Marine enthusiasts and couples love the Maldives for its emerald green seas, seaside cottages, cruises, snorkeling and so on. The Maldives are highly popular for honeymoons and overseas weddings. For this domain tour, neither a couple nor a marine enthusiast went to check out the Maldives.
Sponsored by Interlink Co., Ltd. which deals with more than 1,050 Top Level Domains (TLDs) around the world, the Domain Island Tour is currently focused on about 50 types of “Island Domains” in the South Pacific and Caribbean, such as “.cc” “.tv” “.sx”, going to these islands even when it takes 40 hours one way to get there, or when flights are only scheduled one a month.
The ccTLD for the Maldives is “com.mv”.
◆Where are the Maldives?
The Maldives consist of 26 atolls and about 1,200 islands, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka. Of these islands, about 200 are inhabited. The official name is ދިވެ、ދިވެހި ރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމްހޫރިއްޔާ in Dhivehi.
= Table of Contents =
◆Trying to Ride in an Air Taxi Without a Reservation
In the Maldives, there’s a “One island one luxury resort” system, so to get to such islands, you need to travel by speed boat or air taxi (seaplane) from the Velana International Airport, near the capital Malé. The air taxis are only available for guests of said resorts or for sightseeing flights. Sightseeing flights allow passengers to take pictures of the islands from the sky. These tours don’t allow passengers to land on any of the islands. For the domain island tour, I’m not staying at a resort, and I don’t have a reservation for a sightseeing flight. But of course, I really want to ride on an air taxi, so I will have to find a way to do so.
Actually, I tried by email to reserve a sightseeing flight with Trans Maldivian Airways, and also with Maldivian Airlines, before I left Japan, but I got no response to my queries, so I will try talking to them directly.
At 9 am, just out of the arrival gate at Malé International Airport, I take a look around for an air taxi counter.
There are many reception counters for restaurants and resorts on isolated islands.
I found one for Jumeirah Hotels, famous for building the first ice-skating rink in the Maldives.
I also found Manta Air, the first to provide regular air taxi services in the Maldives as of November, 2019. Unfortunately, there was no one there. I’m going to give up on this one.
Then I discover Maldivian Airlines. When I asked them: “Can I take a flight even though I don’t have a reservation at a resort?” I was told: “No, you cannot”. When I asked about sightseeing flights, they right away answered: “Private sightseeing flights are available”. When I asked the price: “One flight costs 100,000 JPY”. Although I was shocked at how expensive, I decided to go ahead and do it.
By the way, this company’s official website uses the domain “.aero” which can only be used by members of the aviation industry.
I was told they would arrange my sightseeing flight, and that I should come back at 13:00. There was a lot of time still before 13:00, so I decided to look for the Trans Maldivian Airways counter. I asked the same questions I asked Maldivian Airlines, and got the same answers. Sightseeing flights are possible, but not today. I gave up as there were only flights available tomorrow.
The pilots for Trans Maldivian Airways fly barefoot.
The air taxis basically have no timetables, they seem to make their schedules at the request of the resorts and their guests. As I waited, I passed the time looking outside and I found a pink car, just like the one on the Japanese TV show “Ainori”.
Shortly before 13:00, I return to the Maldivian Airlines counter. As the man I had talked to in the morning was not there, I spoke to another staff: “I have a reservation for a sightseeing flight…” but he answered “The sightseeing flight has already left”. Did I make a mistake? Or did the airline staff miscommunicate? I don’t know, but what is clear is that I won’t be taking an air taxi.
At least there was no financial damage as you pay when you board. If you manage to get on a sightseeing flight in the Maldives, consider yourself lucky.
It’s been speculated that Japanese bonito flakes come from the Maldives. So, I will look into the bonito in the Maldives… I need to find out for sure. I head for the fish market in the capital Malé.
Is this a unique design or has the paint just peeled off? I looked closer and it was a taxi.
I stop by to see the landing berth belonging to the President.
There’s a ship moored, but a local guy tells me it’s not the president’s ship.
Another local says to me “That’s the spot exclusively for the President’s ship”. There were two ships at anchor (A555 and A558). The two ships moored looked exactly the same grade.
On either side of those ships were coast guard vessels. The ship in front is the “ISKANDHAR”.
The other has ”NOOR ADHEEN” written on the side. There’s no connection to Japanese “Space Battleship Yamato”.
While walking, I saw many blue pipes on the ground. They seem to be drainage pipes for sewage, coming from buildings and construction sites etc.
The pipes all drain out into the ocean.
I arrive at the fish market. Large letters adorn a blue sign. However, its written in Thaana, so I have no idea what it says. Thaana is the writing system (script) used for the official Maldivian language Dhivehi.
Fresh skipjack tuna (bonito).
Near the back, yellowfin tuna was being cut up. Large fish, such as tuna, are cut and sold according to the needs of the buyer.
The leftover waste of the fish (bones, offal etc.) are collected in a bucket and then once the bucket is full, discarded into the ocean. I waited a little because I wanted to see that part.
Sea birds come out of nowhere and the sea is full of rays. They seem to know that dinner is coming.
Soon enough, a fish monger comes with his bucket of offal. He splashes it into the sea. I imagined it would be like feeding time in the carp pond, but neither the rays nor the seabirds got that excited.
I was happy to see this exciting “offal throwing” event that couples honeymooning in the Maldives are unlikely to be interested in, but my purpose, searching for the dried bonito, still needs to be fulfilled. I decided to check out the fruits and vegetables market down the road from the fish market.
Its crowded with people and bananas.
Ah, there it is. The dried bonito. Locally known as “Maldives fish”, it’s been used in cooking here since ancient times.
I don’t know the type of fish exactly, but this is also a kind of dried bonito. If you try some, its softer than it looks! The texture is like jerky. It’s a little smelly though.
◆Illegal Workers, Lack of Doctors…etc. Things Heard at the Japanese Embassy
To find out more about the Maldives, I visited the Embassy of Japan in Maldives, and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). First, the embassy. I asked the staff to tell me little known facts about the Maldives, and any issues they are facing here.
・Foreigners cannot start an independent venture here
The Islamic Maldives have no corporate or income taxes. But, it’s not a tax haven. Its ok to have a branch office here, so some Japanese companies are expanding that way. In addition, the Maldives does not give permanent residency to foreigners.
・The Maldives are said to be the worst in the world for population density and a lack of doctors
There’s heavy traffic in urban areas due to the population density. Approximately 130,000 people (1/4th-1/3rd of the population of the Maldives) live in Malé, in an area 2.5 km from east to west and 1.5 km from north to south. This city is said to have the highest population density in the world. Also, there are no medical schools in the Maldives. If you want to be a doctor, you must study at a university overseas. Although there are so few doctors in Malé, and fears about whether people are getting appropriate treatment or not, the luxury resorts have their own doctors.
・Illegal employment and illegal residents
Since October 2019, illegal foreign workers have been coming to get registered at the Galolhu National Stadium. Speaking of which, when I visited the stadium, I did find some people scattered around the stands, although there was no game on.
・Thefts at the Ferries
Ferry staff is supposed to handle larger pieces of luggage, but it seems that items have been stolen from inside the luggage at such times. You can use a taxi to get to the international airport, but its more common to travel by ferry. Ferry tickets costs $3 per person. Its best to be careful not to leave valuables in your luggage.
Next, I visited JICA, and spoke with a lady staff member who was recently transferred to the Maldives. Two things that stand out from the interview are that the seniors in the Maldives are not be able to support society as actively as in other countries, and that it’s not so easy to live in an Islamic country, which has a lot of restrictions.
By the way, it was from the Japanese embassy that I heard about the “offal throwing” event at the fish market. The male staff at the embassy said “My family all think that I am working in a lovely environment in the beautiful Maldives. Sure, sometimes I see sea turtles or dolphins from my office, but it’s not a very lovely environment working in a place that is so overcrowded.” Many thanks to the staff of the Japanese embassy and JICA who kindly answered my questions in spite of the sudden visit.
◆Artificial Islands for the Capital Malé
Hulhumalé is a man-made island located on the south side of the North Malé Atoll, it was built to relieve pressure on the most densely populated island in the world, Malé. The buildings are modern and colorful compared to the ones on Malé.
On the front gate of the preschool, there’s a list of names of the students enrolled there. I can’t imagine it in Japan.
Just before noon, a call for prayer was given from the “Masjid Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani” mosque. I wondered if the people walking around the mosque would stop and offer prayers suddenly, but no one did.
◆Cool Postcards of Policemen at the National Museum
If you want to learn about the history of the Maldives, the place to go is the Maldives National Museum, located in Sultan Park, Malé.
The entrance fee is 100 Rufiyaa (about 700 yen) per adult. If you want to take photos inside the building, you need to pay an additional 10 rufiyaa (about 70 yen). Even if you pay this fee, you can’t use flash when taking pictures. Lockers for luggage are available free of cost.
There are exhibition rooms on two upper floors. But let’s start on the first floor. In the large exhibition hall, there’s a display of small boxes etc. made from coral harvested in the Maldives.
Some of the items are modern artifacts. Two of the first telephone sets used in the Maldives.
“The first computer CPU in the Maldives.” The size really gives you a feel for its age.
A corner of the National Museum had the Philatelic Museum (Stamp Museum).
You can also purchase currently issued stamps at the souvenir shop.
Further along, a mannequin police officer.
This marks the start of the exhibition about the police. This exhibition documents the history of the police in the Maldives.
Of course, there’s a souvenir shop. What really caught my eye was the post-cards with police officers.
The one above is called “Police officers in discussion”. Below I thought it would be titled “Police officer with a handgun, looking into a room”, but actually it was “Police officer collecting fingerprints off a doorknob”. I’ve never seen such cool postcards, so I bought them up quick. I regret not buying a cap too.
Up to the second floor.
Instruments used by the famous Maldivian band the “Olympians” were on display, along with whale bones, ivory, ship models, etc.
The YAMAHA “YC-20” (stage piano)
The YAMAHA “YC-20” (stage piano)
The ELK “VIKING 60” (guitar amplifier head)
◆What to Eat in the Maldives?
Tired of walking, I took a break at a cafe. It’s called the Highway Coﬀee Shop.
The calm colors give a nice feel to the atmosphere. They prepare the drinks fresh, after taking the order.
The coffee came with milk by default. Another drink I ordered was the iced ginger-lemon tea.
As in other Islamic regions, drinking and selling alcoholic beverages is prohibited in the Maldives. You could buy a bottle of Mojito at the supermarket, but it was non-alcoholic.
I thought: “I could get a beer at the hotel,” but the hotel in Malé where I stayed did not handle alcohol. This one was also a non-alcoholic beer ($ 3.2).
I found a sushi restaurant in Hulhumale called “Oishii” (“Delicious” in Japanese). I ordered ramen and roll sushi. Is it delicious? As the name of the shop indicates?
Chicken ramen (185 MVR)
California roll (150 MVR)
Gold Rush roll (180 MVR)
Everything was delicious. For dessert, I ordered the “Chocolate Miso Lava Cake” (80 MVR). This is fondant chocolate with miso inside, vanilla ice cream and berry sauce on top. Lava means like volcano lava. This was also delicious.
After that I visited the Dhidhoo hotel (Cafe) for some local food.
There were many local people at this restaurant. The windows were open and it seems the air conditioning was not working. However, I was given an air-conditioned private room. Nice to get the VIP treatment. Maybe because I’m a foreigner.
I ordered the mas huni, a standard breakfast in the Maldives. In Dhivehi, “mas” means fish and “huni” means coconut.
A picture of mas huni. Divide in two, with a sausage in between, the taste is slightly different. One side is tuna and the other is bonito. Its eaten wrapped in roshi, a local flatbread. It’s delicious!
I also ordered an onion cake, and a dessert that is somewhat like dorayaki, with a small pancake folded in half. I thoroughly enjoyed the light natural sweetness. As expected, the VIP treatment was included in the bill.
I also tried a local restaurant called the Belle Amie Bistro. Here I ordered the Garudhiya.
This kind of home cooked meal is not on the menu, but they will make it if you order it. The taste may differ depending on the shop, but this one was surprisingly sour. It reminds me of Tom Yam soup but “Shrimp and Spice Free”. I wasn’t really feeling the bonito soup. A bit too light for me.
◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed
This trip, I tried Ooredoo and Dhiraagu SIM cards. You can buy them at the Malé international airport.
Both are $ 15 and 4 GB (for 7 days). Dhiraagu is also has the registry for the domain “.mv”, and if compared to companies in Japan, it is about the size of NTT. The speed was 25Mbps.
The speed of the SIM from Ooredoo (a company based in Qatar), was 14Mbps.
◆MILO Delivery Trucks & Other Interesting Things in the Maldives
Strolling around the city, I head for the “.mv” registry, just like I did to check out the Saint Vincent registry.
I hear a truck saying: “Backing up, be careful” in Japanese. I heard the same sound in Tuvalu (.tv).
The only item on the truck is boxes of “MILO”, piled high. This is a dedicated Milo truck, carrying only Milo. In Japan, Milo is advertised in commercials that feature children playing sports, so I have a strong impression of it being a children’s drink. However, in Latin America and Asia (especially in East Asia and Southeast Asia), it is popular with adults too. Certainly, I saw plenty of it in the Maldives.
I thought that the number of people in the Maldives who could speak Japanese had really increased, but I was blown away to see a shop called “Naoto Takenaka’s shop”. However, it was a souvenir shop that had nothing to do with actor Naoto Takenaka. The story is that the store’s name comes from the fact that the owner looks like Naoto Takenaka.
The “Naoto’s shop” is also a souvenir shop for Japanese people. In this neighborhood, while we were walking around, people frequently came up and tried to “guide” us. Please note that you will be charged if you follow or listen to these “guides”.
Paint company “Nippon Paint” is advertised by a sumo wrestler with a big smile. It says, “Singapore’s Favorite Paint Brand.”
There were many shops selling tools, paint, painting materials etc.
I thought it was a sports brand shop, but actually they are selling very fashionable work clothes and helmets.
In Tonga, I found a counterfeit for sale, but in the Maldives it was an authentic Mikasa volleyball. In the Indian Ocean region, a sports tournament called the “Indian Ocean Island Games” was started by the International Olympic Committee in 1976. Featured sports include volleyball, judo, table tennis etc. In 2019, the Maldives won a gold medal in women’s group table tennis. The local newspaper reported that it was a “historic victory.” The Maldives have been chosen to host the 2023 games.
It seems you don’t need to wear a helmet when driving a motorcycle on these islands.
Finding the Maldives’ domains “.mv” and “.com.mv” around town.
The domain “.mv” is restricted to government and large companies because it cannot be registered online and is expensive to maintain. Non-governmental and other companies tend to use “.com.mv” and “.net.mv”.
By the way, looking at the map, by now I should have arrived at the “.mv” registry, but there was no such place, instead I found the Presidential Palace (Muleeaage). It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t find the registry address (19 Medhuziyaaraiy Magu Male 20-02 Maldives), but I did make it to a tourist spot unexpectedly.
I found a man wearing a T-shirt with the Japanese word “Continue” on it. Underneath it said “To Be Continued!!!”, so when I told him that the meaning was not wrong, he smiled and posed for a shot. The Domain Island Tour continues.
■The following is a summary of the places visited during the Domain Island Tour.