There is never a more perfect 20th Anniversary gift for Felicia! Thanks to my lucky star, I flew my loved ones to one of the world’s most beautiful paradises – Maldives!
It was supposed to be a sweet surprise for Felicia but my cousin unintentionally leaked out the big secret during a family reunion dinner 4 days before the trip. It drew big smile on Felicia’s face when the secret was out. There were mixed reactions from Elkan and my daddy. Elkan was excited about the ocean bungalow and swimming with the fishes. My daddy wasn’t too keen about the destination as he was unfamiliar with Maldives and questioned why do we need to fly half the world just for a simple beach holiday. He frowned when I told him that we may not be able to buy beer as Male is a strict Islamic city. I loved his expression at that moment. I was looking forward to see his amazement when we touched down at Maldives.
Thanks to Cathay Pacific, there is now a direct flight connecting Hong Kong to Maldives. Our flight took 7 hours and we arrived at 9pm. Maldives was 3 hours behind Hong Kong. As it was nightfall, I parked all of us at a nearby budget airport hotel. Flight tickets to Maldives were relatively affordable, it was the accommodation, food and cross-ocean transport cost that caused a big dent in my travel budget. VAT in Maldives is a high 18%. I paid about HKD6,000-HKD8,000/room per night for lodging and HKD900/pax for speedboat transfer. Is it worth the money? I will give a big YES – provided you are there at the right season, on the right island with the right company! The best time to visit Maldives would be during its driest season which is between late December to early April. Avoid June to Sept as you don’t want the wet weather to spoil your expensive dream trip. There are over 1,000 islands across Maldives, therefore it is of paramount in your selection to choose the right island. Every island promises a different experience, ignore the big hotel brand names and choose wisely.
Maldives deserves its reputation as the Paradise of Asia. Friends who have been to Maldives used to tell me that you don’t need a fancy top-end camera to capture stunning photographs. They are right. The sun, white powdered beach, blue sky and turquoise water of Maldives are so unreal. There is no place for Instagram filters or Photoshop. Its colours are so vivid and it is like being teleported into the movie world of Life of Pi. Seamless horizon of the blue sky and smooth calm water, it brings a new level of zen in you.
My dad who was skeptical and complained about the unnecessary extravagant travel cost was speechless when he saw Paradise the next morning. While waiting for our speedboat transfer to our first island, dad was busily snapping photographs of the jetty and its turquoise clear water. He was amazed how clear the water was at the jetty. The thought of no beer didn’t exist in his mind anymore. That smile on his face was priceless!
In total, we spent 3 nights at Maldives. Picking the right island was a challenge for me. It was more difficult than my last Europe trip planning. Every island is so beautiful. In the end, I picked 2 different islands located at the nearby North Male Atoll region.
Our first stop was at Angsana Ihuru. It was part of the Banyan Tree resorts and I will highly recommend this place to all my friends. I booked 2 private beach jetpool villas with our personal private beach front. The sea view was truly beautiful and breathtaking. Super white powdered beach, shallow crystal clear water and spectacular house reefs. Our resort guide was a young Malaysian lady. I told her she had the best job in the world! Isn’t it marvellous to work on this island?
Everything was so calm and peaceful in Maldives. It was the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon siesta. Dad was floating on the shallow water and Elkan was snorkelling, chasing after the fishes. Felicia was relaxing on the swing. I was walking around the island, capturing the beautiful sights.
Angsana Ihuru houses one of the best house reefs in Maldives. Located just 30m away from our beach villa, we immersed ourselves in a rich, vivid colourful world of coral reefs. During our snorkelling, we spotted lots of fishes, sharks and sea turtles. There was no need to scuba-dive to see all these magnificent creatures. They were just right outside our doorstep!
Later in the evening, we took a ferry across to Banyan Tree island where we saw many wild eagle rays by the beach. Every day without fail at around 5pm, these eagle rays come by the beach for a free treat. The staff at Banyan Tree drew them close with fresh cuttlefish and gave us a short induction about these gentle creatures.
The next morning, dad woke us up at 5:30am to watch sunrise. We took many beautiful photographs by the beach and at the jetty. By noon, we checked out of Angsana Ihuru and headed out for our second island resort – Sheraton Full Moon Maldives.
Sheraton Full Moon Maldives offered us a different experience. I booked 2 water bungalows on stilts, overlooking 200m of 1m-shallow-deep crystal clear water. One of the biggest draw to this resort was its close proximity to the water. You can simply jump into the ocean from the resort. Water was very shallow at only 1m deep and it was safe to swim underneath the bungalows. However, there wasn’t any corals around the bungalows. The seafloor was covered with dead white broken corals. Nevertheless, there were a lot of stingrays, eagle rays and reef sharks taking shelter underneath our bungalows. Just make sure you don’t accidentally step onto one of the dreadful stingrays.
4 days 3 nights was just perfect for all of us. By the 4th day, I was resting by the deck, watching the sharks and eagle rays with lesser excitement. Time passed by slowly. I was like living in another different world, on a different pace and leading a very different life. It wasn’t boring at all. Doing lots of self-reflection and cherishing my loved ones beside me. No matter how much it cost, it’s worth it. This is no doubt the best and most memorable travel gift I gave to my wife, my dad and my son ever. Counting down to our next stop: The aurora borealis.