Traveling to the Maldives
The forecast called for snow Thursday night. If the weather people were ever right I wouldn’t have been too nervous about my travel plans to the Maldives, but for some reason the Denver weathermen have yet to notice their model is almost always 12 hours behind schedule. Snow was falling at 5:30am Thursday morning when I awoke, and it continued until my delayed AA Flight took off closer to 10 instead of 9. Another maintenance problem they announced, plus de-icing.
Fortunately, they had changed the schedule on my original flight so many times, I was able to move to this earlier flight for free and have enough time to make my connection in Dallas where I met my friend Rootie. I think the last time I saw her was a little over a year ago on our snorkeling trip with the whales. It was then we decided to make our trip to the Maldives (on the border of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, south of India and west of Malaysia), along with a few other couples we met on the boat. Julie and Dustin have been enjoying a resort in the Maldives for a week and Ramona and Mike flew in a few days early to do the same. Once we arrive, we will only be in town the night before we get on the boat, but we are planning a few extra days in Dubai upon our return.
Aside from being slightly delayed, our flight from Dallas to London was uneventful. I think it took us about an hour to deboard the 777 and file through security before we enjoyed a long layover in the British Airways Lounge. American Airlines could take a lesson. The lounge offered a free champagne bar among other liquor choices, an expresso bar, and a full buffet breakfast!
Eventually we boarded a 747 to take a 6 hour flight to Dubai. I can’t remember the last time I was on a 747. I’ve always wanted to go upstairs…someday! With our delay and 3 hour time change, we got to customs around midnight along with 1,000 other people (no exaggeration). I believe we were the last plane to arrive as we were in a holding pattern, and once we landed we had to wait for a few planes to cross our path, so we brought up the rear of the 30 or so lines and 1,000 people.
For as much as I read that was not allowed in Dubai from certain books, photos, religious idols of worship, alcohol, and a variety of medications, I expected the customs agents, dressed in all white robes, black head bands and sandals to ask at least a few questions. Nope, we just had to pose perfectly for the camera on the painted spot indicating our feet should be at a 45 degree angle to the desk while we look up. We didn’t even have to fill out a landing card. Customs took so long our dive bags were already off the stopped carousel. After exchanging some dollars into dirhams, contacting the hotel about its shuttle bus, and getting randomly selected for another security line, we finally we made it to the exit doors where the taxi line filtered into the airport. Note to self, don’t make eye contact with the security guy, stay left, and follow a group, then we could have skipped the random security process at 12:50 at night! This short diversion caused us to miss the hotel shuttle that operates every 40 minutes, so we got a cab to drive us two minutes to the Millennium Airport Hotel for $9. Some guys told Ruth taxis were cheap…hmmm…maybe it was because the base rate from the airport was already $8.
At 1am, however, neither of us cared. We just wanted a little shut eye. Our room at the hotel was spacious with cute double beds and nice decor. I slept like a rock for 4.5 hours before we had to head back to the airport. I planned on sleeping until 6:30 in order to catch the 7am shuttle, but in typical Rootie fashion for airport connections, she flipped on the room lights at 6:15, announced it was 6:20, and then offered me some coffee to make up for my early wake up call and opened the blinds…haha! She didn’t think I could get ready that fast, though I pleasantly surprised her. After joining a much smaller customs line this morning, we walked close to a mile to get to our gate through Dubai’s enormous airport. We found a Costa Coffee on the way and picked up two medium coffees and a chocolate twist for 51 dirhams or $17. Maybe the taxi was cheap?!?
Shortly after entering our secluded gate area, we were bused to our plane, another 777 that was a few miles away! Emirates is still old-fashioned with the flight attendant dress code. The ladies all had their hair back in buns, and they wore the same shade of bright red lipstick. The menu offered two different types of chicken though by the time they reached the back of the bus, only the chili chicken was left. I can’t write home about that, but the rice was good. The best part of the flight was just after takeoff when the plane U-turned and flew right over the top of the tallest building and at the end when all the scattered islands in the aqua water came into view. After more customs in the Male Airport with the same strict Muslim rules as Dubai, soon we found the warm 94 degrees. The outdoor information desk called our hotel for us which had a rusty shuttle bus waiting. After dropping one couple off at a hotel next to the town dump, we continued on to our bed and breakfast, Le Vieux Nice Inn., the #2 B&B on Hulhule Island according to Trip Advisor.
The quaint lobby and friendly staff were inviting. They carried our bags up two flights of stairs to our small room which was attached to shared living space. I expect we won’t be using that area because it is like a sauna. I can’t say much for our view of the wall next to us, but the art above our bed lit up with led lights. For being here less than 24 hours, this place was a perfect stopover as most other places require a boat or sea plane ride to reach them. We walked the block to the beach that was somewhat smelly and made it seem dirtier than in reality. The fine sand was cleaner than the Texas coast and of course the water was clear, but this local beach was not representative of the gorgeous waters we saw overhead and plan to be diving in Monday. It was to be expected, however. From what I read, Hulhule Island in the North Male Atoll is not the place to be. It’s under significant construction and is far more populated than any of the unspoiled sandy spits we flew over, aside from the capital city Male. The beach did not allow bikinis or public displays of affection. The local women swam in the ocean wearing their burkas. I suppose it might have been nice to find a hotel with a private beach that allows a bikini, but by the time we made it to the end of the beach and back, it began pouring from the one black cloud above, so we returned to the hotel and ordered the local cuisine around 6pm. I don’t recall the local names for our meals, but mine was similar to fried rice and Rootie’s was like chow mein…delicious!
I could hardly keep my eyes open at 7:30, but by the middle of the night that changed as we hardly adjusted to the 10/11 hour time change from Central and Mountain, respectively. I blogged and Rootie watched a movie for a few hours. I can’t wait to get to the boat tomorrow to enjoy the sun, the wind, and the water that is bath temperature! ETB