Bicycling and the Maldives: not perhaps the most obvious of combinations. Who would have thought these exotic islands had this in store for me? Usually we think of beach huts and crystal-clear waters stretching into infinity, but this was a trip with a difference.
An opportunity to travel to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand with trustworthy and efficient Sri Lankan Airlines was something not to be missed. The four-hour flight from Bahrain to Colombo was on time to the easily reached destination. Then a connection on to the Maldives for one and a half hours and you are on the island of Gan. Being able to travel with Bahraini, Indian and Sri Lankan nationals (all residing in Bahrain and equally up for the challenge) only added to the fun and excitement of the journey. Cycling in the Maldives is an instant de-stresser: instead of cars honking their horns and emitting exhaust fumes, I was surrounded by tropical beauty and the sound of the waves in stereo. The tarmac and traffic was replaced by simple roads worn down by the daily rhythms of the locals.
The five-and-a-half-hour flight from Bahrain (via Colombo) to the Maldives passes easily with attentive stewards and good company. Sri Lankan Airlines is the only international airline to land in Gan, so this is a unique opportunity to see a hidden treasure. Stepping out of the two-gate airport we looked straight onto the beautiful water of the Maldives, before taking a speedy and entertaining boat taxi to Canareef Resort.
There we were met by the green, quiet beauty of the island and the serenity of our villas. It really is a different world out here and the cares of day-to-day life fall away like autumn leaves. The walk from the bedroom to the beach was practically non-existent, and bicycles lay at our doorstep for our convenience. Since there are no cars, either bicycle or a small open bus will take you where you want to go. Riding into the local village and experiencing their simple way of life is something not to be missed. What a treat! Of course, one can also bike to the beach and have a swim in the blue-turquoise water with its white-sand beaches. The Maldives has an average year-round temperature of 27 to 30 degrees Celsius, making the water temperature always inviting. There are many activities at your disposal but seeing the island on a bike was what I loved.
A short flight from the Maldives to Colombo and a bus ride to Centara Ceysands in Aluthgama was another splendid journey and a different experience from the Maldives. Our resort hotel was on the Indian Ocean with a marvellous view. Again, this is a perfect climate for a wave-jumping experience. It was a joy to understand the importance Sri Lanka places on its environment – enmeshed completely into everyday life. We visited Kosgoda turtle hatchery and had a Madu River boat ride. We rode through the preserved mangroves and visited Cinnamon Island where we viewed the harvest of – what else – cinnamon. Then we tickled our feet with a fish spa! But most of all, we were impressed by the importance of keeping Sri Lanka clean and green, which gave a feeling of hope for the world.
Two days in Sri Lanka and we were back in the air on our way to Bangkok with Sri Lankan Airlines and being taken care of by their beautiful, welcoming air hostesses. Our four-day stay in Bangkok took us to three different Centara Hotels. Every one of them was classy, but worth a special note was the 50-floor Centara Grand with the beautiful view of the city from the 50th floor restaurant and the bubbly bar on the 50½ floor! From the bustling street markets, to the first-class malls, to the Buddhist temple serenity. Who cannot love Bangkok for their choice of whatever you want to do? The Sunday street market offered an array of well-made, inexpensive products to buy and opened my senses to smells of spices and of the subtle smells of natural organic products; but the highlight of my time in Bangkok was a walk through the surroundings of a Buddhist temple in the middle of busy Bangkok. Meditating in the peaceful atmosphere with others helped me understand how the Thai people can be so calm. In the serenity of the temple complex one can learn the art of folding the petals of a lotus flower and understand the meaning behind it.
Of course, no adventure would be complete without a mention of the food! All three countries offered pretty much anything you wanted, and having a huge desire to try most anything edible, I was overwhelmed by the array of choices, especially fresh fruits picked when they are ripe and thus having sweet unmatchable flavour.
For an easy flight with an exotic adventure, I highly recommend this three-country excursion for its beautiful peoples, beautiful greenery and beautiful food! From Bahrain to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand, you won’t have to spend much of your time in airplanes or airports. (Arrivals and departures were always on time at every destination.) Wherever you decide to stay, I highly recommend Sri Lankan Airline to get you there. For good choices of food, modern airplanes and polite staff, in the air and on the ground, remember – Sri Lankan Airlines. It is the only international airline to fly to the island of Gan, Maldives!!