Category Archives: travel

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND ( RING OF kerry TOURS)

After Northern Ireland tour, we went to Republic of Ireland from Belfast to do Ring of Kerry tours. When my friend told me, the tour costs only 20 GBP, I did not believe her in the first place. On the other hand, I thought service might not be good. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the tour is very good with nice coaches and good tour guide. I booked via trip adviser and needed to pay extra 2 GBP (22GBP ) . It is still very worthwhile. The same tour can be done from different towns and the price is more expensive if you start Ring of Kerry tour from Belfast.

First of all, we took the bus from Belfast to Dublin . It was around 12 GBP per person, then we went to Killarney from Dublin by train which cost us 24 GBP per person. As you might have been already aware , the earlier you can book for the train, the cheaper the price will be. To make you understand, I will post the picture of the train route.

As you can see above photo, we can not directly go to Killarney from Dublin by train. We have to get off at a town called Mallow and have to change another train to Killarney.

Killarney town center
old charming Killarney

Kilarney is a charming expensive tourist destination with lots of horse wheel carts etc. All hotels are run by local and there is no hotel chain . I notice a lot of nice restaurants there . I assume most hotels are originally houses, transformed into inns by owners . As a result, you feel like you are staying at a local Irish house. We booked a motel named Kilarney Inn. It cost us 100GBP per night without breakfast. If you browse booking.com or agoda, you will find out the price can go up to 500 GBP per night for some hotels. The staff are nice and welcoming at Killarney Inn and they cater delicious breakfast too . We need to walk around 15 minutes from town centre to Kilarney Inn.

Killarney inn
very cosy reception of Killarney Inn
reunion with my friend Kasia in front of Killarney Inn

The next day we went to the Killarney town center to catch a tour bus for Ring of Kerry tour . The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry. Its 179km-long, circular route takes in rugged coastal landscapes and rural seaside villages

Our gathering point for tour bus in front of Killarney Plaza hotel at town center

When our tour started , our tour guide stated that Johny Cash wrote the song “forty shades of green” based on Irish scenery. We have seen lots of green mountains and trees along the way.

scenic view

In the beginning, we passed through River Laune and a beautiful town called Killorglin .

River Laune
Killorglin church

I will write our stops with headings because those places are ones I could really see and walk around.

1) Kerry Bog village

Jack Bell O’ Sullivan ( black smith ) house the building was well ventilated with windows, double doors and a large chimney. The floor is made from cobble stone for durability.
Potato famine was a very sad story of Ireland history
Ohnmar enjoying gift shop at Bog village. She is obviously obsessed with sheep

It is a Irish traditional village composed of thatched houses. The Kerry Bog Village is set at the foot of the Mcgillycuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range . You can see almost extinct Kerry pony and Irish hounds ( the world’s largest dogs ). The hounds were once used to hunt wild boar, wolves and Elk. It was also regarded as royal dogs and general population was not allowed to own them. They can be as tall as 90 cm and as heavy as 70 kg. Nowadays, not many people can rare Irish Hounds as they are difficult to maintain and very expensive. At Bog village, they looked unwell and tired. They were kept in the cage in the sunny area.

Irish hound

There was also history about potato famine. When potato blight ( fungus ) invaded Irish farms in 1845 to 1849 , a lot of potato and tomatoes were damaged leading to death of many people because of starvation . As Ireland main food is potato, a lot of people suffered financially and physically. At that time, typical Irish family had many household members and children living in such small dwellings .

Infant/ maternal mortality rates were disturbingly high in Ireland during 18th/19th century and average lifespan of people living in these times was on average 45 years.

Among other things, I also learnt that the reason the windows are so small in certain cottage was due to tax purposes. Under the laws of the land in Ireland, people paid more for having larger windows, as it was seen as a luxury to have more light. It is believed that such a tax was the reason for the half doors, as light was allowed in the top half of the door when needed and this was not taxed. It was this tax that started the famous phrase ” daylight robbery”. ( information from pamphlet distributed at Bog village )

Cottages did not have toilets like we have today. Instead they had to make use of a p’o ( a special pot usually placed under the bed ).

Farmers had to loan money with interest from wealthy people to do plantation . When they could not pay back the loan, the loan sharks could confiscate the farm and houses. I also found out people were forced to leave their house by loan sharks by legal orders as well as mechanical restraining . Sometimes people died inside their house as the authority threw fire into the chimney when the house owner resisted to leave.

Notice to quit the property.
Interior decoration of Irish cottage
irish girl playing folk music inside one of Bog village cottages

There is a Red Fox inn at Bog village and they sell delicious Baileys coffee. I was eager to try baileys coffee and I got severe gastritis after that. ( It tastes so good and you should try if you have strong stomach ). By the way, Bog village entrance fee is 6 Euros per person for adult and 4.5 Euros for a child.

The Red Fox Inn near Bog village where I bought baileys coffee

2) Iveragh Pennisula /? Dingle Bay

I hope I am writing this correctly. The bus stopped at the scenic location around Iveragh Pennisula called Dingle Bay.

The place is breathtaking. I could recall the area had traditional celtic musician playing pipes and Irish folks selling handcraft items.

we were fortunate to witness beautiful weather

the scenic view of peninsular

The scene after Dingle Bay

Kells Viaduct on the Ring of Kerry.

I took above photo from the bus and believe that that is Kells Viaduct who was last used in 1960. The trains used to come from Dublin to Caherslveen by Dingle Bay via Kells Viaduct .

3) Brendan Ferris Sheepherding Demonstration

The highlight of Ring of Kerry tour is sheep dog demonstration. It is such a marvelous show and only cost us 5 Euros per person.

Kells Sheep Center is run by Sheepdog trainer Brendan Ferris. It is located on the Ring of Kerry on the N70, halfway between Cahersiveen and Glenbeigh. Brendan trains Collies around 20 minutes per day to become excel in sheep herding . Training period takes more than 1 year and trained dogs can be as expensive as a car. Our tour guide said we can go back home with the conviction that if dogs don’t listen to us, they are just merely lazy or pretending to be naive.

We saw different kinds of sheep, some are for meat, some are for milk, some are for wool etc.
car park in front of sheep farm

We went in the summer, and it was very sunny. I was sweating in the crowd. I recommend to bring umbrella if you go there in the summer.

scenic mountain on the way

The bus passed throught the town called Cahersiveen which has population around 1000. There is a catholic church in Cahersiveen named after a lay person , Daniel O’ Connell ( very unusual in Ireland as most churches are named after saints ) . Daniel was referred as the liberator who fought for equal rights and religious tolerance of Irealnd in early half of 19th century. He was born from wealth Catholic family and decided to gain the equal rights for Catholic people in Irish parliament which was denied many years. The bus did not stop in Cahersiveen but I could manage to take some photos from the bus.

Cahersiveen
Cahersiveen Catholic church
Above photo is the picture of Hugh O’Flaherty who is a significant figure of resistance of Nazism in the World War II. He saved 6500 of Allied soldiers and Jews as a Catholic priest.

Another famous person in the town is Hugh O’Flaherty, a catholic priest who saved many lives of Jews and Prisoners of the World War II.

Our tour guide explained that the Catholic priests have involved in politics of Ireland in a positive way.

4) Waterville village

Our bus passed through the Waterville village. It became popular because of American comedian Charlie Chaplin who regularly visited the village and finally bought a holiday house there. There is a statue of Charlie in the center of the town in his memory.

tourists taking pictures with Charlie Chaplin statue


scenic view after Waterville village



scenic road

5) Com an Chiste

Our Bus stopped at Com an Chiste around 30- 40 minutes. So we had a time to take photos .

It is a place which is 700 ft above sea level , and regarded as the best place on the planet to view stary skies at night. On a clear, moonless night, you can see over 4000 stars with the naked eye.

Com An Chiste
Ohnmar enjoying cute animals which were brought by farmers to the tourists area to play with
A statue of the Virgin Mary stands at a viewpoint between Caherdaniel and Waterville on the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay.
I believe one of these islands Right is Scariff island and left one is Deenish island. Scariff is a private island and visitors are not allowed

From there, you can see Scariff island, where Fr Francis O’ Sullivan , a scholar rebel, priest and wanted man, was caught and beheaded by British troops in 1653.

Another popular destination is Skellig island where star wars movie “The Force awakens ” was filmed. It is UNESCO heritage site because of 6th century monastic buildings. There are day tours depending on weather , but guests are not allowed to stay there and there is no facility such as toilet , water and food supply in Skellig island. Only 180 visitors are allowed to visit everyday and there is no safety measures . The boat trip last 45 minutes and tourists are allowed to stay 2 hours at the island. The steps are steep without rails and difficult to climb. Even when the sea is calm at mainland, the water near Skellig island is turbulent. Our tour does not include visiting there.

6) Scariff Inn

The bus stopped at Scariff Inn, which is well known for Irelands best known view with the meal. The sea food is delicious and as I expected, overpriced. After the meal, we had a few minutes to enjoy the scene outside the restaurant.

view outside Scariff Inn

Along the way, we passed through a stretch of beach which was spectacular. I just googled and found out it was called Derrynane beach . I am sad that I did not have a chance to walk along that beach as the bus did not stop there. I really recommend making it as a stop.

Derrynane beach is full of tourists

7) Sneem village

Among all sites, Sneem village is my favourite. I had a very nice vanilla ice cream there. While other people were looking at wool shops, I ventured towards the church and found out little pyramids around the church .

pyramids for fairies

The project of building pyramids was begun in 1988, financed by the Arts Council of Ireland as a result of Sneem winning the National Tidy Towns award the previous year. Using stone and coloured glass, Irish artist James Scanlon and his team have created a magical effect, marrying the natural to the human world.

Actually, the pyramids were created like the way fairies went. I walked around pyramids, sat beside river and listened to the sound of the river, scattered with the calling of birds. It was amazing.

Sneem

colorful houses in Sneem

Sneem

Sneem with so many ice cream shops

8) Ladies view

Our last point is Ladies view at Killarney National park. It is a scenic point and the most photographed place in Ireland according to Irish Times. It was named according to the time, ladies in line waited for Queen Victoria arrival. To arrive Ladies View, we passed through Gap of Dunloe.

Gap of Dunloe
National park of Killarney where you can see wild life such as red deer

Killarney National park

Our guide said the oak woods in Killarney National Park is infested with invasive plant called rhododendron ponticum which destroy diversity of the woodland by rapidly proliferation and replacing other plant species.

Ladies’ view
Ladies’ View
Ladies’ View
The road of Killarney National Park is surrounded by mountains

Ring of Kerry tour lasted 6 hours and the bus driver recommended us to go and watch celtic dancing show called celticstep at the Killarney race course which is 10-15 minutes drive from town center.

Killarney Racecourse

It was an amazing show with a lot of talented dancers and artists who got awards internationally. The way they stepped on their toes and heels made me wonder whether they would develop osteorarthritis at the young age. The sheer pressure on the feet for years might cause wear and tear on the joints. They all look young and fit and seemed enjoying dancing. A lady sang beautifully and all of them are very good looking.

The only annoying thing was a few girls who were sitting behind us carried away with the show and kept on kicking our chairs .

dancer challenging each other

Initially, the tourguide offered us to go there with free of charge transport. The buses came and picked up tourists after the show. Unfortunately, our driver did not turn up and we needed to beg another bus to take us. Instead of dropping us at our hotel, the bus driver only stopped in front of the pub, ( may be intentionally so that a group of tourists would end up drinking over night ). A lot of tourists on the bus protested and became grumpy, but all of us had no choice, but had to got off the bus.

Personally , this tour is just a small part of Ring of Kelly and I am thinking of returning with my partner to drive on our own. If you want to know ” off the beaten track” tour, please read following blog. The writer sounds like he knows Kerry very well. 🙂

https://www.theirishroadtrip.com/ring-of-kerry-drive/#sec1

Thank you for reading.

Hnin

Northern Ireland ( Games of Thrones tour)

Being a nature lover, I  think Ireland is more authentic  and more worthy to visit than UK . I am in love with Ireland and its people. In spite of teaming with sad stories of violence, revolutions, conflicts, Irish people are very warm. I have heard many stories that Ireland is pretty unsafe, and might be still true. But I did not feel it when I was there , ( may be because I was in many cities which are much more unsafe than Ireland ). The only thing I can complain is Belfast is not designed for tourists and it was very difficult for the tour bus to stop and fetch  the passengers.

I went to Ireland  when I was very down last summer 2019 . I thought of going there alone. Luckily, one of my Uni classmates joined my trip unexpectedly. So we had a nice time , catching up.

Here are a few things I did in Ireland with my friend.

Belfast

In Belfast, I stayed in a travel lodge hotel in city center just for two nights. The first day was just to relax and look around the area. On second day, we did a Northern Ireland tour.

Near our hotel, there was St Malachy’s Church . a gothic style church which is regarded as one of the most romantic buildings in Belfast. It was built in 1941 and inspiration of the design come from the galleried chapels of rural Ireland.  We did not have a chance to go in as it was quite late when we arrived.

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Then we walked to the city center to see Donegall square. We admired the statues around that area, but we did not have chance to see Library and Titanic museum. One girl whom I met during the trip told me Titanic museum is very good to visit and you need a few hours to cover.

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I  would like to post following photos to show that architecture of Belfast is in danger of being shitted everyday by pigeons and sea gulls. Take note, they choose to shit on the heads usually.

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bad ass seagulls

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Then we walked to St Mary chapel which is the first Catholic church in Belfast. As most people in Belfast were protestants, it was such a milestone for Belfast in 1784.

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Then we walked around chapel lane and observed the mural paintings of Belfast. Belfast have many  street artists and mural paintings are used to express the idea ,  culture and political view  of people  . There are even some tours which focus on mural arts. I should do the tour one day.

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fusion of old and new buildings in Belfast

To travel around Belfast, I took the tour from Tripadvisor called ” Game of Thrones Filming locations tours of Northern Ireland. The tour was 45 GBP per each and duration was around 9 hours. The tour includes Giant Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and the Dark Hedges.

Northern Ireland tour trip advisor

In between these places, the bus stopped at some scenic places .   Here are the stops along the Giant causeway route .

Ballygally bay and castle

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Ballagally is a beautiful beach town on Antrim coast.

Ballygally castle is the 17th century castle and it is well known for having at least 3 ghosts.  The most famous one  has been around for the best part of 400 years. The popular theory is that the ghost is that of Lady Isabella Shaw, wife of Lord James Shaw.

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Legend has it that Lord Shaw wanted a son, and when his wife delivered his heir, he snatched the baby from his wife and locked her in a room at the top of the castle. While trying to escape to search for her beloved child, Lady Isabella fell to her death from the tower window! Another theory is that she was actually thrown from the window by the cruel Lord Shaw or one of his henchmen!

Lady Isabella’s ghost is reputed to be a “friendly” spirit who walks the corridors of the old castle. Over the years many guests have reported strange experiences and have felt a presence in their rooms! There are also endless stories of unexplained noises in the night and an eerie green mist over the castle!

Ballygally Castle is very proud of its permanent ghost resident and has dedicated a ghost room for the curious travelers.

For those brave enough to visit the room of Lady Isabella, make your way to the top of the spiral staircase. if you would like to find our more about the Castle History and a Ghost Tour with a member of the hotel staff please call +44 (0)28 2858 1066.

( courtesy to Ballagally castle hotel  website )

ballygally castle ghost room

 

Carnlough harbour

The bus stopped at Carnlough harbour because it was the location in one of the scenes of Games of Thornes. Apparently, I have no idea about that movie as I have never watched it. But I like that peaceful atmosphere and there was a nice coffee shop. We were given a few minutes as a toilet break.

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Carnlough community center and there is a good coffee shop around

I saw a memorable plate about a war pigeon called Paddy at the harbour. During World war II, pigeons were used as messengers to carry coded information. Paddy was released in Normanday and returned back to the base in 5 hours time which was the fastest time recorded. Paddy lived 11 years and was given Dickin medal  which is animal equivalent of Victoria cross. Paddy was the only Irish recipient of Dickin medal to date.

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Cushendun

Among all destinations, I love Cushendun the most. It is a very beautiful town.

Cashendun is a ferry port which is a stone throw away from Scotland. It has become popular because of its colorful past, exotic architecture, caves and churches. Clough-Williams-Ellis ( 1883-1978 )  was the famous  Welsh architect who designed some of Cushendun buildings. We did not have chance to visit those buildings.

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Cushendun port

 

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Cushendun beach

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Cushendun residential area

I  found an interesting seat called Fuldiew seat at the cushendun port. In 1803, a tragic story of two lovers happened  . The tomb of the boy  was dated back to 1803 which can be found in St Parick’s church.  The  legend  has been told repeatedly for over 200 years with some embellishment . The Fuldiew seat was erected to commemorate the tragic story of lovers   by district development association in 2013.

The story of Fuldiew story was like that . An 18 year old boy named John McAlaster had a childhood sweetheart, Mary,  to whom he was engaged. John went out to sea as a sailor and  supposed to come back to Cushendun to mary Mary . Instead, he died aboard , killed by someone and his body was returned to his home town by ship . Mary was not aware of that in the beginning . However, when she found out about the tragic death of her lover, she  died of broken heart. People found her dead body lying next to tombstone of John. She wrote some words on the tombstone using sharp stone.

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Fuldiew seat

Dunluce castle

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Dunluce Medieval Irish Castle

Before we arrived at Giant cause way, the bus stopped near Dunluce castle which was built around 1513. The iconic ruin of Dunluce Castle bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. First built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of north County Antrim by the MacQuillan family around 1500 and later seized by the ambitious MacDonnell clan in the 1550s during an era of violence, intrigue and rebellion.

We did not go to the castle although you can choose to go if you are interested in seeing archaeological remains. Entrance fee is 5.50 Euros for adult and it opens daily.

( Courtesy to Dunluce castle  , Discover Northern Ireland )

Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO world Heritage site. I had never seen many hexagonal stones lying close and fitted to each other before. These columns of stones were transformation of larva erupted from fissure of volcanoes.

Before you venture there, please look carefully at below photo. It is the map of Giant’s Causeway and one of the main attractions is Wishing chair. Unfortunately, the chair was occupied a long time by some tourists that time ( may be not aware of the fact that they should give chance to others, even it does not mean our wish can be granted by simply sitting on it ). So I did not have a chance to sit on it. Basalt stones are cold , shiny,  smooth and quite nice to sit on them actually.

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When I googled it, I found out the photos of Irish women sitting on it in 1900 with the hope of selling their religious memorabilia ( mirrors, hair brushes , booklet etc ) to travelers. The chair is perfectly formed by columns of basalt stones.

Pic. National Library of Ireland Ref.: L_ROY_02236
Info. Giant’s Causeway wishing chair

To make your wish come true, you need to wiggle 4 times, then rub the stone to your left  with your left hand. saying your wish before sitting.  ( you never know unless you try it yourself )

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The science says these beautifully stacked stones were formed 60 millions years ago. However, another side of story is a legend. According to Irish legend, Giant Causeway is formed by an Irish giant named Finn McCool who got into trouble by fighting with Scottish giant called Bennandonnar. The latter wanted to claim Ireland as his property. Enraged Finn threw away boulders into the sea to make a way towards Scotland. After arriving Scotland, Finn noticed he could not beat enormous Bennandonnar and had to run back to Ireland by passing through Giant Causeway  . He was rescued by his witty wife who conned his enemy by portraying Finn as a baby. Bennandonnar ran away thinking Finn as the  son of his enemy.  His enemy thought if the baby was that big, father would be impossible to beat.

 

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beautiful landscape of Ireland

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Dark Hedges

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Dark Hedges were rows of very old beech trees which were planted in 1775 by owner of the property James Stuart. The intention is to create an imposing approach to unwanted visitors.  Like other places of Ireland, the folk believed that trees are regularly visited by ghosts.

The place became popular because of Games of Thrones movie. The old trees are surreal and gives very artistic illusion . I am quite upset to see tourists wrote graffiti on the trees.

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Carrick-a-Rede bridge

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The highlight of the trip is Carrick-a-Rede Bridge which was situated along Giant Causeway route .  The bridge connects mainland and a small island called Carrick-a-Rede. You need to walk  around 30 minutes   to walk up and down the hills to reach the bridge.  At least, you need  1 hour to visit the bridge . The island was formed from volcanic eruption and it was linked to the mainland by a flimsy bridge  . The bridge was made of plunks linked each other with wires of ropes.

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The bridge was originally used by salmon fishermen during summer . It is no longer used for fishing as salmons are very scarce now. It was used only during summer in the past and dismantled during winters. However, as the site became a tourist attraction, the bridge has been  open year round as long as the weather is permissible. Rope access specialists have to check the safety all the time . When the weather is bad, tourists are not allowed to cross the bridge. We need to give entrance fee and need to walk quite a while. There are lots of  stairs . The view of the rocky coastline mixed with basalt , hardened larva  ( dark rock ) was mesmerizing. I was glad that we had a good weather that time.

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When we pass the bridge, it means we are passing  through the mouth of volcano. I can imagine the skill of fishermen as they used to cross the road with one hand holding the rope and one hand holding bits and pieces of fishing gear and fish.

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I was scared to cross it, but managed to do it with encouragement of my friend.

The trip lasted for 9 hours and we were tired when we arrived back. Even with that, we managed to go to a buffet dinner and had a fantastic meal.

I will write about tours in Republic of Ireland soon.

Thank you for reading.

Hnin

Maldives part 4. Maafushi and Arena beach resort

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Today is the last day of our holiday and both of us are sad..Maldives is the destination which suit us. When we were in Bangkok, we enjoyed bustling town with lots of activities to do plus good food. But Maldives gives us complete rest of our mind and soul which everybody needs. If you are aware, we are in a rat race competing each other and trying to outdo each other. Our mind wander and worry endlessly. A place like Maldives which has nothing much to do apart from swimming and relaxing make our mind rest for awhile. We also have to accept that sea and ocean promotes our mental wellbeing.

Yesterday I went into the ocean and floated with the slow waves in shallow water, my face looking towards the sky. There was a half full moon and many stars . There was a halo around the moon and the wind was gentle..The water was warm and soathing. I was so much comforted by the ocean that I said aloud thank you. I was born in a restricted country called Burma and not allowed to have a passport till 28 years of age. Our previous government regarded all doctors as the country’s property and we were not allowed to have a passport unless they wanted to send us to another country for semina and courses etc. So at the age of 28, I ran away from Burma after getting a passport illegally. What I mean is I was able to travel abroad only at the age of 28 with the awareness  that I might not be able to go back there without facing legal actions. I have visited 19 countries since then and I am thankful to this tiny achievement and my travel diaries more than my academic achievement. Nowadays we have democracy and young generations of doctors have more opportunities and freedom compared to our time.

Before my mind wanders again, I want to continue about Maldives , especially Maafushi. Maafushi is a relatively large island ( 1.2 km)  and there is still room for infrastructure and development. Its not instagram perfect place but I am so glad to see real lives of people living here. I can see women take part in building up economy as a lot of them were driving motorbikes and trucks. I also saw local girls dancing , shaking their ass in front of public enjoying themselves . They are more outgoing than I thought in spite of a myth that women are suppressed.

So this post is about real life and you will not see many perfect pictures here. Its about Maafushi with migrants, ongoing buildings , scaffolding and sweaty construction workers.

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Most of them are from Bangladish and some are from India. But they seem happy to be here. Initially I cannot differentiate between Maldivians and Bangali but they pointed us that Maldivians have  darker skin.

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local girls enjoying and dancing with live music

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women on bikes, there is no car in Maafushi

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pretty local girls smiling at us

 

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owner of local arts shop

I talked to the local shop owner called Suja who witnessed Tsunami in 2004. He owns a shop which sells paintings on the wood, glass and coconut.

According to Suja, on the day of tsunami, water rushed inside his house and he was non chalant about it and did not worry. But then he saw trucks were drifting among big waves and then only he ran towards the mosque holding his young child. The family took refuge on the attic of the mosque. The water came in only a few minutes and the tide went down. He needed to waddle in the muddy water to find his sister who was with another family and found to be safe. Luckily there was no death nor injuries in Maafushi. Only 82 people died out of whole country in 2004 tsunami although damages to houses and infrastructure cost millions. In Maafushi, only 14 houses were destroyed.

Suja refuse to label himself and his staff as artists. But the paintings they made out of wood and coconut are quite impressive and unique.

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As I really wanted to buy authentic Maldivian product, I bought a key chain from him made of wood and painting.

Maafushi is also very self sufficient with school, mosques , health care centre and sports centre etc. When I was walking around I saw school children coming out from school with their cute green and white  uniforms.

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Maafushi school

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school fence painted with slogans

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Maafushi health centre

There is also a local bank where you can exchange money. But everywhere you can purchase with USD.

 

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the mosque

Regarding food, you can have local as well as European and Chinese food easily. I have noticed that a lot of tourists are from mainland China and India. To cater them, a lot of restaurants have display of chinese advertisment and hotels offer vegetarian diet as Indian tourists are vegetarian.  I overheard some Indian tourists complaining not enough vegetarian food from hotel buffet and next day, almost every dish became vegetable. Then some of us are like 😫. Indeed, its difficult to satisfy human. But I have to say honestly that Arena beach resort surpassed my expectation ( I did not get any commmission out of hotel )..First of all, they take customers as priority. Their chefs are excellent and even simple meals like pasta is delicious.  All vegetarian cusine are tasty like dahl curry , fried rice with vegetable even for non vegs.They also cater lots of salad and fruits for European tourists and their bakery and puddings are yummy.

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And Arena resort did not break our bank and only charge considerable price for excellent service. All the waiters are always wanting to help us , even just now we are waiting for the boat at public lounge and one staff came and opened fans and aircon for us. Rooms are clean and provided with coffee , water and toiletaries daily. There is also a place to hang wet clothes at balcony with drainage system.

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our room with balcony and sea view

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view from room. A boy climbing tree and a crowd was encouraging him

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dining area just in front of beach

Entertainment ( acoustic guitarist and singers ) are good and can be equivalent to  vocalists from Boracay ( exceptionally musical beach destination ) although they do not sing everyday.

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artists playing baby shark song for a toddler who was spinning and dancing

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we met new friends during out meal time

 

As the island is small, franchise food like KFC and McDonald do not esist here. But if you look around, there are a lot of European food and Chinese restaurants.

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Chinese sea food restaurant

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20191007_174327A cafe which mimic Hard Rock

We did not have chance to explore the local food as we booked hotel with meal plans. Even breakfast and dinner alone is enough for big eater . Afternoon is our siesta time and we prefer to rest in our room .

Regarding activities, there are a lot of water sports you can do such as kayaking, banana boats, jet ski, fishing, paragliding , water skiing and boarding. Arena beach also has scuba diving courses and activities for both beginners and experienced diving. They have been operating diving excursions for 30 years. You can do night diving and also wreck diving . I feel like going to nearby sandbank with kayak. But my boyfriend complained of backache and decided not to do any of those. Instead, we spent lots of our time swimming or simply sitting in the ocean. We just now found out there is a swimming pool on 8th floor only after we checked out. But we still do not regret our preference on the ocean. To be frank, its the priviledge of warm countries. While in Isle of Man, water of the sea is always cold and I still cannot swim where I live. I also miss my time in Kuantan, Malaysia where dipping in South China sea was my weekly activities.

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By the way, please read Maldives part 2 and part 3 to know about excursions to shark bay, turtle watching and swimming with manta rays.

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Maafushi with wild flowers

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a bird resting on the boat

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public beach with rubbish lying around

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a shop for watersports

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beaches near hotels are cleaner

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a relaxing place near water sports shop

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Recreational activities like spa and massage are too expensive to try. Usual price is 58 USD for an hour which is almost the same like Europe..So we did not try it but if you want it, you can easily get massage in Maafushi as I saw 3 spa lounges and 1 gym.

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For souvenir , there are many local shops. I was even joking every house opens a shop. Maldives do not produce garment and all are imported from other countries. So prices are above other Asian countries and you need to haggle to get correct price. But we found a shop where we get reasonable price witout hassel of bargaining. I will upload photo of that shop here.

20191007_172807.jpgif you want good price, Eloda is ok  personally..But ask around before you buy..

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wall of local shop displaying Indonesian ornament

 

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The best part is sunset. Its very beautiful to watch it. I am going to miss it very much.

 

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We are grateful to Maldives, its people for their hospitality . We will come back again one day.

Thank you

Hnin

 

 

Maldives part 3. shark bay and chasing Manta Ray

Today 6th Oxctober 2019 is the mile stone of my life . Its because I have swam with hundreds of sharks in Maldives. I am someone who is obsessed with sharks since I was a child. I remember my parents took me to cinema to watch Jaws which was very popular that time. That instilled me with fear of sharks .

But I know there are many harmless sharks and I trust tourist industry will never do anything risky. So I and my boyfriend booked a tour to see Manta rays and sharks.

The tour starts from 9am and it cost 50USD per person. As usual we gathered near  Arena resort office and collected our life jackets and snorkelling gears. At first I was disappointed as the boat for today was quite small and my favorite tour guide whom I met yesterday was not in today. Yesterday we went for another tour and many tour guides followed us. So we had luxury of being looked after by many tour guides and I was worried about safety of small boat as well as number of staff ( only one tour guide ) for our group. But we eventually found out our group have so many friendly people and we began introducing to each other.

The first place was for watching dolphins. If you read my previous post, I have already mentioned about watching a dolphin pod in Maldives part 2. But today, dolphins decided to show us their acrobatic skill. They started to jump in the air one after another and I believe they wanted to entertain us. What intelligent and friendly creatures! I cannot even imagine why anyone should harm them. Some of photos are shared by Alex and Merry who are from China and Indonesia. They are very nice couple and we only met them today .  We clicked on camera and not sure whether we could get good pictures as dolphins appeared in the air unexpectedly and rapidly .  But I believe I did capture some of good photos although images are small.

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dolphin jumping

After dolphin sighting, the guide searched for the mantas to swim with. Both Manta and sharks are nocturnal animals and usually sleep during day time. I am amazed at the way tour guides can see manta from very far. He warned us that Manta rays can swim fast and we need to ready to jump in once he sees one. With that instruction, I decided to give up on it. Haha. First of all, I cannot swim well. Secondly, I need someone to push me back to boat if I drift away from boat. With one guide juggling everything for whole group, I do not trust I could get help . So I watched from the boat. Most of our group did well and managed to see Manta very shortly. Manta ofcos swam away very swiftly like a celebrity chased by paparazis. The tide was very strong and my boyfriend was exhausted after chasing Manta. He could not see very well without his glasses and he ended up swimming without seeing manta.

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For awhile, our tour guide kept on searching mantas but we could not find anymore at that moment after first manta disappeared.  So we decided to go to shark bay to swim with sharks. Our tour guide advised us as follows ” please do not touch sharks. do not pull their tails and do not ride on them”. I was amazed and wonder whether tourists have done that to poor sharks.

When we arrived at shark bay, I was surprised it was very near to resort. We could see big sharks from the boat and they were swimming leisurely. One of our group jumped from the boat and accidentally hit one shark. These sharks are nurse shark and now only realized they are not harmful . They eat squid, stingray and small fish .So they are incapable of killing any human beings.In fact they does bite humans ( most are human fault as men think they are very docile) , 52 times recorded but none of the bites are lethal. They have small mouth with small teeth attached to a large pharynx. Nurse sharks can suck the prey into the large pharynx after swallowing.  nurse shark can live up to 20 years  for female and 15 years for male. . The largest recorded is 302 cm  and average length is 8 to 9 feet  .So the sharks we saw were both young and mature nurse sharks. Our guide brought some food for sharks and once feeding started, all sharks swam towards the boat as if they were used to feeding.

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shark bay

20191006_175512above photo is courtsey to Nim who brought his new drone to the trip. He kindly shared these precious pictures with us and also took group photo for us at the end of trip.

20191006_175704These sharks were not agressive at all although people accidentally touched them while swimming. Now I live to tell sharks can be friendly.

 

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After we swam with the sharks  , we went to the sand bank to have our lunch. It was sunny and quite hot on the sand bank . Thanks to our tour guide, we could sit under parasols and had our lunch. The water was shallow and we could dip in and took photos. Thanks to Merry , we could get some couple photos as well.

At that time, I became warming up to the tour guide and realized he is such a nice person. Izay  made sure all of us photos were taken by him.. But I need to see his photography skills when I receive my pictures. Its amazing that tour guide can do multitasking.

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the sand bank

 

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the sky was dark at that time

I went into the sea and tried to see some fish while my boyfriend tried to recover from sun burn..His scottish skin is very vulnerable to sun burn as he is not used to tropical weather.

After lunch, we took group photo with Nim’s drone and the video was lovely.

20191006_175612After departing Sandy bank, we headed towards another island to drop off two of our group.

Then on the way back , we found a big manta ray unexpectedly. This time only one of us volunteered to swim with Manta ( no need to say that it cannot be me ). Kayleigh from Netherland jumped into the water gracefully although she was aware the water was cold under the drizzles. I went to the front of the boat to see manta from afar while Izay jumped in with her to take picture of her with Manta.

Manta swam very fast to get away and it was fascinating to see as Kayleigh and Izay are very good swimmers.

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Kayleigh chasing Manta

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can you spot Manta?

I did my usual cheating part. Taking selfie with Manta which probably is 10 miles away from me. 😅

20191006_134418.jpgThe sky was very dark on the way as if storms were coming.

The water was turbulent and my boyfriend complained his bums were sore due to bumpy boat ride. But the boatman and tourguide were so chill that it reassured me in a way.

 

I also saw a lot of flying fish and even thought they were waterbirds forawhile.

Finally we safely arrived back to Maafushi and said good bye to each other. I was very glad that I met new friends during this trip.

 

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water challets under construction.

 

On the way back , my boyfriend advised me 100th time to reduce weight and to go to gym so that next time, I will be able to chase manta. Haha. I might need to write another blog about our failing diet plan. Right now, I need to go and have my buffet.

Thanks for reading.

Hnin

Edit. One of my friends told me we should wear wet suit to protect wild life from catching our diseases and we should not wear sun cream before jumping in. I did not find suitable wet suit for me. But I will avoid wearing sun cream next time

Maldives part 2

We decided to do some activities and Arena beach hotel gave us some options of day tours. There are many varieties and we can go to other resort islands where we can drink alcohol unlimited and use swimming pool. We decided not to go other resort islands as we both do not drink alcohol and tours are expensive ( 120 to 160 USD per each from 8 am to 5 pm ).  We chose day tour from 10 am to 3 pm as it is not so tiring and not related to alcohol.

First of all, today morning was an excellent weather.

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morning view in Maafushi

 

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excellent weather

 

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morning view of Maafushi

After breakfast we gathered at the office of Arena resort and collected our life jackets and snorkelling gears . Then we went to the boat to start our journey.

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harbour of Maafushi

October is already rainy season but we are extremely lucky that we almost got away without rain. There was a short rain only at the end of trip.

We paid 25 USD for each to see turtles , dolphins , snorkelling and lunch at uninhabitated sandy beach. It was really a good deal and the boatmen are skillful and attentive to the tourists.

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our tour guide giving briefing at the start of journey

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very happy Hnin

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island on the way

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a shed on the isolated island, a dream place to live

Then the boat stopped at the coral rich place to snorkel and see fish. A considerate mother brought bread pieces for the fish and we had a chance to see many fish from boat upclose.

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20191005_105214.jpgThen we got off from boat one by one to snorkel. We were advised not to snorkel at shallow water to avoid injuries due to friction with coral. If you look at photos, turquoise water area are shallow and dark blue means deep water. I would recommend wearing water resistant shoes to protect your feet and wear wet suit to protect your body.

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our group snorkelling

20191005_112304.jpgwe found so many colorful fish, blue and yellow, yellow striped with black, purple and pink. I am always awed at mother nature. One thing I notice in Maldives is I hardly see plastic and rubbish floating in the river , unlike other countries in Maldives. The reason is government charge each tourist environmental fee 3 USD per day so that there is budget to clean actively. We saw a ship which was collecting rubbish from sea and all the rubbish go to India for disposal. I hope Maldives keep on doing this and as a tourist, I make sure I do not leave any rubbish behind at any public places.

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After we finished snorkelling for 45 minutes, we headed to another area to see dolphins. In fact one of our tourguides found dolphin with a speed boat and informed our boat man.

I have seen some dolphins in Spain. But this time , there were so many of them at least 30. It was fasinating to see them.

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dophin sighting

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dolphin sighting

After dolphin sighting, the boat stopped at the area where turtles live. We got off the boat and found turtles . They are very lovely creatures and leisurely eating some coral under water. Two of them were quite big. I was curiously looking down to find turtles while a small one was swimming beside me. He even touched my arm with his flippers. I went nuts and I was laughing and screaming out of pure ecstasy. I was advised not to touch any turtle but as it was him who touched me accidentally and I was so happy .

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The current was strong and I could not swim back to the boat as we needed to go further to see turtle. One of our tour guides had to drag me back to the boat.

At the end of the trip, we had a lunch in the boat as it was raining and unable to have lunch on the sand beach as planned. Then  a small boat sent us to a uninhabited island fron our large boat. At the sight of island, we all smiled as it was perfectly beautiful.

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our final destination

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perfect sandy beach

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For me I think uninhabited islands are required for the turtles to lay eggs. We humans encroach into their lands selfishly for centuries. We also notice crabs running around . My boy friend was totally fascinated with behaviour of crabs. He kept on reminding me not to scare them off. In the end he got multiple videos of crabs.

20191005_140914.jpgsome of crabs are very big and you can imagine their size based on the size of holes they created on the sand in below photos.

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We walked around the island and walking finished in 5 minutes time.

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After walking around the island,  I sat on the sand in shallow water and tried to absorb everything around me. My heart was filled with gratitude as usual  ..In fact , leaving that tiny island was difficult.

As soon as we got on the big boat, all of us were very tired . Small kids fell asleep on the boat on the way back. It was a bit tiring under the sun for 5 hours with swimming in the ocean. It was totally worthit.

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water challets on the way back

Thank you for reading.

Hninn

How to travel to Maldives with a budget

First of all, everybody knows Maldives is a luxurious destination and peole spend 800 to 1500 USD per night to stay at a private island resort in the middle of Indian Ocean. But if you have read my previous posts, you must have noticed I am a budget traveller. The reasons are

1) I do not earn a lot to behave like a celebrity

2) I do not believe in extravagant life style and trying to be a minimalist.

First of all, you need to know which flight directly goes to Maldives. For us, we booked air asia 6 weeks earlier which fly directly from Bangkok ( Dan Meong airport ) to Maldives ( Male ) .It cost us 300 GBP for each return ticket including luggage fee and inflight meals. Like I said earlier, its difficult to get cheaper as a lot of people cannot go to Maldives.

 

Secondly, I combed through each and every website for cheap and clean accomodation in Maldives. Maldives have total 26 atolls which are combination of 1192 coral islands  and the largest named , Gang island is merely 14 km long . Some of islands are very far from main airport and needs private jets. So if you want to travel with a buget , please do not choose islands which are middle of nowhere and choose the ones which are accessible with public transport.More than that you might not want to be in a boat for many hours to reach your destination island. The islands which are quite near to Male ( capital of Maldives ) can be found below map.

 

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For us, we choose Arena beach resort at Maafushi island. Maafushi island is 1.5 hour boat ride from Male.The island is only 1.27 km long and can finish walking in 20 to 30 minutes from end to end. Its the second destination if you catch public ferry from Male. To make it clear, I will use the description made by the hotel.

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If you want public transport ( I assume you do as you are reading my article ), you need to know time tables of ferry from Male to your destination. Usually public ferry have vacancy although you need to book 1 hour earlier. Its not possible to book public ferry via internet. If only cost 2 USD per person . Please see below time table.

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Please take note that there are two ferry boats departing from Male’ on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If 10:00 ferryboat is missed in any of these days, 15:00 ferryboat can still be taken. On other days, only 15:00 ferryboat is available from Male’. There are also two ferryboats departing from Maafushi on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Guests can choose either 7:30 or 12:30 ferryboat in any of these days. On other days, only 7:30 ferryboat is available from Maafushi.
Step-By-Step instructions to reach Arena Beach Hotel & spa Maldives by Ferry Boat

1. All the tourist to Maldives will be arriving to Male’ international airport (Ibrahim Nasir International Airport), so you are too.

2. Catch a ferry to Male’ from the Airport (every 5 minutes there will be a ferry to Male’). It takes just Ten minutes to reach Male’ and will cost USD 1 or MVR 10 per person.

3. Once you arrive to Male’ take a taxi to go “Villingili ferry terminal”. The taxi fare should be about MVR 30 to MVR 40.

4. There will be a scheduled ferry to Maafushi which leaves Male’ at scheduled times (please refer to the above table) on daily basis (except for Friday) from Villingili Ferry Terminal. Guests are required to buy ferryboat ticket from the ticket counter at Villingili Ferry Terminal. Tickets could be bought few minutes before the scheduled time of departure.

5. Guests will enjoy a 1.5 hours Journey with a beautiful scenery of chains of islands and surrounding coral reefs.

Bear in mind, above instruction is intended for people who stay in Maafushi island but your destination might be different. Other instructions are very accurate and helpful. Airport to Male transfer is very efficient and fast. Once you arrive Male, you can go to ferry terminal by getting a taxi. Taxi anywhere cannot be expensive as the islands are very small..Make sure you change USD to MVR at airport to pay for public transport. At our time, we got the rate of 1 USD to 15MVR. Most places accept USD too.

From Male, it took 1 hour for us to get a taxi as they could not understand me. So you might need to show written words Villingilli ferry terminal to them as the taxi drivers can be confused. Eventually the staff from information counter came out and helped us to get a taxi. The taxi driver only charged us usual rate 35MVR and I gave him 50MVR as I like his honesty.

If you like franchise food , Burger King and secrete recipe is at Male. European food is available anywhere although original Maldavian food is similar taste to Indian food. They like dahl and  chick peas with some masala for meat.

After we arrive at Villingilli ferry terminal, we got tickets and needed to wait 2 hours for our ferries as our flight arrived at 12 noon and our ferry was at 3 pm.  It was Wednesday and there were plenty of vacant seats although Wednesday has only 1 ferry for whole day . There are shops nearby Ferry terminal although their hygiene is questionable. Irritating thing is flies are everywhere due to hot weather. We decided to take only bottled water or drinks .

You might be sort of person who like luxury. But I want to urge every traveller to take public transport for environmental reason. We should do our part while younger generations are trying their best to reduce consumption of energy and resources.More than that, these public ferries are safer. Staff are very considerate and willing to help with big luggages. They do not even expect tips.

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me very happy on public ferry

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Maldivian commute with lots of good

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scenic view from ferry

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When we arrived at Maafushi  , we do not need to take further transport as everywhere is reachable on foot. We are lucky that Arena beach resort staff was there waiting for us to help with luggages. Bless them.

If I have not told you, we booked Arena beach resort with sea view and balcony 2 months ago. As we include two meals per day , the price was 100GBP per day with tax and environmental fee , I gave 760 GBP for 7 nights. Ofcos you can say its not cheap but compared to what other people spend 13000GBP for 7 nights, our budget is an achievable goal.

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our room with sea view and balcony

I will always suggest to take hotel with meal plans as restaurants are not cheap in Maldives. Even water bottles are expensive 1USD for 500 ml water bottle. As Maldive is islamic country , alcohol and bikinis are prohibited in most of public islands like Maafushi. But mind you , we also have bikini beach in Maafushi and you just need to know where you can wear your bikini. There is a floating bar which usually come to island to sell alcohol. But they can ne expensive and one can of beer is 6 USD.

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bikini beach

 

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our buffet at beach

Maldives is beautiful everywhere and even if you stay at public beaches, you cam see shark and some beautiful fish. Its sad to see corals are damaged extensively due to building . some of my travel buddies saw sharks near our resort and I hope I can spot them soon. Today is my day two in Maldives.

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However if you want to go drop dead gorgeous islands, resort can arrange for you to be there whole day with 150 to 180 USD per day. You can also see dolphins, sharks and turtle day trip with 50USD per person. All these arrangement of watersports such as jet ski, para gliding and canoeing can be arranged everywhere.

Here are some of our photos in day two and I will write part 2 later.

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fishing is one of the main income of Maldiviand

 

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lots of resorts in MaaFushi

 

water sports are available anywhere

 

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for foodies

 

souvenirs shops are many where you need to haggle

 

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I really like our meal arrangement at beach with live band. It is totally worth it .

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Love

Hnin

Isle of Man part IV ( Cregneash village )

Cregneash
Cregneash village

The Cregneash village lies near Port Erin which is south part of island called Isle of Man .

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The entire village was left as the way it was since 200 years ago just to attract tourists and to preserve the life style of villagers in peaceful nature. Cregneash has become an open-air folk museum. The surrounding fields are now once more in cultivation and visitors can again see the landscape of old time again. Cregneash is also a living village where people live and work.

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very pretty white houses of Cregneash with thatch roof

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Cregneash area surrounded by grazing fields and hills

Visitors can see traditional rural skills and crafts being practiced. They can learn new things and remember some old skills such as milking cows, reaping and ploughing using ox wheel carts  etc.

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the shed storing some equipment used by villagers

The Cregneish folk were just like a great fisher-family entirely left to themselves and a little disturbed by the outside waves of modern life with its rush and hectic pace. They were frugal, hardy and sea-toiling men, whose lives were divided between mackerel fishing and the harvesting of their little oat and potato crofts. ( Charles Reader-1901)

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When you walk inside the small village, you can instantly fee the ease and peaceful surroundings. You can browse inside the displayed houses and sheds which store tools for agricultural and construction. You can see the small cozy bedrooms with weaved fabric on the bed and little cots for babies etc.

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the bed room of typical Cregneash family

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the living room with fire inside

When we met the guard of cregneash village, he explained that the floor of the cottages are made of clay mixed with oxen blood. Sometimes, when you wander barefoot, the soul can become pink color because of oxen blood.

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like other parts of Europe, collection of Chinaware show wealth of family

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Living room of another Manx house

Some houses displays the social status of the owner. For example, there is a double storey  house which is much wider and have some luxurious furniture.  Most houses are very low ceiling to keep warmth and it is also not surprising that many members used to live in a tiny cottage.

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Continue reading Isle of Man part IV ( Cregneash village )