When I showed family and friends my itinerary to get to the Maldives, they told me in no uncertain terms that I was insane. While booking the tickets some months ago, I also questioned my sanity. The trip took me to and through five cities, three countries, and 9-hours’ worth of time zones:
- Left home at 1:30 PM EST on Tuesday, September 3rd
- Spent Wednesday, September 4th in Dubai
- Landed in Malé at 8 AM local time on Thursday, September 5th
- Arrived at my hotel around 12:30 PM local time after an hour-long boat ride to my island
Needless to say, I am a long way from home—further than I have ever been.
Atlanta to Boston
On Monday before I left, a client cancelled a large project, allowing me to free up some time to spend with family. I also got more time to pack and get things organised. Then, just as I was starting the work I already planned to complete, the client effectively cancelled their cancellation. So, instead of going to bed at midnight as I originally planned, I stayed up until 4 AM to get the extra work done.
After four hours of tossing and turning in bed, I got up at 8 AM for my appointment with USCIS. They took my fingerprints and completed yet another background check. Every new step you take requires doing this all over again. This is either the third or fourth time since I began my immigration process.
I knew I was cutting it close, fitting this mandatory appointment into my schedule. So, my grandma and I had hatched a plan to show up way ahead of the given time. I’m glad we did as I had never seen the building so packed before. It was a long wait, punctuated by me constantly watching the clock.
After an hour drive back home, I got a few last things in order, bid everyone adieu, and left for the airport. I then boarded my flight to Boston and tried to get some shuteye as I had not gotten a full night’s rest since the weekend. You can probably see the exhaustion on my face.
Boston to Dubai
By the time I arrived in Boston, I was starving. Unfortunately, my food options on the international side of the airport were extremely limited, so I ended up just getting Burger King.
When I boarded the plane, I was surprised by how enormous it was. I had only ever seen planes like these in movies.
I was also delighted to find a blanket and pillow waiting in all our seats. To my surprise, we also received a small pouch with toiletries and then a menu for meals. I hadn’t been treated so well on a flight since the good ol’ days of Air Jamaica.
All was well until the Captain told us to get comfortable for the 12-hour flight. Twelve long hours? I can hardly endure a flight for four hours, much less three times that.
However, good food, a missing middle-seatmate, and comfy pillows and blankets made it way easier than I expected. The crew insisted that we keep our blinds down for almost the entire flight, but I got a quick peek of the sunrise while flying over Greenland.
Dubai to Malé
When I arrived in Dubai, I had no hotel reservations for my 8-hour stopover and was not allowed to leave the airport. So, I looked around for a bit and then went to my gate to see if I could sleep off some of the jet lag in the uncomfortable chairs provided.
After a few hours, a very loud group of South Asians appeared, rendering sleep impossible. I took the time to go to the restroom and freshen up. To my surprise, there was a bidet, which was very convenient for tidying up and feeling fresh in two-day-old clothes.
I then waited for the remaining few hours for my flight to Malé. My boarding time was 1:50 AM, but I noticed there was no boarding call at my gate when the time came. Then, I heard my phone vibrate and saw a text message from the airline. They had made a last-minute change to the gates.
I was so late that the gate was closed when I arrived, but they let me on. They knew me by name as the missing passenger. There was a couple from Denmark with me who had the same problem. They told me that Emirates Airlines did this to them all the time and were unconcerned as they strolled onto the plane behind me, unhurried.
The flight to Malé lasted for roughly four hours but seemed longer. It was now Thursday and I was ready to get this travelling thing over and done with. After exiting the plane in the open air, I could not believe how similar to Jamaica it was, even down to the bloody coaster bus!
Unfortunately, I still had another two-and-a-half-hour wait until the boat would arrive to take me to the island I was staying at. Unlike most tourists, I did not choose a resort island. I chose to stay where the locals lived. Naturally, I won’t name the specific island now, but I will update the posts after I leave.
My host had arranged for someone to meet me at the airport. The guide helped me check in my suitcase for safe-keeping at a shop which existed for that specific purpose. He then rented a bike and took me around the capital city.
Overall, Malé reminds me of Montego Bay in the 90s, but with better roads and even more careless drivers. Road signs seem to be mere suggestions instead of rules, and the police often drove by us with no concern for this themselves.
The only rule that everyone seemed to take seriously is that you had to wear your helmet when crossing over the main bridge. Once off the bridge, we took it off again because it was so hot!
The tour guide knew I was travelling by myself and ensured that I had a full arsenal of non-selfie photographs before I left Malé. Here are a few of the many he took.
It was wonderful to explore the capital, but I was becoming more and more exhausted. So, we returned to the airport to wait out the rest of the boat’s arrival time. Unfortunately, it was late.
Malé to My Hotel
When the boat did come, the crew did not linger. We all piled on and picked our seats. I said goodbye to the guide and then we took off. The ride was beautiful, but I was much too tired to admire aesthetics at this point. I was also getting hungry!
I was more than a little relieved when the boat ride ended and I disembarked. Another staff member from the Airbnb hotel received me at the harbour. He put my suitcase into what looked like a wheelbarrow (known as a gadia) and then we walked together for about five minutes to the hotel. There were bikes in the area, but I had already spent an hour on a bike in the city and my butt was on a temporary bike-strike.
Once I settled into my room, I went exploring and realised for the first time how very Third World the island was.
There is electricity and running water. I even have hot water and an AC unit that works better than the one I have at home. However, there are no paved roads and a lot of the stores do not take cards. As a Third Worlder myself, those are easy prices to pay for a moment in paradise.
Small as the island is, I eventually did get lost. I was getting directions from Google when my host appeared on a bike to whisk me off back to the hotel. He realised I had been gone for a while and put two-and-two together. Smart man!
Unlike my usual adventure vacations where every day I have something else planned, I have no set plans for the Maldives. So, instead of giving day-by-day updates as I usually do, I’ll only be sharing highlights and tips. Tomorrow, I’m going snorkelling and will let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!