My destination on my first out-of-the-country: Maldives.
We were 13 people in the team. I was lucky enough to be with serious travel bloggers, a travel agent mom and her kid, and high spirited people.
Day 1: Thursday
Almost missed the flight
It was 9AM in the morning, my flight to Maldives was 11:20AM (or sometime like that) so I had to be in the airport LCCT of Kuala Lumpur by 10:30AM. I was still inside the express train going to the airport. I began shaking my knees as if it would make the trip faster. Then after a while, I got off the station and rode the bus connecting to the airport.
It was around 2 minutes before 10:30 so I rushed out of the bus. Though I sat in the middle area, too stupid to that, I was the third person to get out of the bus. I ran hard to reach the International Departure area. Since it was my first time to depart KL, it was also an additional task to understand how to check-in. I rushed into one of the counters but I was pointed to the “post-self check in” counter. Well, yes, they did not accept me. My script was “I need to check in now. My flight is 11:20AM.” I was repointed to the self-check-in booth, but of course, the computer was not able to accept me since it was already 10:40am. I went to one of the regular check-in counters and somehow begged a little and used a smile to ask if I can still be admitted and check-in. Luckily, I was admitted. But I was asked to run to the immigration and board the plane as soon as I can.
Met fellow Filipinos
I boarded the plane with the PA telling “please board the plane within one minute”. There I saw around 20 Pinoys onboard.
Getting Off the Maldives and Asked by Immigration
Seeing Maldives on aerial view is a different experience on actually setting foot to the islands. The view from the plane is extra wonderful, so if you go to Maldives, make sure you peep at your window. It was a 3.5-hour plane ride going to Maldives from KL. Good thing I had a book with me.
When I got off the plane, we were asked to fill out an information sheet with corrugated slice. You leave the first half to the immigration when you get in, then the other half when you leave. That’s why it was important to keep it.
Maldvies Immigration Officer: Are you alone?
Me: No, I am with my friends.
MIO: Where are your friends?
Me: (Looks around. Can’t find my company.) Well, they went ahead of me.
MIO: (Looks unconvinced)
Me: There, I am with him! (Call Kuya Jonas.)
MIO: What hotel are you staying?
Me: A hotel beginning with letter A… (I was pretty serious with this answer. The MIO looked puzzled.)
Kuya Jonas: Avenue Hotel!
MIO: (Approves my visa)
Guess it was actually harder to get in than the others.
Upon exit, I prepared my Philippine pesos to be exchanged. I went directly to the money exchange booth but they were not exchanging pesos to dollars or rufia (local currency). I only had around 700 MYR with me. My heart began trembling. I tried to withdraw through my BPI, it did not work since I did not activate international withdrawal. I called Globe hotline on how to call BPI since it only had 5 digits. After talking to Globe (from Maldives) for over 10mins, they were not able to answer me.
Felt like the world shattered. But I kepy my cool.
I exchanged my MYR and got 211 rufias.
Game plan 1: Board the boat going to Maafushi (our first island) then just go back tomorrow to Male to withdraw using the BPI card of Kuya Jonas which has international withdrawal. I was hoping that the hotel we will be staying accepts debit card, or at least they will not get the payment on first day. On the boat, I could tell that I was really worrisome. The boat started sailing by 3PM, but it was already 6PM in the Philippines. One of us told, today is a long day for us. Well, aside taking it literally, it was indeed a long day for me.
I tried diverting my attention to other stuff like the Dingdong snack we saw eaten by a local family. Which shook us by the way.
After almost 2 hours on the water, we arrived at Maafushi. It was like a baranggay of Maldives. It was a residential island with a few hotels in it. I was glad this was our first stop since I could instantly have a grasp of how it is like to live in Maldives as a local.
But still the challenge remains. I did not have meaningful money with me. We arrived at the hotel. They’re not accepting debit card. Good thing, they did not get the payment right away. I had an ample amount of time to gather resources and think for other ways to get money.
Game plan 2: Execute the ATM plan. I transferred money to Kuya Jonas’s BPI account through bpiexpressonline. So the gameplan was to go back to Male tomorrow. BUT Friday is like their Saturday (they work Sunday to Thursday). So there was no boat going to Male. Seems like I had to wait. I still felt restless that time since there was no assurance that I can withdraw money from Male.
It was difficult for me to sleep.
I was also thinking hard about my work in Philippines. Did check my laptop and worked for about 3 hours. I had deliverables the next day.
It was really a long day.
Day 2: Friday
They decided to go diving and visit Sexy Beach. Not my story. I did work-related tasks. But before them leaving me alone in the hotel, we went around the island especially the nice beach and of course took photos:
Around 3PM (6PM in the Philippines), I finished my deliverables. Got my book, sat in a chair along the shore, and slept, and read a book. Aside from the fact that I had to work-related activities, I did not have money anyway.
During dinner time, we planned our Day 3. Plan was to go to Picnic island. Got some cheers to join the team in Picnic island. Deep inside me, I knew I was not joining the team because I need to go to Male tomorrow (Saturday). I was just smiling and nodding whenever they reaffirmed the completeness of the team on Picnic island.
Once we were over dinner, I talked to Kuya Jonas and asked if he could just tell to the team that I am not joining since I have to go to Male. We opened up the situation to one of our roomates Rob. It was actually fortunate enough that there were also other Filipinos in the island that will return to Philippines the next day. And they were willing to exchange their dollars and rufias for pesos.
BOOM! Answered prayers!
Through Rob, I met up with Renan and his colleagues. I was able to gather 200 USD and around 1,000 rufias. Enough to save me until 2nd to the last day as per computation of expenses. GAVE ME A BIG SMILE and calmed my heart. But the challenge was not yet over! I still lack a few for the last day.
Day 3: Saturday
The breakfast tasted more delicious. The beach became clearer. Everything felt nicer. Must be the lighter feeling.
We headed to Picnic island. It had long white extending shores that are perfect for pictures. Too bad I did not have DLSR that time. To kill time, we played a few Pinoy games. I introduced Ninja game to them which is one of the EnggWeek games. Had fun looking at them and how the kid inside of us actually never got to escape us.
One word: petix.
Day 4: Sunday
It was our last day in Maafushi and we are transferring to Fialhohi Island — a resort island. Before leaving the island, I took the chance to talk with a few locals. The design of their charis intrigued me.
It’s indeed the most expensive part of our trip in Maldives. Since we are Pinoys, we took lots of pictures. Even I did not have a DSLR with me, I got to suggest poses/shots for us. Here are some:
Day 5: Monday
It’s time to transfer to another island. Staying in Fialhohi could probably kill our bills (well, their bills). It’s time to transfer to Hulhumale, a reclaimed island “attached” to airport and beside Male. See google map!
Doing a final round at Fialhohi, I got the side of my left face cut. It was around 2PM and the light was striking the shore hard. The sand was very bright since it was fully reflecting the light of the sun, thus making me squint my eyes. Once I entered the shades, with my eyes squinting, I hit a branch. Maldives wanted to give me a priceless memorabilia. I managed to stay calm even it hurt a lot. The cut ran near my left eye going near my left ear.
The transfer from Fialhohi to Hulhumale cost us a lot. It could’ve cost more if were lesser. It cost almost 1,500 pesos just for transfer.
Hulhumale is a residential island with many backpackers inn. The stay there is much cheaper than the islands. The shore was not as stunning as the other islands, but they are already good sceneries.
I already ran out of money. I did not have enough money to pay for the overnight stay in Hulhumale. Let me share that on my next post.
Photos are from Winbird Shia and Jonas Roque.