Maldives and Bhutan – a contrasting 2 weeks

In January and February 2013, over the space of 2 weeks, I travelled to Male in Maldives via Singapore and to Thimphu in Bhutan via Bangkok.

Maldives is a dream destination for many and when we flew into Male International Airport on Hulhule Island in the North Male Atoll, the weather was high 20’s to early 30’s Celsius.

Traders Hotel, Maldives has a speed boat services across the amazing coloured sea to Male (only 1 x 2 km) where the hotel is located in the government area of town a street to two back from the water.

With a free Sunday before work began on implementing apprenticeships, industry partnerships and TVET, my colleague from QUT, Nelson Salangsang checked out options for day trips to resorts.  Many of the resorts were booked out and we found one that was available and very well priced – Embudu Village.Wendy Embudu Village

Via a fast boat from Male to Embudu it took around 45 minutes and we went past a number of islands, one in particular with huts out over the water.  Pulling up to the island there was a long finger of white sand out into the azure sea on our left hand side and a palm fringed beach on the right.

After a welcome drink we headed towards the stretch of white sand that dipped into the amazing coloured sea, set ourselves up in lounges and went swimming.  Lunch was a fresh buffet in the large hut style restaurant with so many choices.  From lunch we picked up snorkelling gear and headed back into the devine water to see underneath the service with brightly coloured and striped fish over coral fields.

The afternoon was a combination of relaxing in the hammock, swimming, snorkelling and taking in the fact that we were on a resort in the middle of the Maldives!  Back to Male the boat trip with choppy waves meant I got soaked and clearly, despite the sunscreen, a little bit red too.

Over the next days in Male we (myself, Nelson and Kath Marnane) had dinner and drinks (non-alcoholic only) in therooftop restaurant alongside the pool, wandered through the local market and into the heart of Male, walked around the whole circumference of the island, enjoyed dining outside by the water with a seafood BBQ, at Jade Bistro and in a rooftop cafe.

See the pics from Maldives.

Leaving on Sunday morning I flew from Adelaide to Sydney and then to Bangkok staying over night in the Novotel near the airport.  Up very early the next morning around 4.00 am the hotel bus dropped me at Bangkok airport where I checked into a Drukair (national carrier of the Royal Government of Bhutan) flight to Paro, Bhutan.  Bhutan is the only Buddhist kingdom in the world, inhabited by about 1,4 million people.  Flying into Paro you wonder where on earth will be plane be able to land because it is very mountainous.

With a royal family member on my flight the red carpet was rolled out and an SUV whisked them away.  At customs you need to pay $40 US however I didn’t have any US dollars.  A smiley fellow took me through to the money exchange where I got $US for my $AUS and thankfully I was allowed through to meet the driver from the hotel.

In a comfortable people mover I didn’t realise we had an hour’s drive to Thimphu and the driver asked if we could give his wife and daughter a lift to town – no worries!  The scenery is beautiful, very green, with imposing mountains, streams, waterfalls and agricultural land with traditional Bhutanese houses.  Much cooler than Maldives, the weather was around 11-12 degrees Celsius during the day and minus a few degrees at night.

I stayed in the Taj Tashi in Thimphu where upon arrival I was offered a scarf, tea and a blessing by the hotel monk.  From the foyer you walked down an impressive staircase into the restaurant and outside of the paved courtyard with a background view of beautiful mountains.  The rooms has traditional features with dark wood floors and furnishings, a lovely modern bathroom with a huge bath and underfloor heating.  Each night a sweet snack and card was left on the bed, for example:

“Dreams are wonderful things and you should be consumed by one.  Dreams inform us of who we truly are.” Vikas Malkani

“Night with her train of stars and her great gift of sleep.” William Ernest Henley

“Sleep is the best meditation.” Dalai Lama

The staff are very friendly and helped me to purchase a traditional kera, which is an ankle length wrap around skirt work with a toego (an open jacket), from a shop in the main street.  I was lucky to have some help as I liked the look of kera’s in a particular shop which turned out to be for school uniforms!

As guests of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources of  we enjoyed a traditional Bhutanese meal at the Folk Heritage Restaurant in the Folk Heritage Museum accompanied by the very strong drink called Ara.

Whilst I was working on the National Human Resource Development Roadmap for Bhutan, my colleagues attended the opening ofparliament and they met the King and Queen and a Prince.

On the final night we went out for drinks with the Captain from the Royal Bhutan Police and he took us to this fantastic bar, lined in chunky dark wood with red leather couches, open fires and a wide choice of drinks including local whiskey called Hi Jinks, Hotel Druk.

Up early on Saturday morning, we drove from Thimphu to Paro and then we flew from Paro to Kathmandu in Nepal.  The highlight and thing I was really looking forward to was seeing Mount Everest.  It’s hard to describe and best to look at the pics, Mount Everest looks like the top peak of whipped cream or egg whites for a pavlova, with surrounding mountains chocolate sprinkled with icing sugar.

Travelling with colleagues, Nelson Salangsang and Rod McShannon we asked at the transit desk in Kathmandu how to get through to departures without going through customs.  We had an interesting experience that was a bit stressful waiting for the Nepalese fellow (with our travel documents) for around 45 minutes until he came back to take us through to the departures area.  He then went off again to find our luggage, for about the same time, and to check us into our flight to Bangkok.  When he came back the second time he had a little smile and he said to my colleagues “You two go today, she goes tomorrow!”  I realised he was joking but I don’t think Nelson and Rod did for a few seconds and they looked very concerned until I said “he’s joking” and the fellow laughed his head off.

Almost on the home stretch we flew to Bangkok and had a couple of hours in the Qantas lounge before I flew through the night to Sydney and Nelson and Rod flew to Brisbane.  A final flight from Sydney to Adelaide saw me arrive home early on Sunday afternoon and it was great to see my family.

Here’s the photos from Bhutan.

Written by Wendy Perry, March 2013



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