Dave's Maldives & Dubai

Dave's Maldives & Dubai

December 18-28, 2010

I put the Maldives on my radar I think about two years ago, after reading an airlines magazine that said the country would go under water sometime this century. In fact the government was even already negotiating with three other nations to move the entire population...wow, well I better go see there before it disappears! Traveling by myself, the luxury resort option probably wouldn't make sense socially, so a dhoni with a small group of fellow travelers like I had seen from Gap or World Explorers seemed to be the solution.

After investigating the dhoni further, and knowing myself well as I get older, it seemed too "rustic"- no air con, meals that might be too fish oriented. And that is how I settled on a bigger boat with more amenities. Then I think I was a little bored with my freetime in July, did some flight research and pulled the trigger for over Christmas.

Sticking with my philosophy of having two highlights, I took a flight that would give me a layover in Dubai as well.

Saturday 18th

"In London, tens of thousands of travelers who have been trying to head home for Christmas since the weekend remain stranded as Heathrow airport operates at a third of capacity and as snow, ice and frigid temperatures turned rail and road travel into chaos."- article
As luck would have it, it was the right choice to pay more and go through Dubai. Had I taken the less expensive charter flight out of London there is a good chance I would have been held up in this mess, as many of my fellow boat passengers were.

Continental #3486 3:55pm AUS to 5:05pm Houston

Emirates #212 6:25pm to Dubai (DXB) 19th 7:05pm

The widest seatback screen I have seen, plus electricity and USB port- awesome. This flight was over 8000 miles and 14hrs.
I managed to watch the redone Clash of the Titans and all ten episodes of The Pacific, which was VERY well done.

Sunday 19th

United Arab Emirates


"As of 2007, Dubai was the 8th most visited city of the world. Dubai is expected to accommodate over 15 million tourists by 2015. Dubai is the most populous emirate of the seven emirates of United Arab Emirates. It is distinct from other members of the UAE in that a large part of the emirate's revenues are from tourism."

So I would have about 8 hours total to run around here.

Several weeks before leaving I heard someone say that Emirates would put you up in a hotel if you had a layover over a certain number of hours, so a few days before the trip I called and I was eligible- awesome! It would be nice to have a shower and maybe some time in a bed.

The regular hotel was full, so they put us here at the Majestic Hotel.
#105 of 402

Dropped my stuff in the room then took a 25 dirham taxi ride to the Burj Kalafi- the tallest building in the world now- where I had a 9pm ticket (the last entrance time) to go up to the observation deck.

Kids in hamster balls (OK, Zorbs) on water, how novel.

Burj Kalifa being built animation.

9:30 fountains get going.

Below you can see the fountain show starting up.

So I was up there about 35 minutes.

And was able to catch the last fountain show at 10pm.

"Dubai has been called the "shopping capital of the Middle East". Dubai alone has more than 70 shopping malls, including the world's 7th largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall."

On my earlier taxi ride I was pleased to have noticed a KFC just down the street from my hotel, it was after 10pm so I was worried it might be closed, but apparently it is open 'til somethin like 4am, wow!

I blend into Dubai surprisingly well I suppose, as the counter staff initially addressed me in Tagalog thinking I was Filipino like they were. Yeah, they dug me.

A fantastic meal- they had mash & gravy, which some countries don't have. And spicy and original chicken. What was different- a roll of bread instead of a biscuit.

There was a decent 24hr supermarket too on the short walk back to the hotel, what a convenient city. Picked up some instant soups I thought might come in handy.

Monday 20th

I took about an hours nap, but was in a deep enough sleep that when the alarm went off I felt wrecked, but still was better off for the good sleep though. A nice shower too, then a 2am shuttle back to the aiport.

On my way over I was started thinking to myself that having to stop in Dubai might just be a hassle, that it would have been nice just to keep flying straight through...well, I would have to say I had a smile on my face the whole time, and for what it was found the place fascinating and enjoyable.
Taking a taxi around at night and looking around jet lagged at the bright lights gave me a combo impression of Tokyo and Vegas, but certainly with a not overbearing Arab twist.
It also seemed extrmely clean, safe, had amenities, everyone spoke English well, and was reasonable to get around.

Gee, Santa Claus sure looks grumpy.

I was previously checked in and made it through immigraton and security like a breeze, seemingly not much going on...but when you get to the gate areas it was packed with people, felt like a mall at Christmas time.

Emirates #658 3:25am Dubai to Male (MLE) 8:30am

With a one hour time difference, flight was about 3.5 hours and 1891 miles.

"In the English dictionary, an 'atoll' is defined as "a ring-shaped coral reef and small island, enclosing a lagoon and surrounded by open sea." Within this definition, there are many hundreds of atolls in the Maldives."
French Polynesia and The Cook Islands have beautiful atolls like here as well, but both have MUCH more substantial land mass for their main islands. Also the Maldives had fantastic sands and beaches, Tahiti really has very little actual beach.

"The word "atoll" is derived from the Maldivian word "atholu", the only Maldivian word to have found it's way into the English dictionary."

Tahiti is famous for their overwater bungalows, and I think it is legit for this place to be a second location for them.

Like this shot, you can even see the shadow of our plane.

The pastel, art deco-ish main city of Male.
About one-third of the 300,000 people in the country live here.

"Arrival to Male, Dhoni transfer to the MV Yasawa Princess. Late afternoon leisurely cruise to Kuda Bandos."

I must admit I was a little frustrated/disappointed with a slow start to the trip here- after arriving at the airport we sat around for two hours or so waiting for people on other flights to come in, many of which didn't show up until the next day due to the weather in London. Then once we got on the boat, that was it, we weren't doing anything but sitting there until the next morning. So between lunch and dinner I read an old issue of Wired that I had on me...

At the airport I got to speak with fellow American passenger Lance from L.A., a former Airforce ROTC guy and also traveling by himself for the week doing the dive package, and then a few days in Dubai on the way back. Good guy.
At the airport souvenier shop I'd also get a fish chart, a more detailed map than anything I could find on the internet, and a very informative atlas as well.

Our home for the next week, the Yasawa Princess.
It doesn't look like anything special, but when I was first researching this trip I was focused on a dhoni cruise. Fortunately I know myself rather well at this point and identified several potential problems: no air conditioning, possibly too much seafood/limited menu to my taste, too small a group? So I found this option and went for it.

Front lounge for our orientation.

As I expected, the passengers were almost all older Brits. While I knew exactly one other American (my friend Wendy, that had just visited in November- a month ago) that had actually been to the Maldives, almost all of the Brits had been here four times plus.
There were three Americans besides myself, and I think that covers our nationalities. I think there were four of us under the age of 50.

Large enough room, cabin #5 on the top deck, with a window.

Decent size bathroom for a small boat.

Top deck area.

Lunch- a Chinese garlic chicken and a fish with oyster sauce, and also had crram of mushroom soup.
Often the food wouldn't be very temperature hot. Also offered was red cabbage salad, onion and pineapple salad, steamed rice, assorted vegetables, broccoli mourney, and fresh fruits.

I didn't think I would find any seahorses in the Maldives, and unfortunately was correct.

Bar- all drinks were included in the price, outside of premium liquors.
Or instead of free drinks you could have picked the dive package.

Dinner- we would generally have a cream of something soup every night (tomato tonight), two types of salad that I didn't eat, and fries that were cooked somewhat incorrectly.
Here you also see beef gulash and a piece of pepper chicken.

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