Maldives (Mal-deeves) is a string of more than 1100 islands of which only about 100 are inhabitated. So, what has it got to offer? "Sun, Sea, Salt" - and I would add "Wind". The waters are crystal clear. The sky is a beautiful blue. The fishes are colourful. The corals are ... well, in some parts pretty, in other parts broken but I am not sure how much of it was caused by the tsunami and how much by snorkellers.
My wife and I spent three nights of glorious peace at the Club Med, Kani - an island 800 metres long and 200 metres wide. When you buy a vacation at Club Med, everything is paid for (unless you want extras). We arrived after midnight (partly due to the delayed departure at KLIA because some idiot checked in but did not board so they spent one hour digging through the luggage compartment to throw out his bag before we could take off) - and like most resorts checkout time is 12 noon. But guess what, guests (called Gentle Members, GM) can stay and enjoy all facilities and eat and drink until we board the boat to take us to the airport for our departure (we left the island at 10 pm). Yes, all you can eat and drink (expresso, capucino, beer and wine inclusive) throughout your stay. Snorkelling, windsurfing, kayaking, boating - all "free". If you want a Balinese massage, that's extra.
All in all, the food was fair, not excellent - we expected better for the money we paid. Sigh, we didn't see any lobster (not even big prawns) on the table but there's plenty of fish around. And even if you miss breakfast or lunch, they make sure you don't go hungry because snacks are available.
The traditional-looking huts (picture above) cost a bomb to stay in. They look lovely but that's not where we stayed. Most of the other buildings on land are rather plain looking concrete structures with metal roofing which I thought rather "ugly" given the authentic island architecture of the buildings you see in the picture above. I have no complains about the inside - modern, easy maintenance, clean and comfortable - and all have a view of the sea and beach.
Wonder how they get water and electricity? Drinking water comes from the sea (desalinated) so it tastes a little different which is why everyone goes for the bottled mineral water and that is so bad for the environment. By the time we left, the dustbin in our room was filled with empty plastic bottles. Electricity is generated on the island using diesel which is smelly and noisy (but luckily we were quite far away). The good thing is that almost every building has a solar water-heater on the roof. And where do they throw their trash? I am told that they burn it in an incinerator on a small island. Now that's not good.
The people who run the show are something else. They are called GOs or Gentle Organisers. They do everything including putting up a fantastic show. I tried to ask a few of them, "What makes a GO? What drives them?". Is it all fun and games? Carefree lifestyle? Is it because they love the sun and sea? They like meeting people? No one gave me a straight answer. But they work long hours sometimes from 8 in the morning until 12 midnight - and I am told for very low pay (compared to what, you may ask). And they are on half-year contracts and out they go if they don't measure up. Some are more friendly then others. But what I like is that there seems to be a deliberate effort to make sure the GOs come from all over the world. They have some 80 GOs and 4 of them are from Malaysia. There was even one "English" girl GO who was born in Singapore and shouted "Malaysia Boleh" when she discovered our roots.
Ah, and the highlight of our stay? Well, we were trying to catch the sunset but was quite disappointed because of the cloud cover. And along came Yuka, a GO, and the next thing we knew, we agreed to become models for the fashion show for the night. The dress Moong Nah wore cost more than a thousand Rufiyaa (that's about RM300) - see picture below. No we didn't get to keep the elegant clothes - just the memories.
Will we go back to Kani? Probably not. Will we go to another Club Med? Probably yes.
BTW, I will be going to Maldives again next week - enroute back from the APSA Congress in Colombo. Nah, I won't be stepping off the plane in Male.
p.s. Kanimoon is actually the name of a drink (it is said to have its roots in the Singapore Sling).