days later, it was reported that a suicide bombing had occurred in Colombo. Note: A tip (of any amount) is expected of you if you accept toilet papers from the bathroom attendant.

Finally - Maldives it is!

Touched down at the out-of-the-world Malé International Airport on the Hulhulé island.

Malé International Airport - Courtesy of

The airport is located on an island of itself. One small mistake by the pilot, the plane will end up in the sea! To get to the capital, Malé we had to take a ferry which took approximately 15 minutes. Make sure you have some Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) with you. The fare is normally collected on board.

The density in Malé is insane! About one third of the entire Maldivian population live on this island with many thin buildings which were built vertically in every part of the island. The roads are narrow but spanking new motorcycles and Japanese cars are abundant. They use Japanese sedans like Mitsubishi Lancer, Toyota Altezza and Toyota Caldina as taxis! There is no need to wear a helmet or put on a seatbelt in Malé. It feels like you are in a theme park!

I did'nt stay overnight in Malé. One of my Maldivian hosts live in another island next to Malé called the Vilingili island. Vilingili serves as a 'satelite island' for Maldives where some Maldivians and even expatriates who doesn't like people to be breathing down their neck reside in this quiet little island but commute to the capital daily to go to work, school, do their shopping etc. There's another Vilingili island in another atoll so it can be quite confusing. Vilingili island is easily also accessible by ferry.

This tree in Vilingili Island with its complex roots looks like one of those saltwater swamp trees.

My comfortable shelter for several nights when we were not away in the resort islands.

There's nothing much to do on Vilingili island unless you play football or 'catch the monkey' with the local kids or even the expat kids.

Proton - The Malaysian-made car in Maldives!

Apparently, the Protons were donated by our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir to the Republic of Maldives as a friendship gesture in the 90s.

It's not like you always get to see a Proton car overseas you know.

This is a traditional Maldivian meal prepared by my host.

Basically, you mix the jack fruit, some sort of leave, onion, lime, a trickle of tuna soup and other unknown ingredients, smash them up with your fingers and eat it.

We spent most of our time in Malé when we're not away in the resorts. The capital is very pedestrian friendly simply because it is so small. If you have time, you can explore every corner of the streets in Malé for an insight of life in the Maldivian capital.

#1 Head down to the local market in the morning.

Don't be surprised to see fishes that you will not see in your local markets:

  • Huge Tunas
  • Sword fish
among others.

Right in front of the local market you will see gas cylinders, coconuts and other items on sale next to big fishing boats. They are brought over by inhabitants of other Maldivian islands to be sold in the capital, some far away in other atolls.

Malé might be one of the densest islands in the world but there is no proper urban planning here.
Thin narrow buildings of 4 to 5 floors spring up everywhere in the centre of Malé. Perhaps apartments larger and taller than that will sink the island. Only commercial buildings were built bigger and taller.

#2 Surfer's paradise

There is this little coastal area of Malé that attracts big waves and young enthusiastic surfers can be seen in the evenings.

A typical residential tower in Malé. Be warned: There ain't any lifts to bring you up.

#3 'The salt-water pool'

This is probably the safest spot around Malé for children and lousy swimmers to swim in because it is shielded from big waves by the reefs.

The map of Malé.

It is so tiny that my Maldivian friends kept bumping into their friends, relatives, former teacher, some Maldivian cabinet minister, Maldivian actresses and even their dad and sisters!

#4 Take a night stroll along the streets of Malé at night.

The streets are filled with people at night, teens hanging out in the cafés and restaurants, people enjoying coconut drink at the promenade, shoppers along the 'high-street' (only supermarkets, small boutiques, souvenir shops and DVD shops), heavily modified Japanese sports cars out to pick up girls or to show-off and random Maldivians walking somewhere.

It was an interesting sight.

There was a Maldivian league football match going on and some political talk cum concert in town which added to the hype. It was as if all the youngsters in Maldives were there!

#5 The National Museum and the Sultan's tomb

There is a new museum displaying some collections and royal regalia from the Sultanate of Maldives days within the Sultan Park and the late Sultan's tomb near the Maldivian Local Assembly or Parliament. The Islamic centre which contains the largest mosque in Maldives is around the vicinity. Visitors are welcome inside outside prayer hours, but no interior photography is allowed.

Road signs in Maldives, classic.

Note that weekend runs from Friday to Saturday in Maldives and most premises including restaurants will be closed on Friday so do make sure that you store up on your food to avoid starving!

#6 Independence Square

This little park is marked by a flagpole with a Maldivian flag and it is a favourite spot for locals, mainly the old folks watching the world goes by - feed the pigeons, gawk at foreign tourists who arrive by boat from opposite the Independence Square and so on.

The Independence Square

If you happen to be there on Maldives' Independence Day you will see the police band performing and some elaborate ceremony. For those of you into military and security stuffs, it's finally your turn to gawk at the heavily fortified National Security Force building (you're not allowed to photograph the building), the Toyota Altezza police vehicles and the Maldivian coast guard's boats opposite the Independence Square.

All in all, Malé is such an interesting little 'theme-park' island. tehehe.


kathy on 8 December 2008 at 16:58 said...

Unbelievable that you can come acros Proton cars in Maldives.
Anyway, Maldives seem like a really decent place:)

jlshyang on 9 December 2008 at 15:24 said...

kathy - Yea. There's always a sense of excitement when I see Proton cars overseas. In fact, there are plenty of Proton Gen-2 cars in Wales, United Kingdom.

Maldives is the richest South Asian country i think thanks to their high-end tourism industry.

Anonymous said...

Hey...nice blog u got there...
you should come and visit us again...maybe for your honeymoon...hehhe..
And by the way Maldives isnt the richest country in the South Asian region...we are a small country...i think india is probably the richest in that region...But ofcourse we the highest ranked in the region when you consider the GDP(PPP) per capita...i think we are ranked 109 in the world and india is 129...maybe thats what u meant...
And yeah Malaysia is ranked 59th..:)
take care man..

jlshyang on 11 December 2008 at 17:57 said...

usham: definitely! i'll go back and visit you guys, by then one will be the AG of Maldives and another will be a multi-millionaire. LOL. Yea, i meant GDP(PPP)per capita.

you take care too bro.


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