Saturday, December 27, 2014

Returning Back to Male: At the Somerset Hotel (Maldives Diaries)

Back in Male

Maafushi, Maldives - By the time my body touched my bed at Room 201, I was in dreamland. It must have been 9:30 PM or thereabouts. Record time. Why I was particularly tired was a bit of a mystery to me, but there are days such as that. An excellent day, but tiresome nonetheless. Ho-hum.

Call for prayer came again at 4:45AM, drowning the early morning drizzle. And I couldn't sleep right back to REM. At 6:20, I was all packed and ready for check out. The kitchen staff prepared breakfast 15 minutes earlier than their 7AM time. It was as filling as the previous buffet set. Mashuni was again served. The stir fried mushroom was particularly tasty, obviously worth several returns. At 7:10AM, I was walking towards the jetty for its 7:30 ride back to Male. The weather promised a sunny day. Imagine if this were the weather in Anantara; it would have been perfect.

Ferry boat to Male
Red painted this return boat to Male, not the one that clunked out on our way to Maafushi. One way blue, and return was red. That’s some color-coding scheme. Exactly as it was during my November trip. An hour into the smooth glide into the waters, a very polite gentleman started collecting fees. $2 (PhP90) or 30 rufiyaa per person. I handed my Maldivian legal tender. “Thank you,” said the ticket man. Despite full house patronage, the trip back to the big city was fast, I could see Male 20 minutes before 9AM. On a good day, it only takes 1 ½ hours from Maafushi to Male. On average, it's 2 hours.

I was keeping my fingers crossed someone would pick us up from the jetty. On my previous arrival last year, “The Boutique Inn” didn't bother to pick me up so I had to hail a cab. Easy, except that many taxis didn't have the foggiest where Boutique Inn was. The advantage of fixed rate taxis is that you don’t have to haggle. If they give you the run around, it’s their petrol they’ll be wasting. That, or there must be something nefarious in the works.

Yup, a couple of guys holding “Somerset” cards were waiting at the port, just two steps straight out of the boat. How convenient. We had a chat and one of the guys offered island hopping excursion for the next day. I was thrilled! I was willing to vomit dollars to see a little more “local”. The ride to Somerset was a breeze. I was in the same street 4 days ago, trying to find Somerset Hotel and Keneree Magu. From the National Museum, I crossed the street and asked around. The little alleys didn't have names so I had to ask. No one knew. Now I am here hitting my forehead with disbelief. Had I walked a block further, I’d have found Somerset, which is quite central.

Somerset Hotel is a new name in Male, with quite posh and modern interiors. If there was a boutique hotel that justified this category, Somerset would qualify. I was given my deluxe room. I also booked for a smaller one.

Spacious, bright, with a symphony of three-tiered pillows and the smoothest fabrics for bed sheets. The walls were either beige or white. The wall leading to the balcony had wall-to-wall beige curtains. Four bas-relief artworks hang just above what should be a dining table; a huge abstract painting of what looked like yellow skies and blue waves was on display just before turning to the main bedroom. There’s a sofa bed facing the LCD cable television; a mini-ref; coffee and tea; an oblong shaped lamp shade; another modern bench covered with satiny red cushions. There’s a digital clock and a telephone beside the bed. Two 5-foot wall mirrors adorn the bedroom and bathroom respectively. In short, this was a step above most hotels in Male.


Upon check in, there was a lot of confusion involving a non-functioning wifi (a requirement when I book a hotel room), some forms that I had to handcarry from my room at the 3rd level and back to the front desk, and a passport that they photocopied earlier but forgot to return (and they weren't even aware that they actually misplaced it - which is a big "mortal sin" among the traveling kind - the staff doesn't seem to realize the serious  implications of a missing passport), but I'll get to that separately.

At 9:30AM, I was allowed early entry. But where else would I ago after a very early morning? I needed time to recuperate and gather my strength before I resume my activities. The island hopping trip would set me back by $89.10 without the meal. This already includes 10% service tax and TGST (tourism goods and services tax) of 8%. Had it been a hotel, there would have been another percentage for bed tax. That’s a whopping 20% or more for mere taxes. Ouch. Indeed. Regardless, new places light my sensibility. I have never heard of Himmafushi and Huraa before, and I was set to "hop" onto them.

But I was getting ahead of myself. I've somewhere else to revisit.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

The deluxe room's living room leads to the main bedroom.



From the Somerset, you can walk to the Friday Mosque and other sites.

The Presidential Palace looks like a doll house and unlike many sovereign establishments, it isn't manned by  a lot of guards.

This area in Male has the country's tallest buildings (not a lot actually). From this building is the main square and the Presidential Jetty.


Ramakrishnan said...

Lovely images.Do all local Muslim women wear burqas? How did they manage to get a nice green bike in between the passengers in the ferry !

eye in the sky said...

Hi, Ram. Not all local women in Male wear burqas but in local islands/provinces most of them do. Atoll country is almost majority Muslims. Yes, they get different stuff, big and small, in ferry boats , even a few livestock. That bike stands by the entrance of the boat actually. :)

NRIGirl said...

Hello Eye in the Sky! Heard about the AirAsia accident and concerned about you. Is everything okay with you and yours? Stay in touch. Wishing you the best of the season!

(Hephzibah Israel)

eye in the sky said...

Hi Hephzibah,

Thank you for asking. I'm well. Yes, the lost Air Asia plane is another mystery and such an unfortunate event especially during this season. The Surabaya-Singapore route is a well trodden path so I am wondering how it can get lost. How are you? Hope you and your family had a truly memorable and joyous Christmas.

Happy New Year. :)

NRIGirl said...

Glad to hear from you Eye! Take care!

Happy New Year to you as well.