A breath of fresh air
The little Velana International Airport may not be that attractive upon arrival, especially after catching a sneak peek of the splendid beauty of Maldives from the sky. However, after stepping off the airport, which is linked to the capital city of Male with a bridge, the pristine water of the Indian Ocean is bound to completely sway the visitors in no time.
Having flown out from the Hamad International Airport of Doha in the morning, it took over four hours to reach Maldives' airspace. Initially, from high above, the ring-shaped atolls in the blue water misled us to consider those as clouds. But when the aircraft had significantly descended, the view cleared up in high-definition to reveal lush green and hidden islands with picturesque resorts, resembling the ones generally found on internet search.
The mild and meditative waves of the crystal clear water must tempt one to go closer to it first, before boarding either water buses or taxi cabs destined for your place of stay.
We began heading towards Male on the hotel-provided microbus and the 15-minute journey impressed all of us to a great extent, especially the traffic system as the chauffeur neither had to overtake another vehicle, despite having ample space on both sides of the middle lane, nor did he ever resort to pressing any irritating horn. We got to know from the chauffeur that overtaking is forbidden in Maldives, although the seemingly reckless bikers on the road disagreed, apparently.
On route, a lot of parked motorcycles caught our eyes. We got to know that the motorcycle, which costs around 40,000 Maldivian Rufiyaa (approximately 2600 US Dollar), is the most popular mode of personal transport in the 8.30-square-km city of Male.
Apart from male bikers, hijab-wearing female bikers dominate the streets, made of square-shaped zigzag concrete blocks which look similar to ones that Dhaka footpath had before the recently-laid red-yellow plates.
If Amsterdam is a city of bicycles and Dhaka is a city of rickshaws, then Male can be labelled as a city of motorcycles, no doubt.
It takes nearly one hour, or a few if you walk, to traverse Male from one end to another with the traffic being really thin except for the bikes. One of us found out that most of the Male roads have one-way movements that hardly cause any traffic jams. On top of it, no traffic police was seen anywhere.
The most interesting part of traffic is that the vehicles stop and wait until you cross the road via zebra-crossing and not the other way around, which is quite different compared to other sub-continent countries.
Interestingly, to see different shops with big glass windows, kept locked without any shutters or collapsible gates, may surprise you with the indication of the absence of robbers in the city.
It is common to have a view of the ocean's blue waters from the end of almost each narrow road, that basically joins the Male-surrounded ring road, and one can take a long breath of fresh air at the end of each road. Another pleasing aspect of the city is that the sky view is not hampered by high-rise buildings as it is in Dhaka. Except for a few high-rise buildings, most of the six or seven-storied buildings and the trees virtually bear the beauty of the small town.
Finally, feeling lonely is not an option if you are from Bangladesh because invariably you will come across compatriots -- workers, companies' employees and businessmen -- surrounding you in airports, hotels, shops and almost every other place in the city of Male.