Flavours of South Asia in the Maldives

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 16:18

With over a thousand islands this is truly a beach lover's haven. The islands that make up the Maldives are stunning enough for you not to want to leave - ever. And with 87 exclusive resort islands, you won't have to worry about how to pass your time.

STAY CONRAD MALDIVES, RANGALI ISLAND
Rated among the ultimate over the-water villa experiences that Maldives can offer, this resort is the winner of Best Hotel in the World awarded by The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, UK in 2006. And deservedly so - it's the last word in luxury, service and attention to detail. Spread over two islands with a walkway bridge over  a lagoon, the resort has over-the-water spa suites with a 360 degree panorama of the sea, private treatment rooms and sundecks, glass floors offering aquamarine views, and great diving opportunities.

TAJ EXOTICA RESORT & SPA, SOUTH MALE
This resort ranks high both on the style and romance quotients, with the Rehendhi Suite offering its own exclusive pier and a private mini-spa. The beach villas boast private plunge pools.
The spa, known for its stone massages, is simply superb. If you're not in the mood to step out, or catch up on diving, pick out a book from their fairly-stocked library and find a spot on the beach to spend the day.
Don't leave, though, without experiencing the seaplane flight over the island - you'll see the resort villas built like a trident in the sea around the island by Taj Exotica.

EAT DIG THE FISH CURRIES
Tuna, grouper and mullet are the main fish eaten in the Maldives. The curries range from mild to hot, but all have a spicy flavour, and are served with rice or roshi.
Classics include maas huni (fish cooked with coconut), falha kulhi riha (grouper cooked with bilinbi, coconut milk and cream, and chillies), fihunu giulhu (fish fillet stuffed with garlic and cloves) and faaga riha (semi-dried tuna with bitter gourd and spices. For authentic fare, head to the hotaas.

SAVOUR THE FINGER FOOD
Maldivians love finger foods, which they call hedhikaa, and these are served under short eats at tea shops, cafes and restaurants in Male, much like our samosas and pakoras.
The favourites here are largely fish-oriented-gulha (dough balls filled with fish, grated coconuts, onion, chillies, ginger, etc) and keemia (batter-rolled fried fish) - but there are also vegetarian finger foods.
A tea-shop or hotaa is a quintessential Maldivian experience. Some of the wellknown ones are Queen of the Night, Beach, Nashta, Buruzaa, Anbumaa and Dawn, all in Male.

SHOP WOODEN BEAUTIES
The wood artisans of the Maldives produce fine wooden models of the dhoni s and other sea vessels, as well as the prayer rests for the Koran besides wooden handicrafts. Rich lacquer work on wooden products also remains a principal Maldivian handicraft.
Hand-lathe turned wooden boxes, bowls, trays and vases sport rich colours and are sure to brighten up the space you choose for them. Hunt these beautifully finished pieces down in Male's Chandanee Magu street.MUST-HAVE MATS
Mat weaving, called thundu kunaa, is one of the most famous of Maldives' handiwork. For centuries, these mats, with intricate patterns and gold brocade, were given to European colonial powers by the sultans.
Traditionally used for namaaz or prayer, the mats are made on wooden looms and come in various sizes. They can't be folded, but roll them and they aren't tough to carry. The best mats are made at Gaaf Dhaal.
But if you are not visiting that island, try curio shops like Antique & Style and Gloria Maris on Chandanee Magu in Male.

SEE WHALE SUBMARINE
It is a unique opportunity to actually board a submarine, not to mention the opportunity to get close to a huge variety of brilliantly coloured fish and marine invertebrate without scuba diving. Digital displays tell you about the depth you have reached, and there is a fish chart to identify what you can see.
Get ready to spot surgeon fish, blue-striped snapper, anemone fish, and unicorn fish among many, many others. As you get close to the reef wall, the crevices are illuminated by the sub to show you marine colours and creatures not usually visible.

PHOTO-FLIGHTS
Maldives has a number of private seaplane operators, and many resorts have arrangements with them to take guests on short, scenic flights of 30 minutes to an hour. The seaplane flies low over the sea, which is clear as gin and the view is gorgeous. Since the seaplane is booked specially for resort guests, it goes slow and low, allowing time for some great photography.

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