Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Revisiting the Local Island of Villingili (Maldives Diaries)

I decided to head back to Villingilli, a local island I visited last November. 

From the public square, I hailed a taxi (25 rufiyaa/$2) to the jetty, the same one that docks boats traveling to Maafushi. Tickets for Villingili costs 3.50 rufiyaa and takes less than 10 minutes to get there. There are trips every 15-20 minutes or so. 

Upon arrival, there was obvious rise in activity. There were battery operated carts that service locals, and there were taxis. Last November, at the start of the peak of tourist season, I walked around to deserted roads. Development? I walked through the park with giant trees until I found the new mosque, turned left until I saw “Gooseberry”. Time for lunch. It was chicken fried rice for me, 40 rufiyaas. It was then time to head to the beach, the one that faces Male.

Local commuters ride the ferry boat to Villingili which is 10 minutes away from Male.

Gooseberry  Restaurant

Villingili’s claim to fame should be this – the view of Male, which looks gloriously urban from that vantage point. Someone was getting married and tables were decked up by the coastline. The same jetties, with circular ends were there giving the shoreline its trademark. After this “reunion” of sorts, I headed t o the store beside the main port and bought myself coconut. They have some of the juiciest, sweetest natural coconut juice this side of earth. Twenty rufiyaa for a slice of delectable heaven.

Aside from the airport island of Hulhule and the newly reclaimed Hulhumale, the most obvious short trip from the capital is Villingili (also "Viligili"), which is a suburban local island 2 kilometera away from the western shores of Male. The atmosphere here is more laidback, with its rows of pastel colored building, mostly residential. There are small shops and restaurants in the vicinity and a couple of small mosques. Locals bathe fully clothed in its beaches and at certain times, the grounds seem deserted. It's easy to get here as there's a boat that leaves and returns every 5 minutes.

Villingili is in an administrative area called "Villimale" probably named as such due to its proximity to the capital. It is considered as the 5th district of Male. There are 3 more islands named "Villingili" all over the Maldives (one in Alif Dhaal atoll, another in Gaafu Alif atoll, and the resort island in Seenu Atoll which has a Shangrila resort) . This particular local island has a population of barely 7,000.  

Once back in Male, I took a taxi (25 rufiyaa) to Majeedhi Magu, the city’s main east-west thoroughfare (think Ayala or Recto, or Roxas Boulevard or Cebu’s Jones). Olympia Cinema had a throng of young performers and their “stage mothers”. I was told that a Maldivian movie was going to be screened at 9PM. But I had a sneaking suspicion that something was lost in translation. He even said it was worth 40 rufiyaa. The ride back to the hotel was not to be had. I finally decided to walk, after checking out my map, all the way to Chandanee Magu. I had a relaxing sleep for the next couple of hours.

Later that night, I learned that Olympia wasn't actually showing films. The idiot! He said there were 3 cinemas in Male. Wrong. There were just two. He recommended that we proceed to “Schweck”, a swanky movie house near the market place, costing 80 rufiyaa for its entrance. Climbing its narrow stairs was like scaling a hill. It seemed to go on and on. I waited at the 3rd floor, just outside the viewing hallway for 15 minutes only to learn that they were having “technical problems” and that screening had to be cancelled. There goes movie watching in Maldives. Oh well.


Just before calling it a night, I passed by a grocer, selling fruits. I bought persimmon, a “sugar banana” and jujube (as they're called in Thailand) aka “Stone Nepal” all priced at 9 rufiyaa per 100 kilogram. 

The banana didn't look quite ripe, but when you peeled it, the covering tears away like paper – and the flesh inside was actually ripe. Everything cost me 170 rufiyaa. Male is overly taxed. You get charged for sales tax plus a goods-and-services tax on top of the 10%. I wonder why the populace wouldn't even complain.

Is the answer to a "progressive" society over-taxation? Is Male one that you'd consider progressive? I guess the criteria of progress as we know it doesn't necessarily follow in atoll country.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Male, the capital, from the slumbering shores of Villingili.

Sweet coconut juice at a store beside the port.

A year after I first visited Villingili, there are signs of mobility like this "vehicle" and the taxi behind it.

Villingili port

Commuters from Male

We queue amidst this crowd.

Ferry ride back to Male

Schweck Cinema

I was going to watch "24:00 Gadi Iru". Posters of this movie are seen pasted on walls all over the capital.

Why is a naked Indian actor standing on a rail track?

Schweck Cinema, a hit-and-miss affair, is Male's one and only movie house.

Jujube or stone nepal

Jujube aka "red date" is said to treat anemia or purpura. It's also called "pomme surette" in France, "ber" in Hindi, and "tao tau" in Vietnam. I am thus wondering why this fruit is never seen in the Philippines which is a haven of fruits.

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