Kristine wanders

The musings of a wanderer......

Category: Maldives

My Top 10 from 2015

2015 was a pretty epic year of traveling for me. I’ve just switched over to my new 2016 calendar and I counted all the days I was out of Saudi traveling last year. It was 109. 109!!!! How is that even possible? Since the last time I checked I work a full-time gig as a VIP nurse in Saudi Arabia. But apparently I was on the go a lot. I visited 16 countries over the last year, 11 of them new for me, and I thought I would share my top 10 favourite memories from the last year. Enjoy!!

1. Cyprus

Way back in February I took a trip to Cyprus and my kiwi sidekick and I rented a car and drove around the quaint island. I have 2 favourite memories from this trip. The first was the a day we spend driving in the hills between Limassol and Paphos. The  day was cold and dreary and we visited a local winery and then made our way to a small village that was devastated and deserted by an earthquake in 1969. As we arrived in the village a torrential downpour started which only added to the creepiness of our visit, and we got soaked walking around taking photos. The village is on the way to a town called Lemona. The other great memory I have from that trip was the time a stranger gave us his BMW to drive for an afternoon. You can read about that travel tale here.

Creepy right?!

2. Norway

Two words. Lofoten Islands. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. They are picturesque and have this kinda of awestruck beauty that isolated and desolate places have. Every which way you turn your head was a postcard perfect view. The gagged snow covered peaks drop dramatically into the arctic sea and I would go back in a second. I think an Atheist would have a hard time believing there isn’t a higher power of some sort after visiting this island chain. See for yourself…..

3. Sweden

The whole of Scandinavia is awesome, and travel there is pretty easy. It would be a real shame if you went to Sweden and didn’t visit the Ice Hotel, even if only for the day! The Ice Hotel is an artistic marvel in that every year the design and decor is completely different. Different artists take part every year so the theme rooms change, which you have to admit is pretty cool. It is pricey, but well worth the stay. You can sleep in one of the actual ice rooms, or stay in a heated cabin like we did. Oh, and if you go make sure to do the tasting menu at the restaurant there- it is phenomenal. Maybe you’ll luck out and the Northern Lights will come out like they did for us!!

4. Finland

Dog sledding in Lapland has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was bloody cold, but so worth it.

5. Maldives

This view……I dream about it often. This is one of the most relaxed vacations I have ever had. Ever. It was hard to decide between spa, pool, eat, nap, read, repeat. This is also the place where I attempted to overcome my fear of the water and tried scuba diving.

6. Bahrain

So VIP culture is huge in the Middles East. You rarely see anything VIP in North America unless it’s in a mocking nature, but over in these parts everything is VIP. VIP movie theaters, hospitals, parking spots, entrances. It’s all a little over the top. That is until you catch a ride over the causeway to Bahrain in a vehicle with diplomatic plates and get to cross via the VIP lanes. Yep. And funfact….they have tea boys who come right up to you car to serve you tea, while you wait in line to cross the border.

7. Morocco

I blogged at great length about how difficult it was traveling in Morocco, but one the best things we did while there was take a cooking class thru Souk Cuisine. This class included a shopping trip to buy the needed ingredients in the Medina and was a great way to learn about local ingredients whilst mixing with the locals. Even though Morocco was sometimes very challenging the food was ALWAYS delicious. I would pretty much recommend doing a cooking class or food tour whenever you travel. I’m doing one later this month in Spain and can’t wait!!

8. Bali Indonesia

At the end of August I took part in a retreat on the northern part of the Indonesian island of Bali with 17 other ladies from all over the world. My time there was so needed and really came at a time when I needed to slow down and work through some things on my own. The location was beautiful, as were the many lovely ladies I met. This was a time of much needed R&R and reflection, and I’m so thankful for the wonderful friendships that were formed from my time in Bali.

9. Oktoberfest Germany

Even though I ended up with a GI bug from hell, Oktoberfest was a seriously fun time (while it lasted.) I mean what’s not to love about a group of traditionally costumed and hugely intoxicated people smashing beer steins together while singing traditional German songs at the top of ones lungs. It was a good time, and YOLO you really only do live once so you should go.

10. Sparkling Hills Spa in British Columbia Canada

Last month I took my mom to this spa about an hour from where she lives. This is a place people have been raving about since it opened a few years back and I was keen to see what all the hype was about! The hotel is pretty much the luxury accommodations in the Okanagan region of British Columbia and known for its spa, saunas and heated outdoor infinity pools. The views from the rooms are amazing, as are the 7 saunas and the indoor floating pool with classical music playing under the water. Well worth the visit, and it was a great mother-daughter retreat.

So really that wraps up 2015. It was a pretty great year. I’m really excited to see what is in store for 2016. I’m excited for the new faces I will meet, the new sights I will see, and the changes that will take place inside of me.  I found this quote that sums up my thoughts about the upcoming year perfectly, and my hopes for both you and I…..

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.

You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, for all of us, and my wish for myself.

Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.

Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t prefect, whatever it is; art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing. Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Neil Gaiman

Overcoming Fear…..

I have a completely irrational fear of the water. I blame the movie Jaws. And one time when we were house boating as a kid and I was swimming in a lake with my mom and she said “Imagine if something grabbed your foot.” Thanks a lot mom. That’s the type of thing that keeps a kid awake at night. This fear is so irrational that I’m uncomfortable even in the deep end of a pool. Especially if I’m alone. Because my mind thinks there might be a shark lurking. Yes, even in a pool. I warned you this was an irrational fear.

I’m even more skiddish in the ocean. Don’t get me wrong. I can swim, but I would never go into the ocean alone. Like ever. But if I’m with someone I trust I will, but not very deep. One of the long standing things on my lengthy list of things to do before I die, was to try scuba diving. Here, you’re probably saying to yourself….didn’t she say she’s afraid of water?? Yes I am, but I’m a firm believer of walking head first into my fears. Which is why when I was in the Maldives in April, I signed up for a beginners scuba diving class.

I signed up the day before the class. And immediately that voice in my head was like you’re going to die. Or be eaten by a shark. I started to have sign-up remorse. The following morning before the class that same voice was trying to talk me out of it. You don’t have to go. You don’t feel well. And the voice was right- I didn’t feel well, but I knew it was just anxiety. So to the class I went. It didn’t help that the dive instructors took great pleasure in playing off my fears by making jokes like…..Do you know what happens if you see a shark. You die. Not. Funny. FYI.  So the class started off with the group of us watching a video. There were 6 students and the 2 dive instructors. So we watch the video. And I’m like this isn’t too bad. And then we don the dive gear. And that wasn’t so bad. It’s heavy and throws your balance off, but we were still on land so everything was ok.

SHARK......

SHARK……

Regular Fish...

Regular Fish…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we entered with water. And did a quick lesson in the shallow water. It was difficult to remember to breathe only thru your mouth. My mask kept leaking which didn’t help my anxiety and I was having a hard time clearing it. Luckily, one of the dive instructors (probably realizing I was the weakest link) was at my side. We had to show a couple skills before going into the deeper water. This included clearing your mask, and how to get your regulator back if you lost it. So then we moved into deeper water. I’m not even sure how I made it to this point except that it took so much effort remembering to breathe with the regulator that I didn’t have time to be scared of the water or to be looking around to see if Jaws was coming. Every time I went down my mask would start to leak, which would cause me to panic and I would make the signal for I’m going up like a mad woman. And the dive instructor would come up with me, and give me a pep talk and we would go back down. Then my mask would leak, I would panic, and back up we would go. We got down to about 5ft. And I lasted for about a minute at that depth. And then that was enough for me. I felt bad getting all the attention from the dive instructor. And my leaking mask wasn’t helping the situation. But I got further than I thought I would. My travel mate said she didn’t even expect me to get into the water. But I did. And to be honest, I’d like to try it again. Without a leaking mask. And with an instructor who’s only responsibility is me. I’m not saying I will love it, but I would definitely like to give it another try. I’m even making plans to in August, when I’m in Sharm el Sheikh Egypt for a long weekend. So scuba diving I will see you again very soon….

Calm Seas……

There was an afternoon that I spent on the back balcony of our bungalow in the Maldives where the sea was perfectly calm. Where it was difficult to ascertain where the sea ended and the sky started. Where boats on the horizon appeared to be floating in the sky instead of sailing on the sea. The only thing that appeared to be moving were the fish jumping. They would momentarily break the otherwise calm surface. It felt, for that portion of the afternoon at least, as though time were standing still…..

 

 

 

 

 

On another note, I’m off to Morocco for the next 2 weeks. I can’t wait to eat some delicious food, catch up with my dear Yankee friend, and take about a million photos!!

The Maldives

At the end of April I spent 6 blissful nights in the Maldives. The Maldives are an archipelago of some 1190 islands in the Indian Ocean spread out over 90 000sq km. It is the lowest country in the world with an average elevation of 1.5m  which has major implications with global warming and the rising of sea level. 80 % of the country actually lies less than 1m above  sea level. Some reports state that these islands could disappear in the next 50 years resulting in the displacement of any entire country. The Maldives is a Muslim country that prior to converting practiced Buddhism. Given it’s natural beauty it’s no surprise that tourism is it’s main economy.

We flew into Colombo Sri Lanka, and then took a 90 min flight to the capital city of Male. From here we took a 20min seaplane flight to Veligandu Island Resort which was to be our home for 5 nights. The Maldives are synonymous with luxury travel. Most accommodations in the Maldives requires a seaplane or speedboat transfer to reach your resort. Often this adds on hundreds of dollars to the price of the hotel, which trust me is anything but cheap. I traveled with my kiwi sidekick and we booked 3 nights in a water bungalow with an all inclusive option and then 2 nights in a beach bungalow. There ended up being an issue with our original booking so we were upgraded to a water bungalow with a jacuzzi for the entire time. Too bad we weren’t on our honeymoon cause this place was super duper romantic, and obviously bursting at the seems with couples in love. So here we were 2 single gals just wanting to get our relax and drink on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bungalow we stayed in was gorgeous. We had a balcony with a couple lounge chairs and stairs that led into the water. We had a fully stocked mini bar, and all you could drink at the 2 bars on the resort. This was my first experience with an all-inclusive resort, and while it’s really not my thing I fully embraced all it had to offer. Champagne for breakfast? Yes, please. Mam, you want drinks at the pool? Yes. Please. More wine? Yes. The answer is always going to be yes. So I spent my time split between laying by the pool, swimming in the pool, or relaxing on our back balcony. We begrudgingly did all the romantic couple things like having dinner overlooking the beach by candle light, or taking a sunset dolphin cruise. To be completely honest it was such a beautiful vacation, but being around couples 24/7 took it’s toll. I’d like to say I rose above it, but sometimes I wanted to just yell at them to “get a room” and secretly took pleasure when some of them got irritated with each other. I’m not especially proud of this, but it’s just how I felt after spending 5 days on other people’s honeymoons.

 

 

 

 

 

We saw some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed, and cherished the calm evening sound of the Indian Ocean brushing against our bungalow. We took a boat excursion to a local village and wandered in the alleyways listening to children recite the alphabet. We saw pods of dolphins doing acrobatics and playing with our boat. The water was so blue I’ll forever think of that colour blue as Maldivian Blue. We had some much needed down time, and I was able to reflect on where I’ve been, and where I hope I’m heading. I attempted to overcome my fear of water, and surprised myself (more on this in an upcoming post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last night in the Maldives was spent at a budget hotel on the same island as the international airport. It’s a quick 10 min ferry ride to the jam packed island capital of Male. This section of the Maldives is in a conservative Muslim area so alcohol is not allowed, and it’s recommended to dress a little more conservatively. It was nice to spend a night with the locals. There are a ton of budget hotels here, but I wouldn’t recommend staying here for more than a night or 2 as you have to take a speedboat to the western beaches if one wants to swim in the sea in what we consider a normal swimsuit. We didn’t get to explore the capital city of Male, which I would’ve like to have done had we more time. Pictures of the city show that literally ever square foot of it is taken up, and would’ve been interesting to explore. So that’s the Maldives. It’s so very worth seeing. But go with your lover, and not your best mate as you might be like me, and find all that newlywed gushy love a tad bit nauseating…..

 

Sunrise….

Sometimes a sunrise is particularly amazing. Where it looks like an artist’s brush has painted hues of colour on the adjacent clouds. Or, where the sun breaking thru the clouds gives the impression of molten lava bubbling below the clouds surface. Yellow and orange turning into red. With coral hues softening into pale orange and yellow. This one took place 37000ft above the southern tip of India, on route to Sri Lanka. I awoke to see the light coming over the horizon and then watched it for some time completely mesmerized. Awestruck by the beauty of it. Momentarily forgetting my deep rooted fear of flying to concentrate on a single. Beautiful. Sunrise.

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