I woke up in the morning of my birthday to sound of waves splashing at my front door. I decided to lie down in bed for a few minutes, enjoying the morning breeze coming in from the front door (Left open by the guys smoking outside) and the warmness of my comfortable bed and soft pillows.
After a hearty American breakfast at the resort restaurant, we headed down to the jetty where we were to board a boat heading to Malé (pronounced ma-leh), the island capital of Maldives. The waves were not very rough that day, and it was smooth sailing all the way to the capital.
Upon arrival at Malé, we checked into our hotel, which had a two-story room, with a tiny living room on the ground floor, and the bedroom on the first. We waited at the hotel for another Maldivian friend of ours who lived in Malé, Rock, to meet up with us and bring us around his hometown.
It was Maldivian cuisine for lunch in one of our friend’s family restaurant. Maldivian cuisine ranges from mildly spicy to burning hot, and is mainly cooked in local spice. Seafood is a main dish, the sea being their main source of living. Maldivians eat with their hands, and, well, being a Malaysian, this is not unusual--that’s exactly what I did too.
The afternoon was spent souvenir shopping. There is not much to shop for in this small town, most shops cater to tourists, and are thus not cheap. Haggling is possible, but it wouldn’t exactly get you anywhere. (Thank God for my Maldivian friends!) My suggestion is not to spend too much dollars, but just walk into these quaint shops and admire the handicrafts and artwork of the locals. Walking around the town is a joy itself.
Malé is actually a rather small island; it is possible to walk from one end to the other end. The buildings and shops are very petite and slightly run down. There are built in rows at the side of the street, though many have been demolished to make way for more modern buildings. The roads in Malé are very narrow, and this causes the traffic to be rather messy. Though there are taxis available in Male, most locals go around the island on motorcycles, bicycles or by foot.
In the evening, we paid a visit to one of our friend’s parents, who lives in a house somewhere in the heart of the town. The house is simple and small, I guess due to the limited space on the island. There is a compound in front of the house where a huge pink guava tree stands, taking up nearly the entire compound. We made one of the guys climb the tree to pluck the guavas for us, while we sat down on the jolis (small hammocks) underneath the tree, talking and enjoying the juicy guavas thrown down for us.
That night, I found out why my friends were whispering and grinning behind my back the entire day. They were planning a surprise birthday party for me! It really came as a big surprise; I did not even suspect a thing! It was planned by the few who did not follow us around in the afternoon. I loved the banner they drew for me, which said 'Happy Birthday, Min!' and I did have a proper pink cream birthday cake after all! (I was fretting about not having a cake to blow on my birthday!) Everyone I knew from Maldives attended the party (and many others that I did not know), and we had rice, pasta, and barbecued fish, and chicken for dinner. My birthday treat was a ride around Male on a motorbike that belonged to a local friend, and I got to see the fish market (it was still quite busy this time of the night), famous Maldivian buildings (I had brief introductions by my driver), and even small back streets and alleyways of Malé.
Before proceeding to the jetty for our ride back to the resort, we headed towards the artificial beach located on the other side of the island. The beach is just a wide land at the edge of the island filled with sand and water, and it looks like a small beach but with no waves, as man-made walls blocks the flow from the open sea.