Maldives: View From The City

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As the temperature rose as Philippines approached summer season, I was so ecstatic since it meant the school year would soon come to an end. I didn’t mind if the temperature reached crazy high levels because I would be soaked up in a beach or simply enjoying the sunny day playing toy soldiers with my younger brother. But with the academic calendar shift, summer season was redefined for college students like me. Gone are the days when summertime meant vacation. Gone are the days when summertime meant carefree lounging at home. Now, it means endless paper works, countless exams and infinite projects. And just to rub salt into the wound, at this time of the year, Manila’s temperature is excruciatingly unbearably blazing hot (yes, all these adjectives to emphasize how hot it is). Sometimes, requirements seem to endlessly pile up that you just want a break. And when a week-long break comes along my way, I grab it fast like 50% off Gucci boots.

For once, timing was not against me. All my exams were scheduled before the week-long break. Not only did this mean I wouldn’t be thinking about any school requirement during this short break, but it also motivated me in preparing for my exams. Besides, if your parents treated you for a trip to Maldives, what better way to express your gratitude by studying hard? Haha! 😉

If the Philippines is composed of 7,500 beautifully diverse islands, Maldives is composed of 26 atolls, or ring-shaped coral reefs. And in one of these atolls, Kaafu Atoll to be exact, lies Malé.

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Unlike most tourists who simply pass by Malé, we decided to spend a whole day in the capital of Maldives. We wanted to maximize our stay in the captivating country so we decided not to skip it. Luckily, our hotel provides free tour around their capital. This did not come as a surprise since Malé is really tiny. With a total land area of 5.8 square kilometres, it is barely 15% of Philippines’ own capital. It is considered as one of the most densely populated cities in the world as it is home to around 150,000 people despite its minute size. The streets are really narrow and crowded that a regular 8-seater SUV would have a hard time passing through the streets. So, most of the locals own motorcycles.

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In our brief tour around the capital, this part of the city had the widest street we’ve seen there – a regular two-way street in the Philippines.

There were literally no streets without motorcycles. If there are more kangaroos than locals in Australia, it felt like there were more motorcycles than Maldivians in Malé. I was so intrigued that in one of our cab rides, I asked our driver how much one motorcycle usually costs. To my surprise, one costs around Php 300,000! One can already buy a car with this amount in the Philippines. A huge factor on this high cost is the absence of motorcycle manufacturing facilities so they have to import motorcycles (and other vehicles), he said. The cab driver also mentioned that if the plate number (of a vehicle, in general) has a P before the (four digit) numbers, it means the vehicle is already paid. On one hand, a C indicates the contrary. Government vehicles also have a blue special plate with a G before the numbers. Our conversation was rudely interrupted as we entered a heavily congested street. Cars were honking continuously, which on a regular occasion would annoy me. This time around, it made me laugh, as it reminded me of EDSA and the horrendous traffic situation in the Philippines. Oh Manila traffic, always haunting me wherever I go. 😅

The city tour started with landmarks nearest to our hotel. The photo below is the oldest cemetery in Maldives.

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Directly in front of that is People’s Majlis which is the counterpart of the Philippine Congress.

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Beside it was the parliament.

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Honestly, I was bored in this part of the tour. 😅 I was too eager to see for myself what Maldives is renowned for. So when we headed out to the periphery of the city, my eyes were sparkling as I saw the glistening blue waters of Malé. As I said in here, it was dark when we arrived at Maldives so this was the first time we saw the charm of Maldivian waters.

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Maldivian coastguards
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You can actually see this location in the photo above. This structure reminded me of the Sydney Opera House.

The next leg of our city tour was the market. Going around this part of Malé brought me straight back to my hometown, Bulacan. Growing up, early Sunday mornings were usually comprised of my mother bringing me to the wet market with her and a cup of my favorite The Chosen One (yes, that really is the brand name) ice cream.

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This is my mother who is “allergic” to sun exposure. Haha!
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I asked for the name of this fruit but I couldn’t understand what the vendor said.

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Sadly, though, like in my hometown, wet markets almost certainly equate to trash. And in the previous photo and succeeding ones, you can see bits of trash IN THE WATER. I was really disappointed as Maldives is known for its immaculate beaches. I thought Maldivians are meticulous when it comes to caring for their waters; I thought it is second nature and inherent in them. Although, this is an isolated case seen in the markets only. But small-scale water pollution is still water pollution. 😡

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The city tour ended with, needless to say, a visit to a souvenir shop.

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Before going to Maldives, I’ve researched countless of times as to where I could buy a charm for my bracelet. And each was a fail. So I asked the guest relations in our hotel prior to our trip where I could buy one. She mentioned I could get a charm in one of the souvenir shops but, much to my disappointment, there were none when we got there. ☹️ Nonetheless, my mother went out of the shop with a happy heart and a heavy bag. Haha!

It was a good idea that we explored Malé. As with every trip, I always want to get to know the new place like the back of my hand. What better way to fulfil this than by interacting with locals. It is through this that you would get to know details that you can’t find in travel books or blogs. Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without our visit to Malé, and all this only took half a day. A stopover at Malé is highly recommended for those who really want to get to know Maldives. I suggest that if you plan on exploring Malé before heading to the resort of your choice, you can book your transfer to your resort late afternoon on the same day. You might even get the best view of sunset as you cruise or fly to the resort. 😊