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Our Big Fat Indian Wedding- Part II: Sangeet!

“The word Sangeet  means music, but when it is used as a term to describe a celebratory event during an Indian wedding it translates to Music Night or Musical party. This musical night is a celebration of the union of not only the couple but the bonding of both families. It is here that both sides bring down their barriers and mingle in a fun environment.” [1] Sounds familiar?:) Yes- its an Indian version of what we all know as a wedding reception.  I am often surprised how similar other cultures are to mine, and celebrating Sangeet in Mumbai felt like a fun alternate universe. Everything was stunningly similar but… with an Indian twist!

1. The dress code.

Let me start with something most obvious…  Being a guest at a wedding normally means dressing-up accordingly to the occacion –  elegant,  formal, rather in neutral tones, right? Well, in India there in no such thing as neutral tones, but wait to see their version of elegant outfit :

::: one of the most fun experience for us was just to wear those amazing outfits!:::

::beautiful bride and groom::

Before coming to India we got instructions from Shikha, that for this night we should prepare an Indian outfit that is both: sexi and convenient to dance in.  Also, that this is the night to show off, and we should wear the most colorful and blingiest clothes and jewelry. Shikha recomeded Lengha – for girls-  an elegant crop top paired with long skirt, and Kurtha -for boys- a knee-length shirt and tight pants ( so tight that at the end of the party – after all the crazy dancing- boys where comparing who has the biggest holes in them:P!)

*fun fact* all the Western boys were wearing Indian outfits, whereas Indian men went for… western style shirts and suit pants!

*fun fuct no2* guess what I wore …  I finally managed to get somebody to dress me in my amazing saree, only to find out, that its the most inconvenient thing I could wear for the occasion! I was walking like geisha throughout the whole party, and was almost unable to perform our dancing routine…

2. Dance performances … by family members and friends (yup-that’s us)

I got used to see the bride&groom performing the first dance to some romantic song, while all the guest are watching , but … it never came to my mind that hey, why the friends and family wont get some limelight and perform as well??

Shikha taught us 3 different routines-one for all of us, when we ‘introduce’ the couple to the party, one for girls only and another for boys only. The rehearsals started few weeks before the wedding and ended… 5min before the show.

We managed to click a few (before-all-the-drinks) fancy photos, grab a drink for courage and… all the Indian eyes were on us. Yes- we danced at an Indian wedding in front of an Indian crowd…wait-for-it…  bollywood style! Moreover, we danced at the very beginning, when everybody was still paying attention. It turned out that many family members wanted to warm themselves in a spotlight for a few minutes – in pairs (wife-husbands), trios (parents+kid), same-sex groups and many many other combos…

::: Shikha and Aman performing their first dance – Bollywood style of course!:D :::
:::female cousins performing their dance::: 

:: the scariest and most fun moment of the wedding- entering the stage to dance in Bollywood style in front of Indians…::

3. Food and Booze

The food is always one of the best part of the wedding ceremonies. We know Indian food already from Singapore, but of course, when catered in India by the best in the industry, it is unbelievably tasty! Free flow of fancy (or just pure alcohol) drinks made everybody let loose (if the funky Indian beat didn’t do the job already).

4. Dancing on the open floor 

This was a time to go crazy and release all the energy we have left to the funkiest and loudest Bollywood music!

::last ones on the dancefloor- yay!:D::

::Nihar posing on the Young Couple Seat, from which they watched the performances::

The biggest surprise was that the party finished quite early ( ok, Im Polish, so for me 1-2am is early, since Polish wedding can last up to 7-8am..;). Michao was particularly disappointed and wanted to keep parting and go clubbing, but most of peops preferred to go to sleep and …not being a zombie the next morning on the Sikh Wedding…

 

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Our Big Fat Indian Wedding- Part I: Hindu Wedding !

India!

So far there was no reason for us to come here, UNTIL we got invited to our fiends wedding. Together with bunch of people from Singapore we landed in Mumbai for a crazy weekend,full of beautiful ceremonies, traditional parties and luxurious Indian food.

Since we are lucky, we got to experience not 1 but 2 Indian weddings, because the young couple comes from families of different religions- Shika is Hindu and Aman is Sikh.

First on the agenda was Hindu Wedding in the morning. Michao claimed, that it was only for family members, but when I came down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, everybody was already dressed (or semi dressed) in Indian outfits. I swallowed my food quickly, run upstairs and put on a simple dress- my saree had to wait until I have some more time for preparations (saree is actually a long strip of material that is supposed to be wrapped around the body in a very particular way, which takes at least 15min and 2 Indian girl-friends).  The ceremony started soon after that, and continued for few hours. Although we didn’t understand what was going on for the most of it, it was nice to look at (especially that there was a professional camera filming all the rituals closed-up, so the guests could watch the details on the screens, placed in the seating area). Take a look!


I. Hindu Wedding!

::me and my own Indian- Michao::

::the hall of our hotel turned into a wedding reception. The main function took place in the room in the background::

::no idea what was happening here ::

:: the Singaporean team! Large but superfun group of young-couple’s friends::

::Aman’s looking rather hesitantly… He was laughing throughout the whole ceremony, which we took as a sign of happiness. Only later he explained, that as a Sikh (not Hindu) he doesn’t know this ceremony very well, and wasn’t sure what to do next and if he does things correctly::

::performing small hindu wedding rituals in front of an open fire – in the hotel room..?why not:P ::

::the strangest and most contrast thing to the western weddings, was the overall chaos. The guest were coming in and out of the hall, eating, talking and taking pictures as they wish::

::some more rituals..::

::how beautiful are their wedding outfits? I was absolutely blown away!::

::yup- that ceremony was veeeery long…::

::Just Married! at least for Shikha’s side of family::

::Finally! 😀 Time for congratulations…::

::Happy bride:)::

::… and selfies with the beautiful bride:: 

The rest of that day we spend on sightseeing – check out the last post! –


II. Mehendi, or ‘henna party’

The next day, girls woke up early for so-called Mehendi. Thinking that it would be rather small affair (only girls were initially invited and it was around the lunchtime), I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a giant ball room in a 5* star hotel, opposite the place we were staying. It housed not only dreamy ‘tents’ with colorful curtains for the henna painters, but also a bar, dance floor, set of dining tables and huge amounts of food in the adjacent room. What started as a henna painting, quickly turned into crazy party with free-flow of drinks and wild dancing! And all that before the actual Wedding Party (‘Sangeet’),  that was supposed to happen later in the evening…

::My first henna party! Indian henna is actually a dark-brown paste that dries out and fall off leaving the orange paint (and smell!) on the skin for about 2 weeks. The most difficult part of this experience is to leave the henna to dry, which meant not to touch anything for 2hrs- not even a cup of fresh coffee served to you by the waiter!::

:::the patterns are improvised and different every time::

::the party getting started – can you spot the bar at the background? Apparently it is not only Polish wedding, where people start to ‘have fun’ from the early morning;D::

::what you can’t see here is a large delicious buffet in the adjacent room …::

::…so not only you can enjoy delicious drinks but also that amazing Indian food – unlimited…  yum but also – ouch!::

::surprise no 23846: disco lights and fun club music, with the western songs mixed into Indian style- it was awesome! If you haven’t clicked  in the beginning of the post, here’s your second chance: ::

::drinking,eating, dancing – and all that around the lunch time, BEFORE the actual wedding party…::

::the young couple finally arrives in yet another set of insanely beautiful outfits::

:: yes- I am somewhere there , can you see me..?:P::

::who said that the ‘photo opportunity swing’ is for  couples pics only? Michao socializing & making new Indian friends after few drinks..::

:: Beishi got tired;) and guys could not miss the photo opportunity..::


This would be enough for me already but (!) few wedding ceremonies were still ahead of us. Including: Sangeet, where we dance an Indian dance in front of actual Indians, official party in a groom’s house in the centre of Mumbai and the Sikh wedding…

Part II coming soon!

 

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This time pics not only by us but also whole bunch of people- thanks to all the friends that shared their pic in the whatsapp group!:*:*:*

Magical Mumbai – an express tour by our friend Mumbaikar

What brought Marlena and Michao to Mumbai ..?

Singapore has a large community of native- and Singaporean-Indians, so we can’t help having many Indian friends . One of them, Shikha kindly invited us to her wedding, taking place in her hometown that happens to be in India. Traveling to unfamiliar, exotic places is always exciting, but going to an unknown, exotic place with a whole bunch of friends to attend a ceremony of local religion with local families is a whole new level! 😀

I admit that I had some second-thoughts before this trip, perhaps because of so many peculiar and horrifying news from India on collective rapes, assaults and crime in general. However,  I’ve found out many times already, that you should not shape an opinion before seeing the place by yourself. The morning paper on the doorstep of my hotel room curbed my optimism a little bit…

:: Hello India and your creepy newspaper captions…::

   I feel that I should be writing a post about what NOT to do in Mumbai, because we have been keeping told by our Mumbai-friends NOT to take public transport, NOT to take a taxi on ourselves, etc.  I must immediately spoiler that throughout the whole weekend we stayed perfectly safe and nothing bad happen. Moreover- Mumbai made a really good impression on us!  How intense the weekend was -and how little time we had for sightseeing- I will try to convey in the next post on the Indian wedding (actually weddingS because there were three!) ;

A few quick introduction facts about Mumbai:

  • Mumbai lies on the west coast of India and -naturally- has a deep natural harbor
  • Mumbai is the richest, but also the most populous city of India, where about 20 million people live. But! You can not see it so much in the city center streets or in the cafes. It is crowded, but in a colorful and lively way (most ladies wear traditional Indian outfits)

  • Mumbai is known worldwide for being home to Bollywood, the Hindu film industry. And although Bollywood is not a single place, but rather a film studios scattered throughout the city, you can go through the neighborhoods of the Bollywood star’s residences and even meet them in nightclubs. Bollywood is, of course, a reference to American Hollywood, as a reminder of the overwhelming number of movies produced when Mumbai was still called Bombay.

:: Feeling like a Bollywood star in my wedding outfit 😀 :::

  • What is it in the end – Mumbai or Bombay? It turns out that Bombay is the anglicized name of the original ‘Bom Bahia’ (‘Good Bay’), and everything English is associated with colonial times, so in 1995 it was changed to Mumbai. As for me, Mumbai sounds as English as Bombay but what do I know.

The sentiment apparently remained:

:: Michal does not know yet how hot it is going to be in this outfit…::

   Due to the intense wedding schedule, we did not have much time to explore, so the native Mumbaikar (and accidentally our fellow PhD Student) took us for an express tour to all the MOST amazing places&activities in his city. Here they are – arranged subjectively in random order:


No 1. Taking a ride on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link
Our hotel was located near the airport, so to get to the city center there are two options: the road through the city or a new sea-link on the bay, shortening the travel time from 60-90 to 20-30 minutes. Believe me, shortening time is not the strongest argument for sea-link. The costly (250 million $!) bridge guarantees a panoramic view of Mumbai like no other place. As soon as we got on the bridge we all gasped the well-deserved ‘Wooooowww’. The ride lasts a few minutes, so you can enjoy the view or turn around and ride again (the bridge is inaccessible for pedestrians).

No 2. Mysterious, haunted places and old colonial estates
Mumbai is full of unusual Indian-British (or correctly: ‘Indo-Saracenic’) architecture and walking the streets, I could not take my eyes off the beauty of aged and authentic tenement houses.

Strolling in the nicer part of the city center, among the wealthy estates, we noticed that one of them looks very neglected and abandoned. Nihar (not to be confused with Michal) solemnly declared that the house is empty because everyone in Mumbai knows that it is haunted and no one dares to occupy it… Alvaro teased me to take a photo, because apparently only then you can see the ghost. I refuse to look closely at this picture … and you?

It turned out that Mumbai – as befits a former English colony- is full of haunted places! One of the most unusual I’ve seen was the luxurious Trident Hotel, or actually its 13th floor. Located just above the ‘Queen’s Necklace’ (see below), despite the privilege of one of the best views in Mumbai, it decided to close the entire floor of the building! I’ve heard that some hotels skip the 13th in their rooms numbering but to skip the whole floor …? In such a location ..? With such a view ..??? Supposedly, there were so many complaints and strange incidents involving not only hotel guests on that floor, but also people on the street passing underneath it, that the hotel decided to totally shut it down and paint over the windows. Equally strangely, the rooms above and below this floor began to be besieged by tourists …

:: Over-painted windows on the 13th floor of the Hotel Trident … brr! ::

No. 3. Marine Drive and admiring the “Queen’s Necklace” 
Marine Drive is a 3.6 kilometer boulevard by bay of the southern Mumbai, gracefully shaped in a letter C. Called the Queen’s Necklace, because of the street lanterns lights reflecting in the water of the semicircular bay, resembling a string of pearls. Local meeting place and great spot for watching sunset over the city and chill out with friends!

:: Semi-circular bay, Michao, our Indian princess Anania, Francesco ::

:: Colorful Mumbaikars on the boulevard of Marine Drive ::

:: Also- an awesome place to watch the sunset::

No. 4. Gateway to India – the most symbolic monument representing Mumbai
The construction on the threshold of the small port was meant for the majestic welcome of King George V in 1911, but got completed … 10 years later. Sadly, King George could admire the promise of something amazing instead, in the form of  the cardboard model (upon his arrival to India, only the foundations were laid). For the British coming to India was supposed to be a symbol of the power and majesty of the British Empire.

* Fun Fact* – After the announcement of independence by India, the last British troops symbolically passed through the Gateway on their way out, during the ceremony in February, 1948.

::Photo of Gateway to India at night and from behind the fence- the effect of sight-seeing before or after some wedding ceremonies.. ::

No. 5. Taj Mahal Palace HOTEL(just across the street)

Nihar brought our attention to this particular hotel, because apparently it is very famous. What is it famous for..? For pretending to be THE Taj Mahal ..? You’ll be surprised, but no (but I wonder if someone ever went for it). The 5-star Taj Mahal Palace HOTEL, opened in 1903, and was a symbol of India’s economic progress. And that’s why it was chosen as the main target of a Pakistani terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. The attack, or actually a series of attacks, were conducted on such a scale and in such legendary places that it’s still vividly remembered (more here) …

:: Do we look poor..? We tried to enter the famous Taj Mahal Hotel but they did not let us in ::

No. 6 Marketplace with mega-cheap clothes, handbags and shoes in Bandra West
Magical place where we first felt what the Indian crowd meant and where you could buy a piece of clothing for a dollar.
(There is no photo because a I was a bit scared to take the camera out, plus Michal was complaining on the heat in his long-sleave shirt shirt and tight jeans, therefore we had to take refuge in the coffee shop with air conditioning)

:: The best side of globalization- cappuccino in Mumbai ::

No. 7. Bars and Cafes
• Our favorite Bombay Coffee House, a salvation from the crowds and heat:

Leopold Cafe, known for its noisy atmosphere and the dirty fans since 1871, is currently attracting (?) tourists thanks to the bullet marks visible in the walls from the above-mentioned 2008 attacks. It was here that terrorists started the horror and after few minutes of massacre of cafe’s quests and staff, they headed for the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

:: Interior of the famous/infamous Leopold Cafe ::

::Upstairs of the Leopold Cafe ::

No. 8. Mumbai slams
I don’t know how about you, but ever since the Slumdog Millionaire movie, I was embarrassingly curious how the real slums look like and I ask Nihar if we could make a ‘tour’ around them. Nihar explained, that even passing through wouldn’t be too safe, though. Also, I should not be overly sympathetic, because the government is trying to help people and reduce the slums, for example by occasionally demolishing slums neighborhoods and giving out decent flats. What the clever Mumbaikar does then? Apparently- rent out the flat and build themselves a new slums,returning to sweet doing-nothing, living on the rent money…

No. 9. Urban beach-  the only beach in the world where people do not come to sunbathe…

Is there any other reason to come to the beach? It turns out that … YES! Since India is a country of amazing food, the Indians are holding picnics there. Another shocking fact is that no one undresses to trunks or bikinis- even in spite of 40 (!) heat…

Moving around Mumbai, such beaches, boulevards and places to chillout in the outdoors are at least plenty.

:: Picturesque low tide ::

:: Group photo over the low tide is a must;) ::

No. 10 City taxi ride and local tuk-tuk
As you may imagine, Mumbai is huge, and as I wrote, we did not have much time. Using public transport is one of the things that apparently you should not do as a foreigner in Mumbai.  Luckily, the taxis are cheap, so it’s not the worst idea to ride in it around the city, admiring Mumbai through the car windows (preferably with a local friend , who will explain to you what you are passing by).

:: A tuk-tuk ride is an adventure in itself::

No. 11. Romantic park near the hotel

Romantic, because of the hugging couples sitting around, but as you follow the alley a little further, there is an unhealthy proportion of the number of men to women, so we gave up the exploration …


   In summary – the pictures will never reflect the crazy and hot vibe of Mumbai – you just have to come and see it by yourself! And if you are curious about the main purpose of our trip, ie Indian wedding – come back here soon!

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Weekend Trip to Maldives – snorkeling, diving and public islands

…Maafushi – a public island in the Maldives…

Sitting on an extremely, ekhm, interesting lecture on Biomedical Engineering Systems, I received an email from one of the low cost Asian airlines with Maldives offer. Since my birthday was approaching, I thought – it ‘s a sign! So after a quick confirmation from Michao, I bought the tickets and started thinking how not to spend a lot of money on such a holiday. The plan was that we would go to Male for the weekend and see what the Maldivian capital looks like. Then, however, out of curiosity, I began to look at the hotels on the nearby islands and found them to be quite affordable and reachable by public transport! Everything turn out pretty manageable and I couldn’t wait for our adventure!

…capital of Maldives – Male 

I. Male – first impression

…dark night in the Maldives – ‘view’ of Male from the airport island …

It started mysteriously, because we landed in the Maldives after dark. The main island-capital –Male, can be reached only by ferry, and because we were afraid that there won’t be any ferries, we booked a hotel on the island-airport beforehand. Meanwhile, upon arriving, it turned out that are no taxis, and the buses to the residential part of the island are less frequent than the boats to Male … In anticipation of the transport we sat down before the terminal on a lovely bench overlooking the capital, where we could start enjoying the oceanic climate and ice creams from the airport’s Burger King.

…Michao in front of Hulhumale Airport Terminal…

When we finally reached our hotel, all the food establishments had closed, so we entered the only open place we found. As the Maldivians have mostly Indian roots, local food is a-familiar for us from Singapore- food characteristic of this nation (which is too spicy for me -no matter how hungry I am).

Walking through the dark streets of Hulhumale we felt a bit like … in Poland – sidewalks, architecture, streets, trees … we could not get rid of this strange feeling.

The next day after a quick cappuccino over a rather cloudy sea, we went to the ferry terminal to catch a boat to Male. Boats turned out to be running every 20min, so quickly we found ourselves in the capital. We had few hours to get to another ferry terminal ,on the other side of the island, this time to get a public boat to our final destination island- Maafushi. I know that sounds like we were walking a lot, but these little islands are really tiny (Male has just ~ 2.5km2). Besides, there is no better way to get to know a new place than to ‘get lost’ in its side streets and soak up the local atmosphere.

…banana tree behind a gate on one of the streets of Male …

I had only one small problem … I do not know what I had in my head, that this time I took a small suitcase instead of a backpack. Maybe I thought Male streets would be made of marble instead of old, cracked asphalt? Difficulties in breaking through uneven, chaotic streets and loud scooters whizzing around made us quit exploring and wanted to teleport to a less urbanized environment as soon as possible. In the meantime, we also got caught in a tropical rain, so we hid in the restaurant for a delicious Maldivian lunch, which in my case was spaghetti. Michao ordered a local dish and got something that resembled an instant soup.

Without much hassle, we bought ferry tickets to Maafushi at the ferry terminal and for the first time since arrival we encountered foreign tourists. Public transfer was quite interesting – bored locals, mixed with calm Chinese and excited Western tourists, small makeshift shop, and around us – island paradises and dolphins jumping out of the water…

II. Maafushi – an ordinary island in paradise

The journey lasted about 2 hours, and when we got off at Maafushi we were greeted by rather rainy weather (the classic of our trips in Asia …). Maafushi is an incredibly small and flat island that can be walked around in 10 minutes. There are no sidewalks and streets – there is more or less beaten sand (still better option for my suitcase’s wheels than hollow pavements in Male).

We reached our small beachfront hotel quickly, where we managed to get a free upgrade to a sea view room (always ask! this trick worked for me in many different places, like Hong Kong, Philippines or Australia).

…sea view turned out to be a palm tree view but I do not complain;)…

III. What can you do in the Maldives ..?

The receptionist spoke good English and immediately offered us tours at good rates. As we had very little time (1.5 days), we decided on island hopping with a few snorkeling spots for the last day. That same evening we went out to the ‘city’, where we found several hotels, several restaurants and several dive shops, where we booked 2 dives for the next day (if the weather improves). Fortunately, the weather was ok and before breakfast and before diving we went to see the beach and bathed in the Maldivian sea for the first time (of course, in modest clothes, not to offend the locals).

…Information about the dress code, ie the ban on bikinis and other immodest outfits…

…Maafushi morning …

Soon after, we got into boat to sail out to our first- ‘skills refreshing ’- dive. Cruising around with a diving team alone was a great experience. After descent into the water (the deeper the colder – our license allows us to descend to 18m) you could soak in the sun on the upper deck and admire the amazing color of the water, posh resorts and wild public islands.

How was the diving ? Since then I recommend to do the ‘skills refreshment’  in the pool rather than the open sea. One of the exercises is letting  in and then out some water under the mask, while being submerged to a depth of about 1.5 . Michao of course coped well, but in my case the water came into my eyes and nose immediately, I began to choke and I had to surface to catch my breath. Water that has fallen into my lungs stayed there, as well as awkward fact that if this situation happens at a greater depth I will not have such easy escape to the surface *, affected the comfort of my dive a little but it was still fun. We saw huge turtles, sharks and my favorite – eagle rays!

* Before the ascent you need to do the decompression stop, ie stop for about 5min at a depth of 3m

Returning to our island, I noticed a tall concrete wall at its end. It turned out that it is nothing more than .. a prison! The criminality in ‘paradise’ is another thing , adding to bad sidewalks, the ban on alcohol and women in burqas, which I have never imagined here. Although being imprisoned in the Maldives doesn’t sound so bad  …

…prison on the tropical island (gray wall on the right side)…

Apropos alcohol ban – it is actually very strictly adhered to. That is why the evenings at Maafushi are rather peaceful, there are no such things as clubs or beach bars, that can be found in other Southeast Asian countries (including Muslim ones). The only exception are private resort-islands.

…and I thought i came across a cold beer! Nope – it’s just a non-alcoholic imitation …

…peculiar mesh benches…

The next day we went for a quick island hoping (quick because the same evening we had a speedboat to Male and later in the evening a flight to Singapore). And here again we benefited from the flexibility of locals and the ability to get things done on the spot. The half-day trip was extended for us by a couple of hours so we could see as much as possible before we leave.

So we set out with our fellow passengers for a few snorkeling spots that were quite rich in colorful tropical fish. Whenever I swim in their natural environment, I feel guilty that I kept their sisters and brothers in an aquarium that is no comparison to the vast coral reefs.

To get bigger fish to swim to where we were snorkeling, we got bottle of food. Michao did not hesitate to spray it in my direction, which resulted in a mass of bizarre fish brushing against me with they slippery bodies trying to catch the pieces of food. Buee!

Another cool moment was to land alone on the sand bar, a piece of sand emerging from the sea, and watching our boat sail away … And it was thanks to the fact that for the rest of the passengers it was the last point of the program and they were returning to Maafushi. That’s why we had a private piece of sand in the middle of the sea just for myself and my birthday,non-alcoholic champagne, which was pretty amazing!

Unfortunately the boat came back and took us for lunch on an nearby island which turned out to be even smaller and even more ‘local’ than Maaf.

On the spot we were taken to one of the huts, that fitted only one table, but with a tablecloth. The choice was fried rice or fried noodles and grilled fish which looked too similar to those we had recently fed, so to Michal’s delight, I gave him my portion.

After the meal it was time to enjoy the beautiful, crystal-blue water for the last time, at the local bikini beach.

IV. Epilogue

I definitely recommend visiting public islands in the Maldives. While the Male is chaotic and not very friendly, the nearby islands give an incredible opportunity to experience tropical nature and to see the life of the locas, for which everyday life is life in paradise.

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Modest Maldives – how to travel in Maldives on a budget

…in my mind Maldives was some divine place in heaven, inaccessible to ordinary mortals…

Maldives are associated with shockingly blue water, pristine white sand beaches on uninhabited islands, strings of water villas and of course– luxury. You might think that lucky Maldivians have to be very wealthy if their resorts charge over 1000$ per night, right?

…Michao admires the water-villas during our island hopping …

I. What is the truth? Where are the Maldivians since the islands are ‘uninhabited’ ..?

Maldives is a real country on Planet Earth with a little over 393,500 inhabitants, which make it the smallest in Asia by land and population.  If you wonder how this mysterious population looks like, I will give you a hint – Maldives lies southwest of India and Sri Lanka…

… the local crew and the lower deck of the speedboat on which Michao was lounging …

Okay, so going back to wealthy Maldivians there is another shocking surprise. It turns out, that Maldives suffer from unbelievable level of corruption. Apparently, few people in the government sells its little islands to international hotel brands for millions of dollars. The money goes to only few pockets, whilst the local people live in rather poor conditions on the public islands. If you want to know more, check out this documentary [click].

… Maldives capital – Male, and just behind it an island-airport …

If you are more of adventure traveler and want to see by yourself how ‘the paradise’ really looks like, OR you don’t have extra few thousands of $ lying around and still crave for Maldives- I have good news. You can travel in Maldives cheaply! The trick is to … stay on public islands. This will not only save you a lot of money, but you would also be contributing to local communities rather than international corporations.

And by saving money I mean the whole range of things that are crazy expensive in Maldivian’s resorts:

  • transfer: the resorts are located on private islands, so you have no choice but fork out extra few hundreds of $ for a private boat or plane to get you there upon your arrival to the capital island – Male. However, if you stay on public island, you can use a public transport, which in this case is a small ferry. In fact, the ferry ride is one the cheapest I have seen around SE Asia, only 1,5$!

…the interior of the public ferry to Maafushi Island …

  • accommodation: I can imagine that there is nothing like Maldivian resort, but there really are other options for budget travelers. We paid only 30$ per night/per room in a nice hotel by the beach on Maafushi Island.

… who would’t want to stay in a room where you can go out to the beach directly through the window?:) …

  • activities: I have no idea how expensive that might be on private island (probably – very very expensive) but on public one there were few dive shops, so you can negotiate the price. We paid 100$ for 2 dives and only 30$ for the tour around the ‘neighborhood’, and that included the whole day of island hopping in a cool speedboat, snorkeling and lunch in local ‘restaurant’!

… island hopping and chilling on the rooftop of our speedboat …

II. And now the best part: Luxurious Resorts Travel Hack!

Even if you stay in a cheap hotel on Public Island you can still experience the luxury of a resort! How..?

Public island hotels organize 1-day ‘resort trips’, for as low as 15$. There is additional entrance fee to the resort (from 43$ to 183$- depending on the resort, including buffet lunch and unlimited drinks). So you can treat yourself for a day or two and enjoy the luxuries… cheaply;)

III. Warning!

If you like the idea of public island stay, you need to know that Maldives is a very strict Muslim country – total alcohol ban and ‘appropriate’ outfit applies. I traveled around the Muslim countries in SE Asia and usually the rules were pretty relaxed. Surprisingly -not in this case. There really is no alcohol in the local bars, shops and even hotels, at which entrance we are reminded about the island ‘dress code’.

I guess we could survive those few days of holidays without a drink but we absolutely cannot imagine Maldives without swimming in that insanely-blue water freely, right…?

As always there are few ways around this:

– you could do a resort-trip with a day of open-bar and unlimited bikini time,

– make sure your public island has a ‘bikini beach’ – which is a zone where only foreigners can enter to expose their shameless bodies as much as they want,

… my “swimsuit” on the public beach …

– bikini ban applies on the islands but no one cared what I wore on the boat while island hopping or during snorkeling;)

Questions? Comments? Any Travel hacks/ ideas for me? Let me know in the comments!

In the next post –> how does Maldivian public island looks like?

 

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