Mushi Mushi Iru Fushi

Sorry for the delay folks! I’ve been away for 3 weeks, but I’m finally back in Beijing where I have unlimited internet access and my own computer so I can upload the long awaited photos from the Maldives.

Like I wrote in my last post, the Republic of Maldives is as close to Paradise as I’ll ever get. There are over 1100 islands of which 800 or so are uninhabited. Many of those that are inhabited, though, are owned by resorts like the Hilton on the island of Iru Fushi where I stayed for 4 days. Before this trip I did not even know where the Maldives were. Now, I’d like to make it an annual trip before the ocean rises and the islands disappear… Besides, my mom could use the vacations. She works hard.

On September 1st, my mom and I arrived at Kunming International Airport with one suitcase and one cardboard box full of ramen noodles, pears, canned ham, moon cakes, candy, crackers, nuts, and spicy pickled vegetables. 6.5 hours later we were in Male, the most densely populated city in the Republic of Maldives, where we stayed overnight.

Locals arriving at the airport by boat (Male in the background)

The next morning, it poured. Monsoon season… no wonder the tickets were cheaper. When the rains cleared, we took a rocky boat ride back to the airport and were transported to the other side of the island where we would hop on this amazing little piece of  machinery that would take us to Iru Fushi.

Trans-Maldivian Airlines

The pilot flew barefoot! In Chinese we would say, “Hao shuang, ah!” (“So coooool!”)

The pilot looked like Harrison Ford!

What I saw from overhead was absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. Here are a few photos, but let me just warn you, they don’t even come close to capturing the true colors and reality of how gorgeous this country is.

 

Crayola does not do justice to “turquoise” or “aqua marine blue,” neither do my photos. The light blues are crystal clear, and the dark blues have infinite depth, and the varying shades of blue and green in between are so bright only film negatives can possibly produce a similar translucent effect. With my forehead glued to the window and my jaw dropped, all I remember thinking was, Places like this actually exist?
Apparently they do.
We were greeted on the island by a hot wet towel and a Chinese hostess (one of 4 or 5 employees that speak Chinese) who led us to our deluxe beach villa where we would stay for one night before moving to our water villa. Unknowingly, my mom had booked us for a honeymoon deal, but the bottle of champagne, plate of fresh fruit and a $50 discount for a couple’s massage is well worth the funny looks.
In China, women do everything to keep their skin white while Westerners and Eastern Europeans prefer to tan. So, when the sun shines on Iru Fushi, the Chinese tourists like to stay indoors while the rest snorkel and sunbathe. Having grown up in America where tanning is trendy, and because I really just don’t care, I took full advantage of my natural surroundings even if that meant I would be unattractively dark back here in China. And so I snorkeled and swam and strolled along the beach under the powerful rays of the beautiful ball of fire.
In between, I also did some scuba diving.
Swimming along the coral reef is like walking through Times Square in the mid-afternoon, only it’s less crowded. Every color imaginable exists under water, and the diversity of life – turtles, fish, plants, urchins, etc.- is just plain awesome. It really is a whole other world down there, exactly like the cartoons! It was not a cheap adventure, but it was worth it.
The next day, my mom and I went dolphin watching. I didn’t think anything could be as impressive as scuba diving, but dangling my legs over the edge of a boat with dolphins swimming beneath me was far more exciting than I expected. We did not have to go far before we saw little black speckles in the ocean. Those black speckles were the fins of hundreds of dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water like Flipper does so well. Maldivian dolphins are small and gray with tiny eyes and a slender snout, and they sure are cute.


Amazing, right?

Anyway, that was an unforgettable morning, unlike the next one when I didn’t catch any fish. Taking advantage of another honeymoon couple’s deal, my mom and I went on a complimentary fishing trip. Instead of using fishing rods, we just held onto a reel with fresh tuna as bait for 2 hours, like so:

Unfortunately, fish kept eating my tuna faster than I could pull them up. My mom, however, lucky as she is, caught a white snapper.

The next day, that poor thing turned into this:

Lunch

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There is not much to do on a small island, but there is so much to see. Sunrise and sunset, for instance. I’m not one to sap over beautiful things (my mom is), but I swooned over this view (sunrise):

And this one (sunset)…

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As beautiful and relaxing as Iru Fushi was, there was some sadness to it as well. It’s a wonderful place to vacation, but when you are one of 3 Chinese people on a tiny island, it can be very lonesome. Shine, my diving instructor, is 25 years old and has been working in the Maldives for over a year. The employees get a 3 week vacation yearly, but 21 days out of 365 to see family and friends is still little time. Shine speaks English so she can communicate with the tourists and her coworkers, but it’s not her native language, thus she remains homesick. But it’s not the language that’s troubling, it’s the fact that she’s basically stuck on an island that she can never call home. Iru Fushi is gorgeous, but even so, when there is limited space for mobility and escape, one can still feel trapped.

Shine is from a small city in China, but I met Hilton employees from all the world, including Russia, Nepal, India and Germany. The local islander employees, however, are much closer to home. They are also some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Perhaps they are trained to be so, but regardless, they are playful, genuinely interested in learning about your language and country, and are always willing to take photos with you.


I made some good memories on this trip, however short it was. To show off my novice photographic eye and my delectable tan, I’d like to leave you with more photos (some credit goes to my mom). Perhaps one day we can visit Maldives together!

 





One Comment on “Mushi Mushi Iru Fushi”

  1. […] groups of young Americans–the most diverse atmosphere I have encountered since my trip to the Maldives. I’m not talking ethnically diverse, though, because if I were, mainland China is definitely […]


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