After spending 11 days on Maafushi, we learned a few things that I think will help others traveling to this little, local island. There are less expensive places in the world to visit with beautiful beaches where you’ll feel detached from the rest of the world, but the Maldives is a special place. If we had the money to spend on the beautiful resort islands with the exotic bungalows over the water, we would’ve spent a few days there, but I’d still want a few days on Maafushi.
I love getting a glimpse into everyday life of locals. Seeing kids going to and from school, Hearing the call to prayer…even if it wakes me at 6 a.m. Seeing locals jumping on the back of motor scooters to get around the 1.8km island. Going into Suzy’s little Fine Bake Bakery for the best banana bread. Those little things aren’t available to someone staying purely at the resort islands.
Sand and palm trees everywhere makes me happy and relaxed. Granted we were not there during rainy season, and saw only a couple hours of rain the entire time. But having everything covered by sand, and nothing paved by cement or asphalt is relaxing. At first I was annoyed that I dragged sand everywhere, but then I got used to it and realized how much more peaceful it is to have nothing paved.
The all-you-can-eat BBQs (not in the Texas sense) of fish and chicken are fun, but after a few days we grew tired of them. So, we started asking the restaurants if we could order off the menus. Every time the answer was yes, and we ended up with better meals for less cost. We never ate enough to really cover the cost of the buffets, and quite honestly they were stressful to my in-grained American ways. Being shoved in a buffet where other nationalities’ customs are to take as much food as one can pile on a plate, cutting line, and being demanding to staff was stressful to me. There was one time where a brand-new platter of spring rolls was placed on the buffet in front of my daughter, she was excited to get a couple when a woman shoved her way in front of her and took all but 2. My daughter frowned at me, and I so wanted to yell at that woman…not the way I want to feel on a vacation! Our meals off the menu were so much better, freshly made, exactly what we wanted, and we just had to sit at our table and wait to be served while others battled it out in the buffet lines.
The Maldives is super customer-service oriented…but that doesn’t mean fast. They’re on island time, and the faster you fall into living on island time, the more relaxing your vacation will be. They’re super trusting, probably because you will go to jail and have no way off the island if you don’t pay, but no one ever asked for payment upfront. The dollar is the preferred currency, but you better get it before you land in the Maldives because ATMs will only give you Maldives Rupee. (And your dollars better not have a rip in them either, because they will not be accepted. My $20 bills from the U.S. had the smallest little tear in them, and it was as if I had Monopoly money.)
There are no hawkers chasing you down or hassling you on the beach. We’ve been on beautiful beaches in Thailand, Mexico, Bali and my daughter would want to leave because of the hawkers. The girls went scuba diving with Passions and have never been so spoiled on their dives. The Passions guys would load all of their equipment and tanks in their little truck in the morning and then setup everything on the boat. The girls literally just had to show up, put the equipment on, and dive. They even changed out the tanks for them between dives while the girls drank the tea they gave them. Then after every dive, they didn’t even have to take their gear off the boat. The Passions guys took everything back to the dive shop, washed it all, and hung it up to dry. It was all fun and no work!
Then, our ode to watermelon juice! I think we drank it with every meal, and it’s sooooo good. We drink it a lot in China, but there was something about the watermelon juice in the Maldives that just tasted so much better and refreshing. I’ve only been back in China a few days and I really miss our watermelon juice. We also appreciated the alcohol ban because that meant annoying, loud drunk people didn’t exist on the island. (Although, the resort islands do allow alcohol. So, if you want to drink you can head over there or onto the Kaani yacht that is anchored just off-shore and serves alcohol.) But we liked the family atmosphere on Maafushi. My teenage daughters appreciated not being hit on by much older drunk guys at night, and this momma also liked that she didn’t have to become momma bear on those men–an increasing problem in recent years.
You know it’s a good vacation when your daughter has tears flowing down her face because she doesn’t want to leave! Tears at the end of a vacation because it was such a great break from reality and stressful every day life means it was exactly what the soul needed.