An additional synonym for 'paradise', the word would be the Maldives.
The Maldives are one of those places most people I know just plot for honeymoons one day and think it's super expensive and inaccessible. False. Completely false. When I tell you the Maldives are accessible and are NOT only for honeymooners, please believe me (as written in this itinerary I posted for Maldives). You definitely do not need to wait until right after your wedding to come here. This place is magic and worth the trip at any point in your life.
Monday, Dec 25, 2017
We planned our trip accordingly and were able to land in the Maldives on Christmas morning. I have flown over various islands in my life but trust me when I tell you that the view over the islands in the Maldives is something totally different. The water is so many shades of blue and there are so many tiny islands that you just try to guess which one of these beautiful plots of land could be your home for the next week. Unfortunately, our plane from Sri Lanka was running late and it had put us in a very tight schedule to make our speed boat to Maafushi. I rarely travel with checked-in luggage and this was MOST DEFINITELY one of the days where I wish we had none. Luckily, we made our speed boat just in time and enjoyed the bumpy 45min trip to Maafushi as best as we could. (Sidebar: Sherry and I had gone through a horrific boat ride back in 2015 coming from Venice to Croatia so since then, boat rides weren't exactly our favourite activity.)
Arrival - the small island of Maafushi. It was about 11am when we finally got to the island and we were fortunate enough that the hotel let us check in three hours early so we could spend the majority of Christmas day on the beach. Arena Beach Hotel would be our place to stay until December 31st. Very cliche to say but this hotel was small but with a lot of personality. The staff were incredibly nice and we would be seeing the same people every day for the duration of our stay. The best part of the hotel was that we were directly on a bikini beach so we could go upstairs and throw our tiny bathing suits on and go frolic immediately....which we did. I think by noon we had managed to finagle another tourist to take a picture of Sherry and I in our santa hats and red bathing suits to piss off everyone at home sitting in the cold. Merry Christmas!
The switch from the craziness of Dubai to this quiet island was great for me. All we had to do was walk 10 feet from the beach to where we could have our breakfasts, lunches and dinners. A big PLUS in the differences was also our breakfast was now included in the price (no more $42 per person brekkie), lunch barely came to $20USD for both of us and dinners were $12USD for a whole buffet. Cheaper food and a beach to eat it on is definitely my idea of blissful living, thanks. A bit of a nuisance was that everyone else on this island also preferred our hotels food to theirs so there was a couple of times where it was a packed house with not so many servers. Perhaps THOSE people should have picked better hotels. Yes, I am that petty.
Tuesday, Dec 26, 2017
As payback for my stunting on IG for Christmas, my whole body was burnt to a crisp. I wasn't even in the Maldives for 24 hours and my body was like 'LOL, you thought!' Major fail on my end and major pain in most of my pale skin turned tomato-ish coloured now. On this day I would be relaxing alone in the morning/early afternoon because Sherry had chosen one of the scuba diving excursions the hotel offered and went off to do that. Since I couldn't really be exposed in my bathing suit that day I decided to lay in a hammock in the shade for a while and then took a stroll around Maafushi. This island was officially the smallest I have ever been on. You could see from one end of the island directly through to the other. Without stopping, if you walked the full circumference of the island it would maybe take 20 minutes. During my walk I got to enjoy seeing more locals, I found a beautiful soccer pitch, empty non-bikini beaches and a prison. Somehow, on this tiny island, there was a whole ass prison. Didn't see that coming.
When Sherry returned we hoped to do another excursion that I had been looking forward to - night fishing. Sadly, for the entirety of our time at the hotel there was no point where the minimum (4 people) amount had signed up for it so we never got to go. Sucks. We just ended up doing a nice night walk around the island again and went to sleep.
Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017
Today was the day we were venturing out to experience the luxurious side of the Maldives we all see on Instagram. We took a day excursion from our hotel to the private island of Olhuveli, specifically, to the fancy pants Olhuveli Beach & Spa. I think it took about a 30min in a speedboat to get to this utopia. Holy shit, I promise you, the pictures I posted don't even do this place justice. From entry to every corner of the island, it was perfectly manicured trees, villas and beaches. We were allowed to use the whole island for the day and there was also a buffet lunch included in the entry price. I was especially elated at the sight of the famous overwaater villas. Every picture I have seen of the Maldives included these damn villas and I wanted to feel like a rich person too OK? I made sure to get plenty of pictures in front of those villas and fully take in another piece of my bucket list being crossed off.
This ended up being a mostly lazy day for us as we sat by the infinity pool before and after our lunch, drinking some rum. This was a notable experience as bringing liquor into the Maldives is illegal and we cannot access it on the 'local' island we were staying on. These private islands though? Bottoms up!
Thurs, Dec 28 + Fri, Dec 29 + Sat, Dec 30, 2017
We didn't have as hectic of a schedule in the Maldives as we did in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. One of my biggest regrets was that perhaps we should have gone to the Maldives first and then made our way to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Our jet lag had FINALLY somewhat worn off but there really wasn't anything to do at night in Maafushi because, let's be serious, its CRAZY dark outside and we don't have access to liquor. I can assume those on honeymoons get into a different variety of shenanigans in their private rooms at night, but like, that clearly wasn't an option for us two. From Thursday to Saturday we just would eat, lay on the beach, eat again, lay on the beach some more and then go to sleep. I feel no shame in that for once in my life I actually went somewhere and did NOTHING. I should add, these three days of nothingness were necessary with what was ahead for our journey home.....
Sunday, Dec 31, 2017
I'm just gonna tell all of you from the start - this goddamn journey home took 40 hours. 40. Goddamn. Hours. This was another reason we maybe should have reversed our schedule of going to the Maldives first and ending it in the UAE.
Alright, so, we were up at 5am on New Years eve to finish packing and get to our flight. While Sherry finished packing I did my last stroll on our bikini beach and took in the silence and warmth that would be absent from my life as soon as I got back to Toronto. We pulled some wild shit on this day, oh boy. There are scheduled speed boats from Maafushi to the airport throughout the day. You could take your own private boat, but that would be $150USD for both of you instead of the $25USD per person for the scheduled ones. Never in my life have I arrived in an airport with less than an hour until the flight departed. Not even boarding, no no, actual departure. We took a boat at 7:30am from Maafushi and arrived at the airport at about 8:15am. Boarding was set to begin at 8:45am. Take that in. We had 30 minutes to (hopefully) check in, check our luggage, make it through border control and get to our gate.
Small ting, we totally made it with time to spare!
I wouldn't suggest anyone else cuts it that close for their flights, but we somehow made it on time AFTER people telling us that it is 'busy season' and they recommended being at the airport 3hrs before departure. Guess sometimes you have to live your life on the edge, this was our morning on this edge. Sadly, customs confiscated the charcoal I had in my checked-in luggage for my bf's newly bought shisha and they also confiscated a souvenir lighter Sherry had purchased and also stowed in her checked-in luggage. Thank god we were running so close to our departure because if not? Sherry likely would have created an international incident over that damn lighter. It was a little weird though, we came in with those items into Maldives but we were not allowed to leave with them. Whatever, onto Sri Lanka.
We got to Sri Lanka on time and within an hour we boarded our flight continuing onto Dubai. It is now about 4:30pm and we are back at DXB airport. I had booked us a coach ride on the complimentary Etihad bus going from Etihad Travel Mall in Dubai to Abu Dhabi airport for 7pm. Let me tell you guys, this service is THEEEEE SHIT! You get to this place and you can check in for your flight from there. They took our luggage (which we didn't see again until Toronto) and gave us our boarding passes. There was a restaurant to eat in, an exchange place and even bathrooms with showers in them at this Etihad Travel Mall. We boarded promptly at 7pm and were on our way back to Abu Dhabi, arriving at 820pm at their airport.
Without having to deal with our heavy checked-in luggage and with boarding passes in hand, we quickly went to the lockers at Abu Dhabi airport and dropped off our carry-on bags. To note, they aren't actually lockers - there is a gentleman at a desk who will tag and store whatever luggage you have until you come back and pick it up. (They charge by size and length of time in storage) Now that we had no heavy items to carry on us we went over to the taxi area and had the driver take us to Yas Island.
Sherry and I had read that there was a free 'Winter Wonderland' that night at Yas and we would see fireworks from there as well. That was a mistake, too many kids everywhere. It was literally a carnival for children and families with fake snow sprinkled everywhere. Not exactly how we wanted to spend our NYE so we decided to take a hike over to Yas Marina. Once there, we pranced by Stars n' Bars again and took a seat at a bench overlooking the marina. The security guard told us where to face for the best view of them - he was wrong, but we still got to see them. There was some outdoor nightclub blaring forgetful hits from the 80s and 90s the entire time so we brought in the new year listening to the Macarena at a marina in Abu Dhabi. Great.
Monday, Jan 1, 2018
Clock struck midnight. It was officially 2018 on this side of the world. Our flight was at 2:15am going from Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt so we had to find a cabbie quickly to make it back for customs screening etc. We got VERY lucky as the first cabbie man we spoke to agreed to take us. He spent the entire ride complaining about taking us since there were 'more expensive fares' to be had but we thanked him and tipped him nicely for picking us up over the other New Years Eve revelers. When we arrived at the airport we went and scooped our carry-on luggage from the lockers and easily made our way in through customs and border protection.
2:15am, we finally left for Frankfurt. We were happy that the layover in Frankfurt was only three hours going home, unfortunately, the captain decided to speed shit up and we got there an hour early. Great, another four hours at Frankfurt airport. Fast forward through the boredom there and our flight home to Toronto was finally boarding. Hallelujah. We landed in Toronto at 12:30pm on Monday, January 1st. New Years Day - absolutely exhausted. If you take in the 10hr and then 9hr and then 6hr time differences between Maldives, UAE and Frankfurt, we were spent.
Home at last, whyyy must it be so cold?
If you're wondering the costs associated with this entire trip, make sure to click here. Gives a breakdown of what we paid for flight + stays.