Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Off to Italy Jet lag/no jet lag

I know it's crazy to have two major trips so close together but we didn't have much choice. The Maldives trip was twice postponed from 2020 and then Italy trip is based on writers workshop. This is the same workshop we came to in 2017 and I immediately knew I wanted to do it again. It hasn't been offered for the last couple years.

We suffered greatly with jet lag on the Maldives trip. I believe the lack of sleep - especially for the 15 hour layover in Dubai- was a major factor in my catching a cold. Then, coming back to the states, our bodies just couldn't get in sync. We would be out cold by 7pm regardless of our best efforts.

On our way to Italy, via Istanbul, because we're flying Turkish Air

I'm not sure if we learned how to handle it better, or we're just lucky , but in Italy we've slept great. We even had a few hours of sleep on the plane and we feel good. The flight was 11 hours from Miami to Istanbul, 2 hours in Istanbul, then 2.5 hours to Naples. We got in to Naples about 7pm and Giuseppe was there to meet us and take us to our lodging. We got settled, then took a short walk around the neighborhood, found a couple glasses of wine with our name on them, went back to our room and slept solid till 10 the next morning. πŸ’€ 😴 πŸ›Œ 

Exactly as I imagined it, within a block of our hotel was a hole-in-the-wall wine bar. We hesitantly stepped in and started to look around. A young man said, "Welcome" and motioned where we could sit down. We looked around more and saw a chalk board with a list of various wines. As we were studying it, we also watched the young man and heard him say, "Buona Serra" to the next people to venture in. So ... he could just look at people and know whether to speak English or Italian?! Turns out his name is Daniel and he was SO friendly and accomodating. The wine was delicious, and free tapas came with each glass of wine. We had such fun chatting with Daniel that I didn't want to leave!

Daniel, a joyful spirit!

Really good wine! Made at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The diving

A typical day on board the Maldives Aggressor started at 6am with a knock on your door and personal delivery of coffee!
A dive briefing started at 6:30, then we boarded the Dohni that took us to the dive site and we were in the water by 7-7:30. We came back to the mother ship for breakfast then out on the Dohni for one more dive before lunch. A little rest time then an afternoon dive and back for dinner. On two nights there were night dives. All in all there were 28 dives offered in the 10 day trip. Jim did all 28, I did 13.

The best way to tell you about the dives is with pictures!

For the Manta experience, you need to watch the video. This was not only the highlight of this trip, I think it is the highlight of my 40 year diving career!! Such graceful, majestic creatures, and they seemed to like us. We were on this dive for a full hour and they were swimming around us the whole time. This was a cleaning station for them. They especially seemed to like our bubbles - I think it tickled them.

Here's the video

Here's Jim taking that video!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

On the boat

By the time we were leaving the hotel to go to the boat,  our luggage still had not been delivered, but we were assured it was at the airport. The boat was also at the airport.  So it would be no problem to pick it up ourselves.  

Yes,  you heard that right,  the boat was at the airport.  This island airport was also the ferry docks and sea plane port.  Quite unique and beautiful. 

There are actually 2 boats involved.  The main "mother ship" the Maldives Aggressor that would be our hotel for the week.  And the smaller Dohni boat that would carry us and all our dive gear to the various dive sites.  It was the Dohni that picked us up at the airport and our first item of business was to get out all our dive gear, set it up on a tank and put the rest into our bin.  This is where it stayed for the duration. 

The dohni then took us out to the mother ship where we took our empty dive bags,  and the rest of our luggage to our rooms and for settled in.  I don't remember splurging for an upper deck room with large windows but I guess we did. It was very nice. There's even a window in the bathroom. Now that's a memory ... taking a shower while looking out at those 🏝 islands!

We had the traditional "Welcome aboard" party and our first dinner of fresh tuna - I'll bet they caught it earlier that day!

The next morning we all did our first, checkout, dive. As soon as we got back on board, I wasn't feeling so hot. Yep, I had a cold. I took a rapid Covid test to be sure it wasn't that - I tested negative. But I felt rotten and spent the next 3 days in bed. I'm glad it was a nice room! And, we had Internet most of the time because our Google Fi phones could connect to cell towers on the resort islands. 

While I was sick in bed, one of the crew named Mahedi would bring me food and take away my dirty dishes. He was very sweet and attentive. This photo is when Jim came back and found Mahedi in our room! Ha! 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

MalΓ© in the Maldives

What a unique bunch of islands.  Hundreds of atolls (circular arrangement of islands) with several islands each.  Something like 3,000 islands all totaled.  From the air they look like rings of air bubbles that some deep sea creature has blown.  

Most of these islands are barely more than some sand that manages to stick up above the surface of the ocean.  No mountains.  No hills even. Just sandy beaches,  some brush,  and some palm trees.  A big wave could wash right across,  yet many of the islands have resorts in them. 
Then there's the capital city of MalΓ©. That's where we fly in.  I think of a bumblebee who is scientifically incapable of flying.  This city doesn't look possible for existing.  High rise buildings,  chock-a-block covering this small island which is home to 250,000 people. I saw no evidence of any zoning laws.

The airport is large and modern. A representative of the hotel was waiting for us with a sign of our name.  Our luggage did not arrive,  so we had to go through the paperwork to track it down.  They said it was in Dubai and it should be no problem to get it to us the next day.  We're so glad that we arranged 2 nights at a hotel before boarding the boat!
It didn't take long after getting to the hotel - Sala Boutique - to meet up with Alvin and Lisa. But we were all too jet lagged to do anything but arrange to meet for dinner.  We understood that the best restaurant on the island was right at this hotel.  So no reason to go anywhere. And it's a good thing too because it was Ramadan. The Muslim culture on this island is very strict.  If you were caught eating or drinking anything in public,  you could be put in jail because it is illegal.  And, there was no alcohol at all at the hotel.  The owner said he would be shut down if so much as a beer was found in the premises!

The next day we did make it out for a walk around the immediate area.  The traffic is amazing.  Mostly scooters,  but plenty of cars and a few buses also.  I saw no evidence of any traffic rules. No lights,  no stop signs. Cars just have to be gutsy and push out into the stream of traffic, forcing others to make way. 
It's a relatively wealthy country so there are no beggars or pushy vendors about, but they had a different technique. 

A Maldivian man would just strike up a conversation with us and start walking along. He was very friendly,  and quite informative. Kind of like our personal tour guide. After a while he pointed out his shop Black Bean. And told us to come by when we were finished with our walk. Then he left! Wow. Low pressure sales.  It worked.  We felt grateful and definitely visited his shop on our way back. All 4 of us got at least one t-shirt. I also got a pair of cool island pants. 

All in all a very nice day. 

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Dubai Airport

 Dubai airport was amazing.  First of all it's huge.  Then, it's the biggest, fanciest shopping mall I've ever seen and it's open 24/7!

You read a lot about Dubai being in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and a Muslim country where drinking alcohol is not allowed. Apparently it's not completely true. We were pleasantly surprised to find a Hard Rock Cafe in the airport with a full bar. 

We had tried to reserve a "Sleeping Pod" for the night because we had a 15 hour layover. After paying $120 to arrive on April 7 and depart on April 8, I got the notice that my reservation was from 1pm to 11pm on the 7th. No - that won't help. I tried to get it changed to 11pm to 7am without success, so I just cancelled. There is also an airport hotel, but Jim and I talked it over and decided $250 wasn't worth it, we could wander around the airport, maybe find a lounge chair to shut our eyes for a bit. We could live thru a one-night-in-the-airport - it would be an experience! And so it was ..

I took this photo at 4am! Lots of people and all the stores were open - the close end of the photo is an Apple Store!

Here is one of the "lounge" chair areas we found. They weren't as comfortable as they looked. 

When we left the next morning, we had to take a bus out to the tarmac and climb stairs to the airplane. No biggy - it gave us a few new views of the place.

When we got off the ground, we finally got a glimpse of the Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world. Our original plan was to stay in Dubai for a couple of days and get a ticket to see it up close, but then we would need to take a Covid test and we didn't want to risk that this time. So this is it ...