Honestly, I have never enjoyed beach vacations. I prefer traipsing around cities and soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of an urban environment. The contemporary architecture, chattering locals and constant activity that make up a city’s character rejuvenate me – not sand, sunshine and sea. And then I visited the Maldives.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
Located just under five hours away by airplane from Singapore, the Maldives is not so much a country as it is a chain of large and small islands – 1,200 of them, to be exact.
The country’s economy is powered by tourism dollars, and it’s not hard to see why. As the seaplane cut through the clear skies on my way to the resort, the 20-odd passengers on board were peering through the tiny windows, oohing and aahing at the beauty down below. It was a magnificent sight, with azure blue waters as far as the eye could see and picturesque islands that would inspire poets and postcard makers.
Many of the islands are dominated by holiday resorts owned by foreign companies and it was only recently that guesthouses started popping up offering spartan but cosy accommodation to backpackers who wanted to mingle among the locals and hop from island to island instead of being in a luxurious sequestered environment. The majority of the population live in the pint-sized Malé, the capital of the Maldives and your first stop before you’re whisked away to your resort. If you have the time, spend a couple of hours in the city among the Maldivians and discover the real essence of the country, away from the manicured beaches and swaying palm trees.
There is no alcohol and pork in Muslim-majority Malé but lots of fresh seafood caught on the day itself. Take a closer look at your surroundings and you’ll realise that Maldivian women are discouraged from entering certain areas of the city. Foreign women exploring its nooks and crannies, however, won’t raise any eyebrows. The unequal power dynamics have resulted in cases of domestic violence with one out of three Maldivian women falling victim. This statistic (see sidebar below) weighed heavily on my mind when I finally made landfall at COMO Cocoa Island.
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Source URL: Google News