Thursday, May 01, 2014

Beyond Thailand I Seek, Maldives I Had Been


Lux Maldives
There is no loud drone of the propeller, I am not even in the cabin of the seaplane. And yet, when my thoughts drift to the spectacle, the endless spots of emerald atolls spread across the deep blue, the odor of jet fuel is present I swear. I will be there again someday, I am now in mind. Having traveled to most island destinations already in Thailand, I embarked on a journey recently to see how best more could it get beyond this kingdom. My love for coastal resorts, my divine cravings for floating shallow in an ocean of shimmering crystalline sea. The tide was gentle, warm it was caressing, I can taste the saltiness in the air now, daylight dreaming, my physical self sits here blogging. Astral traveling to Lux again I am now.

It cost 5 times more then it normally would in Thailand, a coastal retreat from the barrage of constant work in Bangkok. Bangkok Airways has flights to Male direct, on promotions it could cost as little as 15,000 Baht return. The seaplane rides from Male to the southern atolls was equally expensive, and it was only 25 minutes compared to the 4 hours from Bangkok. Expensive it was, paid for willingly but dearly I did. We engaged several agents, and the best offer came from Alpha Maldives. Tell them your budget, tell them what you want. In no time they will revert with several packages by mail, followed by calls to listen to your opinions.

Water is so Clear
Arriving on Male, it looked like any other provincial airports in Thailand. The big difference was the seas surrounding the island of an airport itself already filled my awe level to the brim. Immediately when I landed and was waiting for the bus that brought us to the seaplane terminal, I was in my paradise. Urban island enclosed in 360 horizon of candy like glsitening tones reflected off my wide angle lens, the shutters clicked a hundred times and more. I was exploding with ecstasy, like an over packed oak barrel streaming out golden whisky between the wooden seams.

They pilot Barefoot!!
We were pushed back into our seats, like a fast accelerating car but unlike the strength of the Boeing we were in. The view turned into a mist. The pilot pulled the yoke gently, his hairy barefoot trusted the paddles in minute increments to stabilize our flight path. Rotation, the pontoons lifted out of the water, the mist ceased. As we climbed, a thousand atolls came into view. The dark ocean decorated with atolls of contrasting turquoise shallow lagoons. It was like craters on the moon stretching beyond into the horizon, but it was exquisitely blue and stunning. As she climbed higher and cruise at 3000 feet, I was just stuck to the window looking out beyond the huge rotating propeller that was a blur, We don't get such picturesque settings in the Adaman.

Lux came into view, her rows of wooden lodges protruding from both sides of a curved walkway that extended out from white shorelines. Like a leaf it was shaped, each branching veins ending with a spot of a villa. The view became a mist again when we touched water, the plane maneuvered towards the jetty. A row of staffs stood there waving, dressed in white robes, gleaming in the afternoon sun, they gave us the warmest welcome. Actually it was really warm indeed the Maldivian climate, the sun pinched our skin as we disembarked. We had arrived in paradise, living our dream of a Maldivian honeymoon began. 


The Experience 


Lux is located on an island within the South Ari Atoll. She was a narrow strip of land that was about 1.8 km long. Featuring a northern and southern extended sand bank, she was flanked by a lagoon of corals and a drop off on her west. The eastern waters were weedy. Not much corals for the snorkeling adventurer looking for a good time mingling with the fishes, but a good time tangling with the leafy weeds. We could walk the entire island but it made the fats below my skin sizzled under the blazing sun. So we rented bicycles for 5 USD per day. There were free bicycles for us to use, they were the yellow ones which any guest have the rights to pick them up and ride off into the sunset leaving you stranded. For some reasons, it was either the seats on those bikes had problems or my butt was anatomically not correct. One day of riding and I am still sore weeks later between the cracks of my lower spine. What was pleasantly surprising was that while riding among the avenues of lush greens, we stumbled upon an unattended drink counter. Bottles of orange juice dipped in welcoming ice shimmering, melting slow. Free drinks for anyone to take, the small speckles of joy Lux put forth for us guest to beat the thirst driven up by the intense heat, the long rides exploring her baking grounds.

Swimming Pool where Island Kitchen Is
Breakfast was hearty with a wide range of food including Asian. There were two restaurants to choose from in the morning, East Restaurant and Garden Kitchen. First meal of the day was where we stuffed ourselves up with sustenance. That to be used waddling the crystalline waters or exploring the island till evening, skipping lunch. Nightfall, dinner time, and glad we did took on the half board package. A paid buffet dinner cost USD 75 per pax, drinks were not inclusive. Food was rather odd for my Asian palate but nevertheless, it was interesting for us to try out middle eastern cuisines. It was my first having the mushy hummus loaded with spice and a texture of ...things that comes out from baby's mouth. An island surround by sea and I sort of expected the freshest of seafood. It was strange, and this being one of only two negative remarks, was the seafood ain't fresh. Crayfish's meat was not holding and firm, and so were the prawns. Lamb at Allegria was too chewy, like a chewing gum that refused to split. But the flavoring was a right hint of seasoning, aromatically cooked perfect and definitely not bland like many western food back in Thailand. Chinese-chow-main in East Restaurant, they had Chinese chefs, agreed with me perfect.

Sharks Feeding
Activities and amenities were aplenty on Lux. Other than the butt breaking bicycles, there was a sea sports center and plenty of organized nature oriented activities to choose from. Asked for the time table and there I was spoilt for choice with what to do, which to pay and which was free. On the day of arrival in mid afternoon, we rested and headed to the northern tip for sharks feeding later during the evening. There were buggies that traversed the island and we hopped on one for the journey across beach villas and the staff quarters to arrive where the Prestige Water Villas were. There in the clear shallows, sharks and large fishes trashed in circles as bits of fish feed were thrown in for the entertainment of us guest. We sat legs dangling over the raised walkway, no sharks flew out of the water to remove our feet.

Stingray Feeding
Where the East Restaurant and Bar was on the next evening, a large sinister stark disc moved beneath the water thru and fro. Its movement almost graceful as we could see its circular wings flapped over the contrasting white sand below. In a straight course towards us it accelerated leaving the surrounding fishes stunned. With a show of power it lurched out of the water, over the wooden slope structure it engulfed the food from the dark hands of the Maldivian man. Good that stringrays do not have shark's teeth or else Maldivian man will have no more hands. The crowds jeered in awesomeness and so did I.

Our Room
Beach on North East Tip
Prestige Water Villas
Cycling About

Drifting around Lux

Front of my Villa
9 in the morning and out front my water villa was a vast expense of sparkles shone off the sea. Like a vast velvet sheet blown by a gentle breeze, undulating silk the panorama was. Breathtaking sight that I have always yearn for, granted my wish. I had greased myself with a good layer of SPF50 to avoid the painful pinch of the sun. Snorkel and mask smacked tight on my face, I launched into the inviting warm waters. Gingerly waddled away from the villa as it was shallow tide still, clusters of purple tipped corals greeted me. Tiny fishes they looked cute, of black and white stripes painted like a zebra their suit.

It was an Aquarium
Inquisitive larger brown fishes stared me close to my mask, and if I remained really still they attempted to feast on me. Some nibbles were ticklish, but the larger chomps were painful it was. I could not bite them back in revenge, I had my snorkel on. To avoid being eaten alive, in constant motion I learned I had to be. And then there were the huge grey fishes with colored tip fins. Inquisitively one swam near me and then fast into the distance it launched leaving a plume of swirled up sands..... or was it defecate? Never mind the excretions, for happily buoyant I was. In silence hearing my own breath, there was the low acoustic of waves beating corals from the drop off beyond. And in the orchestra of distance bubbling wash I could hear the chatter of beaked fishes nibbling the hard corals, it was like sound made when you rub coarse sand paper on stone, just more octaves lower the tone. I gazed out under the rolling velvet of sea, below the waterline a mirrored scene. Reflections churned the vista into a kaleidoscope of tonal blushes greens, with fishes of bright colors that interrupted the enchanting sight. Some disc like, some cigar like and some clown like, behold, I was in an aquarium, the fishes in flight.

Our Water Villas
When my back began to feel it was getting crispy like a good suckling pig, I retreated back into my villa. Turned the tap and the outdoor shower washed the saltiness away. Water was cold, it felt truly refreshing. Under shades I left my hair to dry in the breeze. The sun was high, red like a lobster in the mirror I was alright. Some guest were still out there, saw them standing, saw them swimming. In an infinity pool with no end they really were. Staring out sipping tea, the dark blue and strong greens beneath the cloudless sky. I was eager to get back into the water again, it was so truly captivating the scene, inviting, it was calling out my name.

The View
There was one day where we joined the house reef snorkeling excursion. It was complementary. And the other day we went for the paid one. Whichever it will be for you, be reminded, guest aplenty participating. Book them trips in advance. In Thailand, our tour guides dump us into the sea regardless of our swimming capability. They have no contingency plan either if we are to be caught by currents that will sweep us into the center of the Indian Ocean. In contrast here at Lux, guest are required to undergo a swimming test before they can join any such activities. We gathered on the beach where the arrival jetty was and we were asked to swim with fins and snorkel gear on outwards towards an instructor. No life jackets allowed. Then out in the deep where our foot ain't touching bottom, we were required to tread water, remove our snorkeling gear and wave 3 times towards the shore. If we had not drown by then, we will then be required put the gear back on and swim back to shore. That is when we were certified "passed" and allowed to join them trips. Those that died in the process will be banned from participating in any snorkeling excursions.

Her Environment

Joggers in the Morning
Why are the ultimate Maldivian holidays always so expensive? On Lux herself, they had to run and maintained their own desalination plants, two in fact they had. So that's where our drinking and fresh water came from. Now, how about where did our waste water go? They had their own waste water treatment plant. What ran the electricity on the island? Diesel generators. Since there was no reserve of oil below ground and an erected structure of an oil refinery will definitely spoil the scene, fuel gets delivered. Operating cost was high, so thus the price we had to pay. It must be costly and a challenge for most of the resorts there functioning in this manner. Since it was going to be probably one of my once in a life time trip because I am not a manufacturer of money, I paid willingly for the experience to get the best. I am not rich, I wish I am. I am one that will pay willingly for resorts that are environmental conscious, those that try their best to preserve the prissiness of nature such as The Racha back in Thailand.

It was a good choice I had chosen to stay 5 days and 4 nights at Lux. Not everything could be under her control in terms of her environment. Disappointingly from the third day on, the water villas were engulfed in what seemed like floating sewage. As the tide set in, it brought along a layer of brown oil like and bubbly flotsam from the west. From my line of business, they looked familiar and were sludge like those I seen floating on the final clarification process before treated water were dumped back into the river. Sources of pollutants unknown, the people on Lux told me they were from elsewhere and ensured me that it was not mass fish diarrhea. They may come on some days when the currents are strong. It was rather sad to see immaculate nature spoiled by an uninviting layer of oily brown, it was a letdown, I could not swim. So that's where I had to snorkel off the eastern beach, entangled in weeds and water was not as clear as that on the west.

 The Analogy 

Arrival Jetty
Forgo the last 3 days of unpleasant encounter and actually 10 years of island hopping in Thailand could not beat just 5 days on Lux. The privacy, the seclusion, the experience of having that pristine shoreline to myself. The shallow seas, the distant canvas of greenish blues, and me floating in waters with excellent visibility so splendid the undersea view. The corals and the dotting fishes, my underwater camera I played and no one near my business. Such places used to exist in Thailand, an example to speak of Koh Tachai. A day trip there on 800 meters of shoreline, more then 30 to 40 boats moored. The crowd and the noise, the litter and the invasion of nature. Somehow, sustainability is never a culture of Thailand. Just exploit, short term and leave the worrying till later. Protection of wildlife never on their minds, any stingray that strayed near any resorts will be speared, just like what I witnessed on Koh Kood. My Maldivian trip, opened my eyes. I had seen more this time, there is after all, paradises better then the gems of Thailand seas.

Back in Thailand Working

Missing Lux so Luch
Time seemed to fly on Lux, as always time compresses when one is enjoying. The fourth sunrise had arrived too soon, I greeted her skies of crimson hues. As usual the hearty breakfast, but dressed for the trip instead of casual we were. Our flight off the island was at a premature morning 9. That was when the most reluctant emotion I could ever had in my entire life set in to slow my boarding of the seaplane. I was seated next to the window, rotation, the clearing of mist. Lux, she grew smaller as the vast expanse of ocean came into view. Lux had left an everlasting scar of missing the resort every time I think of the sea. As the days grew hotter in Bangkok crossing April, my thoughts of Maldivian shores did not fade a little bit. In fact, the emotion only grew stronger with time and so does my passion for going back for more. There it is again, the odor of jet fuel, I can taste the saltiness in the air. But I am blogging in MacDonald's thousands of miles away. Yet I swear I am there now, I only have to close my eyes.

Under Seascape
That's our Villa
Calm Bay
Looking Out
This is the real Meaning of Infinity Pool
Eastern Shores
One of Two Pools
Green means OK To Swim
From our Villa
After the Rain
Sea Plane
Venturing Out Again
Walks under the Sun
The Jetty


Bestof2Worlds said...

Jewie. Congrats in order "Maldivian Hioneymoon"? Fantastic post and looks like a piece of heaven on earth. Not sure whether I should show wifey this or encourage her to learn to swim. Great picturess.

Jewie said...

Had not been blogging for more than a month, too much work. So decided on a big post this recent entry. Thanks for the well wishes and yeah... got married finally last year after near to a decade of relationship with me partner. It was a big move, it was a weird experience that Thai wedding. I had to wear strange pants and listen to hours of monks chanting. Maldives was our dream destination and we finally made it happen. Like I mentioned, it is one of those "must see" once in a lifetime places. Yeah... you gotta know swimming, or at least floating in order to enjoy what Maldives could offer. And I just caught up with your blog, all the best to you too.