A girl's guide to The Maldives

A girl’s guide to… The Maldives

If you’re jetting off to the Maldives, chances are you are travelling with your significant other and are either

a) Newly weds on honeymoon
b) Happily married and celebrating a special anniversary
c) filthy rich and head to the Maldives every year, darling!

When I stayed on these beautiful islands, I fell into camp A (although secretly I want to be in camp C!) and must admit that the Maldives always seemed like one of those magical places that was so much of a perfect paradise that it was unattainable for a normal girl like me.

Not so. Here is a girl’s guide to this tropical heaven…

Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives

Before you go

Go and speak to a few travel agents and ask them to price up some options for you. Different islands cater for different budgets, although this is no budget holiday. We stayed on Kuramathi Island Resort, which is one of the larger islands, and as we found, less expensive (well, less expensive for the Maldives anyway).

You will also want to discuss the type of accommodation you wish to stay in – beach villa? overwater bungalow? garden villa? Staying in an overwater bungalow was something on my Bucket List but not an affordable option for our entire stay, so we booked an overwater bungalow for our first night and then stayed in a beach villa for the remaining duration of our holiday. We were lucky to have the best of both worlds although our friends who went to Kuramathi after us said that this isn’t an option anymore, but perhaps one of the other islands offers it? Go do your research!

Water bungalow on Kuramathi island in the Maldives

What to pack

  • Leave your heels at home! A pair of flipflops for daytime is all you need (and perhaps some pretty sandals for evening) but trust me, you’ll be barefoot in the sand for most of your stay.
  • Bikinis, sarongs, shorts, vests, light summer dresses. You may need to cover up if you leave your island to mingle with the locals but otherwise beachwear is fine.
  • Bring your own toiletries and suncream – to buy on the island is more expensive.
  • Take U.S. dollars. We were told that our island only really dealt with American dollars, but again, if you leave your island you may need to take some Maldivian Rufiyaa with you.

Sunset in the Maldives

Things to remember

  • While we had petals on the bed and a lovely card from our rep, don’t expect constant special treatment just because you are on honeymoon – so is everyone else. Sorry to burst your confetti-filled bubble there!
  • If you use up any toiletries while on holiday, please please take the empty packaging back home with you and dispose of it there. The Maldives cannot cope with excess waste (seriously, google: Thilafushi) so something as small as taking your plastic bottles home with you can make a difference.
  • Go snorkelling – the ocean is beautiful but be mindful of the coral, it’s very fragile.
  • Lastly, as the saying goes “Take only pictures, leave only footprints“.

If you enjoyed this then you might enjoy reading about my favourite things about the Maldives.

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A girl's guide to The Maldives - a brief but handy guide to a paradise honeymoon destination, written by a normal girl!

Our Sri Lanka adventure: part 6

Tea Plantations and Tropical Mingers

Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

It was time for us to leave Kandy and head up into hill country – Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is most famous for its tea plantations, so of course we travelled up the winding roads into the rolling hillside to take a tour around a tea plantation. We saw how they process the leaves in the factory, saw the ladies picking the tea leaves in the fields and were told about the different types of tea produced in Sri Lanka. Being from a tea guzzling nation, it was quite interesting to see where my favourite evening beverage comes from.

Hill country, Sri Lanka

Tea factory in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan tea picker, Nuwara Eliya

At the end of our factory tour we were given a cup of tea each and were also able to purchase some tea bags or tea leaves to take home. Even though this is most likely the PG Tips we drink at home anyway, it was nice to buy some tea straight from the source.

Ceylon tea

After a quick lunch pit stop overlooking Ramboda Falls (the 11th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, I might add), it was onwards to our accommodation in Nuwara Eliya, St Andrews Hotel – a former country house “reminiscent of the days of the British Rulers”.

Ramboda Falls, Sri Lanka

The first thing that struck me about this hotel was that upon greeting us, they gave us each a warm flannel and a small cup of hot soup to drink, whereas all the other hotels greeted us with cold flannels and icy beverages. Yes Nuwara Eliya is alot cooler than the rest of Sri Lanka but it really wasn’t that cold! Nice touch still. What was even nicer here was that hubby and I received a room upgrade and a free cake because it was our honeymoon, St Andrews definitely won with the honeymoon perks here.

St Andrews Hotel, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Free cake!

We were given a few hours at leisure to explore the town centre of Nuwara Eliya before meeting the rest of our tour group for dinner. As town was only a short walk away, we decided we might as well go for a little wander. It turns out that me and my husband were the only ones who actually bothered to get out there and explore, everyone else fell asleep or something equally lame.

You snooze, you lose. I came back from town with a bargain. I bought myself a sari for about 3000 LKR (£15 GBP) and so that was my outfit for our final dinner together as a tour group.

Sri Lankan sari

We had a lovely dinner together, everyone admired my sari too!

The next day we all bid each other a farewell and a bon voyage, some of the group were heading home and some were spending a few days relaxing at Bentota Beach. Our tour came about full circle as our final stop in Sri Lanka was back to where it all began at Mount Lavinia.

We had a delicious alfresco candlelit meal that evening, just the two of us. And we toasted our wonderful adventure with a cocktail called a ‘Minger’. Much amusement. Incase you aren’t familiar with British slang, the word ‘minger’ is used to describe someone or something unattractive, I have no idea what it means in Sri Lanka but the cocktails were yummy!

Minger cocktail

MMM...Mingers!

Cheers!


What did you think? Inspired to travel to Sri Lanka? Or have you already been? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @quirkylilplanet

Our Sri Lanka adventure: part 5

Give me gems, flowers and Kandy!

Day 4 of our tour itinerary was “a full day of enchanting sightseeing in Kandy”, which began at a gem showroom. We learnt a little about gem mining and got to see some of the sparkling beauties in the showroom. Until my visit, I had no idea so many gems came from Sri Lanka and many are sold in London’s jewellery quarter, Hatton Garden.

gem showroom in Sri Lanka

After our pit stop at the showroom, it was straight on to the Botanical Gardens, where our guide took us for a walk around. Although not much of a green-fingered goddess myself, I do appreciate a good garden. Unfortunately, I know zilch about plants so can’t tell you much about it but it was pretty.

Fountain at Botanical Garden, Sri Lanka

Botanical Garden, Sri Lanka

orchid

After a fairly short day of looking at pretty things, we retired to the hotel for a bit of relaxation and to freshen up. Our base in Kandy was the Cinnamon Citadel hotel, which is nestled in the serene hillside with the pool area overlooking the peaceful Mahaweli River.

View of the pool at Cinnamon Citadel Hotel, Kandy - Sri Lanka

Our guide was taking us out in the evening for some more Kandyan beauties – this time in the form of a cultural dance show and the famous Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The dance show was entertaining and we got to see the performers in different brightly coloured costumes and play an assortment of instruments. But the most impressive part was seeing the dancers walk on hot coals and play with FIRE.

Kandyan Culture Show

Sri Lankan dancer

Walking on hot coals in Kandy

Although from the looks of this photo below you would think I was the only person watching who was vaguely impressed – half the people in the background are looking at something else, the woman in white at the back looks devastated and tearful, and the woman in orange looks like she’s thinking “big deal, I eat fire for breakfast!”.

Fire eater in Sri Lanka

After the show we took a short walk to the Temple of the Tooth Relic – a Buddhist temple which houses the tooth of the Buddha. I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be looking out for so just happy-snapped pictures of the ornate interior.

Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka

The Buddha's Tooth, Sri Lanka
This was our glimpse at the room containing the tooth

It wasn’t until we joined the crowds upstairs that we realised that the tooth relic was behind a closed door and the crowds were just waiting for a glimpse of it… except you can’t actually see the tooth itself, only the gold casket that it is contained in. The locals became very excited when the door swang open but it was all a bit too much for me – being too hot and crowded in the temple, so I was glad to call it a day.


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Our Sri Lanka adventure: part 4

Batik and Buddhas

Another busy day! We departed our hotel in the morning for a full day of culture. First stop – a Batik Workshop. Here we got the opportunity to watch the local ladies making beautiful batik art. Batik is where patterns and illustrations are drawn onto fabric with hot wax, then the fabric is dipped in a dye. The waxed part of the material is resistant to the dye, leaving a beautiful design once the wax has been washed off. This process can be repeated to create more intricate and colourful patterns. We ended up purchasing a pretty purple elephant batik artwork to hang up in our house. I think I would like to give batik a whirl one day!

Batik workshop, Sri Lanka

Immediately after our brief but interesting visit to the batik workshop, we headed straight for Dambulla to see the famous Dambulla Cave Temples – another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. The temples at Dambulla are astonishing and impressive – the Golden Buddha that sits atop the Golden Temple is especially awe-inspiring. It made me feel very small.

Golden Temple, Dambulla, Sri Lanka

We didn’t go into the Golden Temple, but just stopped to admire it and all the colourful flowers surrounding it, as well as the monk statues in their orange robes to the side of the big Buddha.

Monk statues at the side of the big buddha. Golden Temple, Sri Lanka.
We then made our pilgrimage to the Cave Temples, which much like Sigiriya (although not quite as tiring) was up a bit of a steep climb. And much like Sigiriya also, there are monkeys outside and views to be admired.

I’ll be honest with you, I can’t remember a great deal about the facts here so I won’t go into too much detail and just let the photos do the talking. But what I do know is that the Dambulla Cave Temples are made up of five different caves, all containing images and sculptures of Buddha. Like many temples, shoes must be removed before entering and also shoulders and legs should be covered. I would recommend packing a pair of socks to walk around in as the ground outside is very hot!

Sri Lankan Monkey

Dambulla Rock Caves

The caves here are said to date back to the first century BC and it is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. There are five caves in total, each containing one or more Buddha statues. Unfortunately, I don’t know which cave was which but they were still beautiful all the same.

Dambulla Cave Temples Sri Lanka

dambulla-rock-caves-b

dambulla-rock-caves-c

dambulla-rock-caves-d

After our temple tour, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that was hosting a wedding! I felt a bit guilty about crashing a wedding but the bride and groom were very gracious and were happy to let us take a couple of photographs of them in their beautiful wedding clothes. I don’t think I would have enjoyed seeing 8 sweaty tourists rocking up at my wedding uninvited, but they didn’t seem to mind.

Once we’d eaten a quick lunch, we were taken to a spice garden where we learnt about all the different spices and plants they grow in Sri Lanka and how they use them. We were given a tour of the gardens and we also each received a neck and shoulder massage which was a very odd experience and not at all relaxing, I’m awkward at the best of times without being on the receiving end of a spontaneous group massage in the middle of some spice jungle! Naturally at the end of our visit we were taken to a gift shop where we did purchase a couple of cinnamon-based items.

Sleepy kitty
Sleepy kitty in the spice garden

At the end of the day we were taken to our third hotel of the tour, ready to rest for another big day of sight seeing ahead!


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Our Sri Lanka adventure: part 3

Something for your Sri Lanka Bucket List…

Chaaya Village Habarana was to be our base for two nights and our room was a cute little cottage style room. The hotel grounds themselves made you feel very in touch with nature, with the surrounding trees and the lake close by, the squirrels in the trees and the dragonflies bobbing around the swimming pool.

Cottage style accommodation at Chaaya Village Habarana

Lake at Chaaya Village Habarana

Our morning was going to be spent at one of the biggest attractions in Sri Lanka, quite literally. Sigiriya – a 200 metre tall rock fortress and one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

It was a challenging climb to say the least, especially in the heat, but the view from the top was well worth the effort and definitely something bucket-list worthy.

Blonde haired girl admiring the view from the top of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

The view from Sigiriya

You start off with a relatively gentle climb, where you can see the wild monkeys and the naked lady frescoes, and eventually you will end up at the famous lion paws (Sigiriya is also known as ‘Lion Rock’ or ‘Lion Mountain’). Once you reach the lion paws, this is where the climb becomes difficult, mainly because of the heat. I won’t lie, I had a moment when I reached the top where I thought I was going to pass out! Not everyone in our tour group made it to the top, of the 8 of us, only 5 of us attempted the climb.

Frescoes at Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan monkeys at Sigiriya

Sigiriya aka Lion Rock in Sri Lanka

Climbing down Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

After an exhausting morning, we headed back to the hotel to spend the afternoon relaxing beside the pool, which was a lovely treat after a sweaty and sweltering start to the day.

The swimming pool at the Chaaya Village Habarana might have even been my favourite pool during our whole stay in Sri Lanka! And I loved trying to photograph the stunning dragonfly as it bobbed near me while I took a refreshing dip.

Swimming pool at Chaaya Village Habarana, Sri Lanka

A red dragonfly in Sri Lanka

Part 4 coming your way next week! If you liked this post, then why not follow me on Bloglovin.