Travelling to a Resort Atoll in Maldives

Our recent trip to Maldives was not a fulfilment to a bucket list, since I am not one who loves to travel, but more of a result of an impulse decision. Right after our Japan trip, hb suggested that we should take a trip to Maldives during K’s 1 week Sept school holidays, since some of his air-miles were going to expire at the end of the year.

7 days seemed like a perfect number of days to spend on a ‘remote’ island without getting bored.

A flight from Singapore to Maldives Velana airport is only about a 4 hours flight away, as SQ have two flights into Maldives daily, either a late morning arrival or a late night arrival. We opted for the latter and stayed one night at the Maldives Airport Hotel as the seaplane flights to Thaa Atoll did not operate at night.

Having done that, I think it will be a better choice to to take an early morning flight from Singapore and then try to get seaplane transfers in the same day, without the hassle of finding accommodation in Male or at near the airport.

Maldivecomb1Snaps taken while waiting for the Como Maalifushi Counter to open to arrange for our seaplane transfer the next morning.

 

Once our luggage was checked into the counter, we were driven to the Maldivian Seaplane building, about 10 minutes drive away, and ushered into a comfortable Como (the name of the resort we travelled to) Lounge to wait for our boarding.

Maldives 3Watching the seaplane from the Como lounge while waiting to board our Seaplane to the resort

 

When hb and I were planning for our trip to Maldives, we wanted to experience a fairly new resort in a remote (untouched Atoll) as the quality of the coral reefs were one of our considerations. So we didn’t really considered the time we needed to travel on the seaplane. There are many other options of resorts in Maldives that can be reached by seaplane under 30 minutes of travel time. The other consideration we took into account was comfortable rooms with direct access to the sea, i.e., water villas. The photos on Como Maalifushi website seemed to show that they have beautiful water villas with a good house reef, while being family friendly at the same time.

Most resorts with water villas have an age restriction for children, as families with children under the age of 8 years old are not allowed to stay in the water villas but have the option of beach villas or rooms to stay in.

When in Maldives, the whole family needs to love the sea  (ie. have no fear of the water or the swimming in the sea) to be able to fully experience what most of the resorts can offer. Especially since it is not the most budget-friendly or convenient place to travel to with children. When travelling with young children who are still on diapers, or milk or just started solids, be prepared to lug everything along with you, as it will be almost impossible to get any baby suppliers when stranded on an remote island.

It’s still more worthwhile to go to the mid to high end family resorts in Phuket or Krabi when one has young children below 8 years old, taking into account less hassle for travel.

Some resorts even have ‘adult only’ restrictions. I have read on the TripAdvisor that some resorts have restrictions that kids are not allowed in any of the restaurants or common areas after 630pm.

I think travelling to Maldives with children who are at least 10 years of age will be the most optimum, since 10 years old is also the age that PADI allows children to take their first Discover Scuba lesson or Open Water course, which will be directly converted to a Open Water License when the child turn 16 years old.

 

On the Maldivian Seaplane

The journey itself to Thaa Atoll where Como Maalifushi is an experience on its own, since its my first time travelling on the seaplane. As more than 95% of the seaplane journey was very scenic (can be disconcerting for some who have a fear of heights) as the seaplane it took another 1 hour on the seaplane to reach Thaa Atoll where Como Maalfushi is located.

 

The seaplanes are not allowed within the shallow areas of the Atoll surrounding any resort. So the ‘landing pad’ is a wooden floating platform in the middle of the sea. So it can get a little scary with strong currents and wind (no issue during the high season when the seas are calmer), as one tries to get a steady stance on the platform, while waiting for the boat from the resort to arrive and transfer the luggages and the passengers onto the boat for the 15 minute ride to the resort.

 

Next…We arrive at Como Maalifushi!

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Exploring Tokyo my way; Handmade shopping, Kawaii and Pet Merchandise

Out of the 9 days in Japan, 5 days were spent in Tokyo. In hb’s words, “The Queen dictated where we went, shopping, craft stuff, Wawa (Chihuahuahua) stuff, cute stuff…” While he still got to pick what he wanted to eat for some of our meals 😝

Shopping was centred in the vicinity that we were staying in; Shinjuku. Takashimaya, Lumine and Tokyo Hands were about a 15 min walk from the Hotel. Japanese Fashion wasn’t something I was interested in, however I was more keen on their handmade culture of accessories, and there were number of pop up shops for handmade accessories that were peppered across in the various departmental stores that we visited.

Okadaya Shibuya was the other store worth visiting, if you are like me, love handmades and are looking for fabric notions like buttons, yarn, ribbons, embroidery patches, accessories findings. We depended on Google Maps to find our way around, especially for the Okadaya store in Shinjuku that was located in an obscure hidden alley.

While Lumine the other departmental store that is trendy and carries merchandise that the other departmental stores don’t for the younger set. In Lumine 2, there is Kiwa Products which is a specialty store selling jewellery making supplies. It was at this place where I stumbled onto a made-in-Japan raw material that I am still working on to create accessories with it.

A month ago, I read a news article that mentioned that Lumine will be opening a branch in Singapore. I think it will be interesting to see what merchandise they are planning to bring here.

There were many other places we wanted to explore like Ginza and Shibuya, but we only managed a couple of hours to check out Harajuku, had some Ramen for lunch, and walked on the world’s most crowded junction; Shibuya Crossing, and chanced upon an artsy hipster street in Shibuya trying to navigate walking from one place to another.

I was thrilled when we stumbled upon Character Street in Tokyo Station when we made our way there to take the Shikansen to Kyoto. When in Japan, cutesy characters memorabilia is something that one cannot miss out. From Hello Kitty, Studio Ghlibi, Rilakkuma, Doraemon to Pokemon Memorabilia.

 

Dog Culture

In Japan, there are likely more pets than children. With the large variety of merchandise available for dogs in Japan, even with dog clothes being more expensive than some children clothing, it’s worthwhile for any dog owner to take the time to visit these shops.

 

I have to confess that I never planned in dressing up dogs until I saw how adorable the Japanese and Korean small dogs look in clothing 😬. But I caved in and bought a couple of summer tees and officially after this trip to Tokyo, I am a convert.

JapcostumeBibi and Tess in their costumes from Tokyo

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A Day in Arashimaya, Kyoto

Arashimaya is in the west of Kyoto, located at the the base of Arashimaya Mountains (Storm Mountains). During Autumn the Maple trees on Mount Arashi will display a glorious burst colours of yellow, red and greens.

Arashi 5

We chose our 2 day Ryokan accommodation in Arashimaya as it was just 5-10 minutes away from the Main Street in Arashimya, and we planned to see the sights of the Arashimaya Bamboo Groove and visit the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, the Tenryu-Ji Temple.

Despite walking through the Bamboo Forest once on the first day, we took a 30 minutes ride on the Rickshaw on our 2nd day which went along Main Street Arashiyama and back to the Bamboo Forest.

Sagano Bamboo Forest

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The Bamboo is the fastest growing grass (it is not categorised as a fruit or tree but as grass!) and can grow up to one meter a day and due to its sturdy root structure and being a strong plant, it is a symbol of prosperity in Japan. It is also a symbol of purity and innocence in the Japanese culture. 

The Sagano Bamboo Forest has an interesting feature that comes from the sound which the wind makes when it blows amongst the bamboo. Also, the railings at the side of the path in the Bamboo Forest is made out of old, dry parts of the bamboo.  

Arashi 4

The bamboo is featured in one of the most well-loved tales in Japan, from the oldest narrative in Kana Script, “The Tale of the Bamboo cutter” or “Kaguya-hime” (The Princess Kaguya). K and I watched the Studio Ghibli version when we were back to Singapore, the folklore was depicted so beautifully (but not so good ending) in the animated watercolored art. 

Tenryu-ji Shrine 

Despite having little interest in visiting Japanese Shrines, a trip to Kyoto isn’t complete without visiting a Shrine. Naturally we went for the key shrine attraction in Arashimaya, the Tenryu-ji Shrine; one of the oldest Zen shrines in Japan. It has manicured gardens and a nice view of Mount Arashi. 

Tenryu-ji Shrine is a registered World Heritage site, which was founded in 1339. The gardens in Tenryu-ji Shrine has one of the best borrowed scenery or otherwise known as ‘shakkei’, a concept of incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden. 

Arashi 6

 

Arashi 7

With a Zen Shrine, there will be a rock garden which include a sandy ground with raked sand, with its neat and uniformed lines on the ground. Despite it looking aesthetically pleasing, the true purpose in raking sand in Zen Buddhism is to train the thoughts, which is a form of moving meditation for the monks. 

The Tanuki

Walking out of the gardens of Tenryu-ji, I spotted a Tanuki, a raccoon dog. Statues of Tanuki are often placed outside the front door of homes, food establishments and shops. 

Screen Shot 2017 07 23 at 5 26 18 PM

The Tanuki of ancient Japanese Folklore is a toothy, mischievous fella, who carries a walking stick, wears a straw hat, and has a bottle of sake. This statue is intended to encourage customers to be free-spending like the Tanuki, to eat and drink and not to be stingy with money 😁 

The best known feature of this Tanuki is his enormous moneybags (translated as testicles 😝). In some statues, it is so oversized that he carries it over his shoulder like a sack, his kinbukuro is a symbolism of ‘increasing prosperity’ or ‘increasing luck’ for homes. The Tanuki was also featured in another Studio Ghlibi animation; Ponpoko, where there was a scene in the animation with the elder Tanuki addressing younger members of the tribe seated in front of him. He made a mat big enough (with his testicles) for all of them to sit on, but when he retracts it, they tumbled over! 

Once we noticed and understand what role does the Tanuki statues play in Japanese culture, we started spotting them in many places in Kyoto and Tokyo.

Apart from the shopping, eating and sightseeing in Japan, there is really so much in Japanese culture, myth and pop culture that is so intriguing to learn. Having observed some of these intricacies from our trips, really make the trip much more interesting.  

Arashi 1

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