Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Half a Day in Male - and What to See (Maldives Diaries)

Male, Maldives - I awoke from the chill of the airconditioner. It was 5:30 AM and I could see a bit of sunlight peeping through the curtain line. I got up and worked on my online stuff. By 7:30, I found my way to Olive Restaurant, Hotel Octave’s 5-table food hall at the first floor (2nd, actually). 

I picked the Olive Breakfast instead of the dreary sounding Continental Breakfast. Something that carries the name of the restaurant must be better than the other options, right? Olive breakfast has 3 toasted bread, butter and jam, 2 pieces of (chicken) sausage, fried egg and orange juice. They also served a fruit platter of delectably sweet papaya and sour oranges.

View from my room at the 5th level.

Narrow streets characterize Male's city roads.

Olive breakfast

Some of the sweetest papayas are found in Male. Their oranges are however sour.

After breakfast, I walked to the front desk manned by a personable chap who was sniffing away his running nose. He handed me a map and perfunctorily instructed where I could go: the souvenir shops, the fish market.

I, of course, wanted to be elsewhere, but I needed to orient myself as to where I could find Majeedi Magu, Male’s main commercial street. After one misdirection, I found Majeedi and walked towards the "Artificial Beach", ironically the capital's only serviceable beach. .

Along the way, I've reoriented myself to familiar sites I've seen from last year: Male’s penchant for either pastel or livid colors; the city hall, Olympus cinema, a couple of mosques, a sundry of garment and electronic shops, an Ace Hardware and finally, the almost deserted Artificial Beach.

Street signs are carved on concrete.

One of the few small mosques found along Mahjeedi Magu. Male has 10 mosques all over the capital.

Another small mosque along the capital's commercial district.

Shopping along Majeedi Magu (above and below).

City Hall

Olympus Screen, one of the only two cinema halls in Male. Unfortunately, Olympus these days caters to children's theatre (recitals), not movies.

"Gadi Iru", a Maldivian film, is shown at the Shwack Cinema located along Haveeri Hingun.

A tree-lined side street.

Delly's Pizza is properly located just a block or so from the Artificial Beach. Its vibrant colors always catches my attention everytime I walk past that part of Majeedi Magu.

The breakwater was lined by tripods that beat the persistent rush of the waves, in the process preventing further erosion.

Without them, it would hasten the sinking of this island. From the promenade, I could see planes steadily arriving at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Maldive’s main airport located in the island of Hulhule.

Not long after, I braved the drizzle to revisit the Tsunami Memorial and the nearby Tripod Monument. I then took a taxi (25 rufiyaa fixed rate, payable with either the dollar or local money) to get to the National Museum.

Artificial Beach, the capital's only leisure beach for swimming.

Tripods protecting the breakwaters against erosion.

Small crabs are found on the tripods.

From the breakwater and the Artificial Beach, you can see the frequent arrival of planes at the adjacent Hulhule island where the main airport is located.

Tsunami Memorial

The devastating Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004 affected Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand. This is dedicated to the people who lost their lives at the tsunami that followed the earthquake. 

Tripod Monument just across the Tsunami Memorial. Paying homage to inanimate structures that help "save" the city from erosion.

Nissan March, our taxi, has fixed 25 -rufiyaa fare.

The museum, once the Sultan's Palace, charges a hefty 50 rufiyaa entrance fee, and a 10 Rf tariff for camera use. To be quite honest, 50 seems exorbitant for a collection of haphazardly arranged, albeit forgettable “memorabilia” (and I realize the irony here). As it was during my first time visit, the petite elderly lady guard was present, but she was less intrusive. 

Afterwards, I tried finding Somerset Hotel and couldn't (I'd be staying there on my last day in atoll country). After scouring half a dozen magus (streets), I gave up and headed towards the Fish Market. It's highly recommended by guide books. I missed it the first time because I thought then that "seeing fish" wouldn't exactly excite me. But in a place with a dearth of local sites, the market proved one of the more interesting places to visit. Way better than the National Museum - or Sultan Park.

Entrance/Exit of the National Museum.

Front of the National Museum

Busy scene in front of the Fish Market

Facing the coast, the market is a row of basins filled with fresh catch, including giant tunas, all plopped on a container for display. It was an interesting traipse into an industry that takes advantage of the populace’s primary source of affordable meat – the fish

Being Muslims, Maldivians don’t eat pork and their obvious lack of space disallows herding cows, goats, etc. Chicken meals are prepared halal so you don’t exactly get the taste of chicken the way you’re accustomed with. And, just as an addendum, dog are not allowed all over the archipelago either. This certainly baffles. Who in their right state of consciousness would ban dogs in their midst? Dogs, wrestling, religious articles outside the Koran, pornography, alcohol – they’re all prohibited in the country. Yet – drug addiction is allegedly rampant all over the land. Go figure!

Scenes from the Fish Market.

Iskandhar School along Chandanee Magu, the other commercial street of Male.

Looking for Somerset Hotel.

A mural depicting how Male would be like in a few year's time.

I walked towards the Presidential Jetty (Jetty no. 1), crossed the Republic Square (Jumhooree Maidhaan, considered the heart of Male) amidst greedy pigeons, posed for posterity at the Friday Mosque, hopped at Sultan Park, then hailed a taxi back to Hotel Octave. I had second thoughts if the driver was familiar wth the hotel, but he knew exactly where Kaminee Magu was, navigating through some of the narrowest streets this side of paradise. It was almost 12 noon, check out time.

Presidential Jetty (Jetty no. 1)

Republic Square - the capital's "town plaza" where rallies are held.

Grand Friday Mosque just takes my breath away every time I pass by (above and below).

Friday Mosque's minarets. Visitors are welcome as long as they're properly attired.

A sculpture located at the roundabout, flanked by the Friday Mosque, the Armed Forces headquarters, and Sultan Park.

I was told I could stay in my room until 2:15PM when I’d get taken to the ferry terminal. At 12, I saw myself back to the restaurant. I ordered sweet and sour chicken and a cup of Basmati rice served with cracklingly delicious papadom (thin, crisp disc-shaped Indian food typically based on a seasoned dough made from black gram, fried or cooked with dry heat) – all for 80 Rf, plus sales tax of 6%. The TGST "tax" has been raised to 8% recently but some establishments seem to charge the old rate for some reason.

Sweet and sour chicken 

Basmati rice sprinkled with wisps of onion. Basmati's less sticky than our Philippine varieties.

Fun eating papadom.


The ferry terminal was as I remembered it: a flurry of activities filled with inter-island commuters and rushing tourists. I secured my $2 ticket and waited for the only boat traveling to the local island of Maafushi. Just like before, it arrived at 2:35PM, like clock work. 

There weren't sign boards indicating boat arrivals and departures. I had to ask every so often just to make sure I wasn't left behind. My boat was supposedly called Ranthari, but I couldn't find that name written anywhere). We boarded shortly alongside a group of noisy Chinese tourists who annoyed me with their barrage of devil-may-care public auditory display. 

Why do they have to be so loud, I kept wondering. Money obviously cannot buy manners, and if this smacks of prejudice, it is merely borne out of observation and my experiences all over. I noticed a middle-aged German couple and a gay couple whom we saw at Hotel Octave. Like me, they were also on holiday, yet they didn't impose their auditory pollution on the rest of the boat riders.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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