A week of laying on the sand and counting waves started by one day of continuous itchy feet and an ad for a Spice Jet flight which promised flights to Maldives for Rs 8000 which got me all excited. That flight was the last cheap thing we had Maldives barring a free octopus magnet that a Maldivian shopkeeper gave my pre schooler.
We landed in Maldives after a short flight from Sri Lanka. We had gone berserk shopping in Sri Lanka because it is rare for Indians to feel rich while converting money. Along with beach ready clothes I also bought a Buddha statue in black stone. I also bought two small statues in brass. We took the flight out from Sri Lanka after an amazing time in Sigiriya, Kandy and Colombo.
The descend to Male airport was amazing as I could see coral reefs and turquoise islands. At the airport a customs officer who saw me with a sleeping child called us on priority and helped us enter the country smoothly. After picking our bags and feeling grateful to the officer we made our way to customs, where we were pulled over. Our bags were checked and they asked us if we are carrying a Buddha statue, we said yes.
Well to my astonishment Buddha was held at customs and we were given a ticket to claim Buddha back when we left Maldives as Buddha was no longer welcome in Maldives. Maldives being a 100% Muslim country has a past entrenched in Buddhism which changed in the 12th century with the conquest of a Turkish Muslim ruler. Maldivians are quite proud of being a 100% muslim country right behind Saudi Arabia.
I was immediately on guard as my swim suit was definitely not islamic. Customs in Male holds things like alcohol, porn, LGBT and other religions at bay from the Maldivian islands. We reached Maldives on the day of Eid and immediately had mixed feelings about this island paradise. Recently an islamic group had destroyed all remnants of Buddhist history of Maldives from the museum at Male.
Once outside the airport we were whisked out of the airport island in a speed boat that our resort had sent. At resort nothing reminded us that we were in an islamic country. The island could very well have been in the US as every transaction was in US dollars, I did not see Maldivian currency this entire trip. As a traveler I am used to merging with the culture of the country I am visiting, understanding their history, way of life. I felt a bit cheated in that sense as resort islands operate on a completely different way of life and are intentionally separate from the local islands.
After the first day of trepidations the sea came calling. The coral reefs, aquatic life, wild dolphins and the joy of shallow turquoise water and days of being beach bums are the memories I took back finally. I also did my beginners PADI scuba dive and had one of the highlights of my travels as the realization that I have only scratched the surface when it comes to traveling became further apparent.
As we left Male after a week of some hard core tanning, Maldives looked quite different to me as I saw women in hijabs working in posts that were usually male dominated in India. Met locals at Male, made friends with a Maldivian kid who became bum chums with my 4 year old from the get go.