Sun and Tan- in spectacular Maldives!

This impromptu Trip to Maldives with family in the month of September was a totally theatrical act with last day confirmations by busy bodies and last minute flight bookings. We were flying through Colombo (Srilanka), deciding to spend three days there, as a night stay in Colombo becomes mandatory, according to flight timings (More about the Lanka journey in a subsequent post). Funnily, we began the first leg of the journey in Lanka while still researching our options in Maldives.


Finding a suitable stay in Maldives is not anything like researching other trips to Mainland’s – say Europe/US etc..(this was reiterated and rubbed, by my dear brother on whose shoulders had befallen this mammoth task) him being the “originator” of this trip! He had a “task sheet” dictated by all…to find a beautiful, secluded resort, on the off-beaten path, without too much tourists , only water villas, throw in a seaplane also, and accommodate 5 ½ bodies.

This, trust me is a humongous task. First of all, accommodating odd numbers is always a pain in the ***, as finding suitable villas/ family rooms with odd number of beds can be only managed through direct phone calls to the resort. On top of that, trying to find a resort, which allows a two year old, in a water villa is difficult as most resorts will try to place such a family on beach villas. And then try getting some sort of a “Deal” and deciding half board vs full board; A single resort island (more of an island secluded feel) or a larger island with multiple resorts (with some more dining options but a generic feel to it).


The journey began with an early morning short flight from Colombo Bandaranaike Airport, starting at about 7:20am, reaching Male International Airport on Hulhule island (right opposite Male) in about 45 min with a daytime temp of about 39 degrees.. Hubby got a free upgrade to business class- lucky for him! In general, we found the Srilankan air crew very hospitable n friendly… Good job guys!

After finishing immigration formalities.. We checked at the “Gangehi” kiosk where the coordinator effectively got us checked in for our next Sea-plane ride to the Gangehi island via Trans Maldivian airline. Carrying Booze into Maldives is strictly prohibited so don’t bother trying to stock up for days ahead- be ready though, to shell out loads of USD!



The Seaplane ride was underwhelming…It sure is great for pictures and ticking an experience, but on the whole a slightly claustrophobic ride, in scorching heat (the cabin being open to the exterior without any air conditioning) and very noisy.



Some sights do make up for it all, like the numerous island and atolls sparkling on the vast expanse of Indian ocean! The 30 min journey ended with a short boat ride to the island itself…followed by welcome drinks n easy check-in.



Gangehi is a small island and the only resort on this island. ..  So self contained, beautiful functional villas.. We had a deluxe water villa (for three) and a normal water villa between us.



Georgina, the local marine biologist, told us about the presence of small baby (reef) sharks n Sting Rays, abounding the water here.





Small island resort does mean that one is dependent on their restaurant only, but these guys did not disappoint! Both for the vegetarians and the sea food lovers there’s plenty to eat with a loads of variety. We were booked, full board (all meals inclusive) so that we didn’t have to think about the next meal, and could just relax and enjoy the serene blue! As for me the veggie lover, the sheer number of fruit-veggie combos was mind blowing and I enjoyed a hearty, healthy, carb-free meal, morning, noon and night!


Icing on the cake were the desserts, especially the seasonal ice-creams churned out by their Indian origin dessert chef, everyday! From coconut to cashew-date, amaretto to passion fruit sorbet.. All simply delicious!

The first afternoon, we just crashed, after a sumptuous meal as all were sleep deprived. In the evening we decided to check out the premises, walking on the beach, circling the island.


Our villa, no 31, according to me was perfectly situated with just enough depth of water to wade in… Good for baby n us.. With a beautiful sand bank right across and perfect view of the setting sun!


This was one place we spent every evening, smitten with the awe-inspiring landscape, the gorgeous colors of the evening sky, against the darkening waters, the endless expanse of the horizon and of course the beautiful sand bank meandering into the depths of the water, taking us a little closer to heaven with every step! Also a delight for photography enthusiasts!




The li’l one had a blast, splashing in water, spotting sting rays, reef sharks (babies) and other smaller fish, swimming in these waters and making sand castles, while we bid adieu to daylight.





Incidentally the wind makes this eerie howling kind of sound at night over the ocean which was a bit waxing for me initially, but then somnolence took over.

Day 2:
I opened my eyes at about 7:10…and the first thought was “oh god, I missed the sunrise n it’ll be too bright by now”… But then I decided to peek through the curtains… the vista was jaw dropping.





A bit of cloud cover on the horizon changed the colors from stark white to shades of crimson n orange against the austere blue! Aah, what a perfect morning! I spent a few solitary moments on the deck, absorbing every moment, then woke up dear darling and went for a short stroll again on the perfect sand bank!
For breakfast, the chef n his team did a spectacular job of keeping everyone happy and content!

Bro n I went snorkeling.. First on our own.. Wary of the sting rays which abound in these waters.. and then again in the evening with the local expert who hails from the UK.. There is enough coral and sea life, just ½ km from the beach at the drop-off point into the deep dark sea!


In the evening, again on the spectacular sand bank, we saw a washed up jelly fish!


Next day arrived with spotty clouds, first indicator in 3 days that we were visiting during the wet season! During my customary, solitary morning walk around the island, I saw this spectacular rainbow.. Adding that perfect touch to the perfect holiday!


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After breakfast we again, lounged in the common room for some time, some of sitting on the deck surrounded by the turquoise waters! Once again, rented some snorkeling gear and decided about doing a longish stretch in the afternoon… But …heavy clouds n a massive downpour, washed away those plans.. Luckily the skies cleared in the evening for a lazy saunter on the sand bank…I know its by now clichéd, but yes… the highlight of the trip was the sand bank!



There are other paid activities on the island like deep sea-diving, which we skipped this time, having seen a lot, snorkeling. There is sunset fishing, dolphin spotting n kayaking etc.. But just lounging on the deck on your own water villa.. Surrounded by pristine waters and watching the sun go down was the ideal “activity”on a holiday to this tropical paradise!

Blissful three days! Will be back for sure.

Tit-bits about driving in this part of the world- Germany/ Austria

Drive from Neuschwanstein (Füssen) to Montreux (Switzerland-CH) was a straight 6 hour long, exhausting drive, motored mainly by DH. Only high point of the ride was the Autobahn, one of the only roadways in the world where you can drive as fast as you want!!


We needed to buy a vignette (akin to a permit) to pass via Austrian motorway, available at most border towns, in this case, the German town of Lindau.

Austrian are known to be finicky about this, casting heavy fines for an otherwise cheapish 10€ vignette. In both Austria and Switzerland every user of the highways is required to pay this road tax instead of a toll, and prove the payment by a sticker called a vignette. The Austrian 10€ vignette is valid for a week, while the swiss permit costing 40€ is valid for an year!


So while driving we kept seeing boards saying Lindau 20km ahead, then 10, then 5.. And we started panicking.. And then I saw a board, “Wilkommen Australisch”… shucks…and then at the last moment we saw an Ausfahrt (an exit in Germany) so we rammed our van down it.. Phew! We finally got to a petrol pump and bought the vignettes..



Some of the nations in the european union  expect an IDP -International Driving Permit, in addition to a valid Drivers licence, some of those being Austria, Greece and Italy. So just because we were meandering through Austria for small stretches, we applied for the same from our country- why take a chance.

In comparison to the Awesome Autobahn, the French Roadways allow a maximum speed of 130 kmph.


…and keeping in spirit of everything French and arty, the Exit signs in France (Sortie) are in Italics… 🙂


Schloss Neuschwanstein & a beautiful afternoon in Füssen

Day 4-

We spent the night in Füssen, a small boutique town just 5 min drive away from Neuschwanstein castle. During the planning stage, we couldn’t get a decent accommodation in Hohenschwangau, a small town at the base of the castle, also the home for the original and smaller, Hohenschwangau castle.

Hohenschwangau Castle

So, Füssen was seen as the second best option. But reaching the town, we were pleasantly surprised by its quaint, old-world charm, cobblestoned streets lit in an orange glow. The Hotel Sonne Füssen was an icing on the cake, which went beyond all expectations, which were already high, after having read great reviews. This was a beautiful hotel, decorated in a quirky and eclectic manner!

This morning we ambled to the restaurant and feasted on a lavish breakfast, definitely one on top of the list during all our travels! We gorged ourselves, then set course relatively early by 9 ish, for Neuschwanstein castle, …the fairy tale castle celebrated by Disney..
DH had visited the castle 10 years back, on a tour starting with a train ride from Bahnoff station (Munich) till Fussen, then a bus from Fuessen to the base of the castle, followed up an uphill hike with a Japanese student guide. He remembered that the inside tour of the castle was pretty boring (by our point of view), just like all other palaces and castles, with the routine of gold inlay everywhere… So this time we decided to skip the indoor tour and decided to head straight to the best vantage point for spectacular views of the castle from the Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge).


So we started walking uphill from the bus stop, a very steep hike and saw this regiment of German army passing us, using this path for rigorous training!!  As we hiked up, we were overtaken by huge horse drawn carriages, with 15-20 people sitting in, some of whom gave us…the breathless sweaty mortals’, supercilious looks. That lasted till the half way point beyond which everyone has to walk up…Huh!!


We just motored on and reached the bridge meeting a pleasant young Frenchman who insisted on talking to us in impeccable Hindi.

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The views of the castle from Marienbrucke, are Classic with the majestic turreted Castle rising amongst dense woods surrounding it. Obviously, traveling during the Fall season is even more beautiful with the verdant greens interspersed with hues of orange and red! This I know because I bought a magnet with such a picture!

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The bridge can get a bit crowded, very windy and younger ones need to be firmly taken hold off.

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After taking the mandatory pictures, we walked down, and drove back. There is an alternate adventurous hike down to the stream, at the back of the castle, which DH had loved last time but in company of younger and elderly, we went the routine way. …And yes we, the non-drivers, tried some Glühwein (just like Mulled wine), on the way down, which tasted heavenly after the strong winds on the Marienbrucke!

Coming back to Füssen by 12 noon, we first went to a super market to stock up on essentials for our long road journey ahead.
Then we went down cobble stoned streets led by Sriram who was looking for this Vegan restaurant called Casa Veda…which had tremendous reviews on Tripadvisor. This was a self service restaurant with funky decoration.. We tried the soup of the day (smoked pumpkin, coconut, curry leaves and veggies) and the meal  of the day with tasty vegetables, greens including asparagus & mild spices ( without the heat). The meal was so good that we ordered seconds. For dessert we had Chia seed pudding with fresh strawberries, and a Johannisberry (Redcurrant) cake…In all, a Delicious, heavenly affair! Sriram got a lot of thumbs up and pats on the back for his excellent choice of hotel and restaurant.

To call it a perfect afternoon, we shopped at the gift shop of Hotel Sonne Füssen which was again loaded with eclectic lamps and other curios. Happy Me!

Rest of the Day was spent in a long, pretty dull and dreary road journey to Montreux…more about it in the next post… Guten Tag.