Monday, January 24, 2011

Published in Town & Country 2010: The Maldives, A Slice of Paradise

Unedited draft of the Maldives article that Town and Country Philippines published in their October 2010.

By Kage Gozun

Subhead: Big gifts often come in the smallest sizes and Paradise Island Resort is a snack-sized buffet of living large.

We all know that some of the best things come in the tiniest of packages. Diamond rings and other pieces of worthwhile jewelry are wrapped in the smallest of boxes, (pale blue boxes if you’re a lucky girl indeed). The same adage holds true for one of the most luxurious vacation spots on the planet.

The Republic of the Maldives (pronounced with a long e) is so small that it barely registers on the map. To find it, look for Sri Lanka, then move your gaze down to the group of dots right below. And there you have it... the island nation of the Maldives. Of its 1,192 islets, only two hundred of them are inhabited. And of these two hundred, a fair number house island-resorts. Even the airport is on a stand-alone island. Forget grabbing a cab upon arrival, for the duration of this trip, it is watercraft all the way. Boats ferry incoming tourists from the airport to their resort destination.

One of these resort islands is Lankanfinolhu, home to the aptly named Paradise Island Resort. Located only 20 minutes away from the International Airport, this 5-star resort lives up to its name in a big way.


Opened in 2004, the resort lays claim to two saltwater lagoons, a wide range of activities, several choices for dining and a top-notch spa. Accommodations are divided into three classes, with a majority of the rooms set within the resort proper. These 220 rooms all feature the usual amenities one expects during a big budget vacation including a private porch, outdoor shower (for beach bungalows) and satellite television. Walkways wend through these lush grounds, which are hugged on all sides by pristine beaches, and gently touched by water so clear it looks white. But for the ultimate in luxury vacations, it is the rooms on the other side of the island that define luxury living.

Dubbed “The Haven,” these suites are set just slightly away from the main resort by two long wooden walkways built directly over water. Think of the Haven Villas as an upgrade on an already top grade trip. Guests have been known to spend entire days without moving more than 5 meters away from either their front door or their back porch.

Aside from the usual trappings of life in the luxe lane, each of the rooms also comes with direct access to the ocean from a private back porch. For a quick dip or snorkel, a quick walk down the private back stairs leads straight into the Indian Ocean’s inviting waters. A private Jacuzzi, daybed and two chaise lounges rounds off the sundeck nicely. Inside doesn’t disappoint. A personal espresso and tea makers, en-suite wifi, plasma television screens and beds that mimic hugs makes it near impossible to leave the room. And when they do, they can choose to ring The Haven’s separate reception desk and ask to be fetched by one of the special golf buggies. Why walk, when you can ride?

Paradise Island Resort’s list of activities is too tempting to resist. A sign-up board is displayed prominently right off the main reception area. On it, all of the day’s excursions and possible pursuits are listed with all the pertinent details including the times of departures (for boat trips), meeting places & minimum numbers of participants (depending on the activity). If a guest needs more information, flyers are tacked right next to the sign-up board and a helpful staff member is on call at a nearby desk. Interested in something? Sign up and enjoy!

Prepare to overload on nature. Just walking around the resort can yield sightings of herons flying overhead, tiny lizards crossing walkways and, hermit crabs scuttling along the sand. When crossing over the water walkways, baby reef sharks swim the shallows. They are so common that they soon become part and parcel of the scenery. Eagle rays and sting rays also skim the sand, most often seen towards sunset. Even without getting in the water, nature-trippers get an eyeful.

To get closer to the marine life, guests often try their hand at snorkelling and/or diving. The reef systems of the Maldives boast some of the most spectacular marine ecosystems in the area. There are over 2,000 species of fish including the ever-present reef sharks to giant triggerfish, moray eels, and, during the right season, the whale shark. Turtles and dolphins are also frequently spotted during dives so keep those cameras at the ready.

And while Paradise Island Resort is not strictly a dive resort they do have an in-house dive center (Delphi Divers) that offer everything from lessons (beginner to advanced classes) to half-day dives. A white board at the dive shop is updated in the afternoon with notices on where dives are scheduled for the next day along with departure times.

Snorkelers can choose to book trips or just hang about the island. The house reef is situated right off the Italian restaurant and is home to parrotfish, puffers, unicorn fish, pelagic fish and is often visited by reef sharks passing through (don’t worry, they’re skittish and shy away from human contact). The restaurant gives out bread for fish feeding, don’t be afraid to ask.

Boat trips to neighboring islands are also on offer. These excursions take up half the day and include a visit to a local fishing village, some souvenir shopping, a picnic lunch and time for more snorkelling, swimming or just lazing under some low-lying branches while the sun filters through the leaves.

For a bigger rush, kite-boarding, windsurfing and parasailing are other options. In the evening, night fishing trips are arranged. A tennis court, small gym and a swimming pool are also on the premises just in case you’d rather not be near the ocean one day.

On the opposite end of the activity spectrum, a visit to the spa might be just the ticket. The Araamu Spa is tucked away in a corner of Paradise Island’s beach. Trained therapists whisk away any tension or stress with a full range of services. Aside from the usual treatments (Swedish, Thai and Reflexology massages), this luxury spa also lists Indian Ayurvedic therapy and a special “romance package” of loabi loabi massages for couples.

Even just sunbathing burns calories and everyone needs to eat. Thankfully the island has diverse options for meals spread out around the grounds. The main coffee shop opens for business thrice a day at specific times. Meals at the coffee shop are served buffet style with a salad bar, at least 5 viands and a surprisingly extensive dessert selection. Right beside is the Paradise Bar where the drinks flow and, once a week, a DJ spins for a party-ready crowd.

Fuyuka Teppanyaki
serves your meal as a show with a chef trained in the art of “show cooking.” Traditional sushis share space with an array of specialized dishes. The ingredients used are flown in from Japan, the seafood fresh from the ocean.

From freshly-made maki move on to freshly-baked pizzas at Ristorante al Tramanto which has the added bonus of being built at the end of the jetty. In the evening, sitting at the outdoor area sipping a Caipirinha and munching on a slice of oven fired magherita may just be one of the best ways to end a long day. And since this is your vacation, if you’re too tired to make the walk, they’ll deliver the pizza straight to your doorstep.

At the edge of The Haven’s walkway is The Blue Lagoon Restaurant which serves up an ala carte menu . But it isn’t the food that draws the guests so much as it is the staggeringly beautiful view of waves crashing right outside the barrier reef. This is a place for an ice cold beer on a warm afternoon or a coffee at sunrise. Don’t try to catch the sunset from here though as the sun sets on the other side of the island (where Ristorante al Tramato is located).

If you are on the lookout for a treat that hasn’t yet been spoiled by a horde of trampling tourists, Paradise Island Resort should definitely be on your list. Days spent as active – or lazy – as you want them to be while the sun tints your skin in its amber glow. Nights under the watching stars, listening to the tide come in and out of the island’s lagoons.

I should know. After a year of low-cost airlines, budget hostels and counting every expense to make sure I didn’t run out of cash before my trip was over, spending a week at the Paradise Island Resort was bliss. My days began with a fresh cup of coffee a swim in the ocean. Entire stretches of afternoon found me in the water, under the sun, burning off calories from the luscious buffet meals. And in the evenings I would sit out on the porch, blogging and Tweeting about the day’s experiences while eagle rays swam under my feet . Believe me, It really doesn’t (didn’t?) get much better than this (that?).

For more information on Paradise Island Resort:

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Late App Adopter

I might like my tech toys but I will be the first to admit that I am not technologically savvy. I am better off asking someone to show me what I need to learn rather than read about it. Manuals make my head hurt.

I am also not free with my money. I like making sure I am getting a good deal... which usually means waiting for the beta model to come out because everyone knows the first issues always have bugs.

So it isn't out of character for me to be a late adopter when it comes to new gadgets. Which is why it took me this long to get w the iPod Touch program. I love it. It isn't an iPhone - something whose purpose I continue to question (ok, so it's got a great screen... so what?) - and it suits my needs. I can have music, watch videos (still figuring out how to do this), surf the internet (it's got WiFi) , take photos (the new Touch has a camera) ... and it's got apps!!!

I kind of love apps. I come late to AppLand but I am catching up. Below is a list of the apps I've come to know by heart:

GAMES: My current favorite games to play while waiting in line and/or in traffic. Or sometimes during Quiz Nights when the round is something I can't contribute to.

Angry Birds - If I have to explain what this is to you, then I'm shocked you found my blog. And for the haters, I'd just like to point out that the game involves thought and a slight understanding of physics. "Structural integrity" as well as "Take out the keystone" are phrases my brother and I often use in game play. I blazed through the 12 levels in 4 days.

Bookworm - One of my favorite PC games ported to android and Apple games. Keep finding words and save the library of letters from the burning tiles. Longest word so far: Unhinged. Current top score: 1,591,350

Veggie Samurai - Almost mindless game where you slice veggies while avoiding bottles of poison. Same as Fruit Ninja except you get to slice the items more than once.

Dismount - Pick a point on the dummy's body. Shove him down the elevated platform. Score points based on how many bones are broken and how many revolutions the dummy makes before it stops falling. And then you can take a screencap. Best of all: if you have an upgrade, you can take someone's face and place it on the dummy. Violent catharsis. ;)

Lomolomo and Hipstamatic - Analog goes digital. Play with the way your built-in digital camera takes photos without having to pay for film developing. Many hard core lomographers are quite upset about the advent of these digital versions of their toy cameras. Personally, I enjoy that they've programmed the apps to work like the real cameras... the element of surprise is still there.

CameraTan - To post process and add filters to photos, there's CameraTan.

CrunchFu and iBelly - Workout apps that talk me through core and strength training. Handy when I don't have access to a trainer.

Pocket Yoga, Five Minute Yoga, Yoga Relax - Yoga programs for travel. Again, for when I don't have access to an actual class.

MyLangPro - Handy for traveling outside the country, it translates more than 20 different languages.

Any other apps I should be looking into?

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stepping Down.

Hey sexy surf kiddos!

It is with a very grateful heart that I step down from my post as your VP for Membership. It's been a long and sometimes trying ride but I don't regret a single year I spent working with and for MSA. Many of you have been asking me why I've chosen to do this -- and it's simple: I'd like to rest and be a civilian na. I've been doing this for almost 7 years. Time for someone else to learn the ropes and help steer the ship.

I can only hope that whoever is chosen to come after me also has the same vision in mind as I do for the direction of MSA. But if s/he doesn't, there is nothing I can do about that except lend support where I can as a member and as one of the B.O.D.

Which brings me to this: be awesome to your new membership head. Cooperate. Comply. Wag kayong pasaway. :P

To all the sponsors and media peeps I've had the opportunity to work with in those seven years, many thanks for the continued support.

See you guys in the line-up and watch out for news on the El Yu comp from the remaining officers.

Bestest vibes,

Momma Kage 

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Friday, January 07, 2011

35 Before 35

In no particular order - and inspired by the incredible Celine Novenario - here is my list of 35 Before 35. Some are goals that I intend to achieve while others are habits I would like to cultivate. A lot of them entail willpower, self-discipline and the support of my peers.

I had to edit a lot - there were items on the original list that are dependent on factors out of my control. Those ones are on a mental list (parang The Secret).

1. Swim at least twice a week if I don't go surfing.

2. Do "Yoga for Surfers" every morning.

3. Capoeira at least once a week (should budget allow it)

4. Finally take that pole dancing class with Djong and Pia!

5. Surf at the very least once a month, using mostly Pandora and Alexa Jazz over WC.

6. Try that all female gym Ria told Binky about.

7. Go sugar free for a month every quarter

8. Stick to the "1x a month for fast food" plan.

9. Surf Cemento's peak on a shoulder-high day and make the drop consistently by the start of the late North Swell.

10. Go on one photo walk every month, even if it's just around the city.

11. Finally organize and publish my online photo portfolio.

12. Get back in the publishing game - freelance more.

13. Update my blog weekly.

14. LITERALLY inch my way back to the 2005 body or a close approximation thereof.

15. Attend SpinDependence at least every other month to spin fire and light.

16. Learn to make bread.

17. Get my driver's license.

18. Dive Cebu.

19. Go to Bicol.

20. Swim with the whalesharks again -- this time with a proper underwater camera.

21. Manage my finances better than I did in 2010.

22. Visit the Pahiyas festival the day BEFORE the actual fiesta.

23. Put the "No more split ends" rule into full effect. ;)

24. Do or try something new -- something I've never done before -- once a month.

25. Learn to make pasta from scratch.

26. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. For real na talaga.

27. Do a 5k "run" with Djong

28. Join every single free contest and raffle I come across.

29. Get Brown Belly into more stores in more cities.

30. Dive Palawan.

31. Get to the office before noon. All the time. :P

32. Get inked.

33. Own more than two pairs of "grown up" shoes and two sets of "grown up" clothes.

34. Be more involved with charity and outreach work.

35. Begin - and end - each day in prayer.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Two Old New Year Greets and One Totally New One

This one is from me:

As you walk through the coming months, may there always be sun to warm your face.

And love to warm your heart.

May there be breezes to cool your brow.

And friends to calm your fears.

May the road be clear and your footing be strong.

And may the adventures be both exciting and enlightening.

Look back with gratitude and look forward with faith. May He bless your 2011.


This I got this as a text during New Year's Eve 2004/05 from my friend Candy:

"Now let us believe in this year given to us.

New. Untouched.

Full of things that have never been."

- Rainier Maria Rilke


And this from Three Bugoys of Cabugao:

These three bugoys were photographed during a 2007 trip to Cabuagao. Looking at them never fails to make me smile. May the "bugoy" that lives inside of us all continue to smile in 2011.

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