Helsinki was more of a stopover on my Lapland trip with Nokia. When I arrived, it was 12.00 midnight. All I did was to take a taxi and crash at the Airport Holiday Inn. Now what would I give to take a taxi without any fear at midnight in Delhi but then I wonder if it will ever happen in my lifetime? However, I digress.

The next morning I was back at the airport to take a flight to Kittila. I met Helsinki properly after I came back from Lapland. The first evening we went to the city center by taking a tram. People speak English easily in Finland and that was quite helpful.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland #Canon550D

There were four of us. The agenda for the evening was shopping and dinner. There were at least four instances in one evening when men held doors at shopping complexes for all the four of us. Now that made such a favorable impression on me!

Shopping at Helsinki

Shopping at Helsinki #Lumia1020

I was also happy to see the local people clad warmly. Otherwise there have been times when to me it felt like Indian winter, people in other nations went ahead and declared summer! No such confusion at Helsinki, everyone agreed that it was still winter in March.

City Center, Helsinki

City Center, Helsinki #Lumia1020

The same evening, I spotted this limousine and made a mental note to check out what was this club all about. Looks like it was a strip club! As it was a Saturday evening, the roads were full of people. In fact we had to try a few restaurants before we could find a seat for four. The weather was still cold but minus 3-4 felt surprisingly bearable after -22 of Kittila! Even though we were late in packing up for the night I promised myself a few hour’s walk in the morning at Helsinki.

Hilton Strand, Helsinki

Hilton Strand, Helsinki #Canon550D

The next day morning I got up before the alarm went off. But all I wanted was more sleep. I somehow dragged myself out of the bed from Hilton Strand so that I could steal a few moments at Helsinki. I started walking around the hotel first, the frozen lake looked cold and forbidding in the morning light. There were others who were up and about, either on a morning jog or just enjoying the sun.

Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki

Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki

I eventually found my way to the Helsinki Cathedral again. Early in the morning it was used by the locals as a jogging track, particularly the stairs. I enjoyed the cold and the clear weather. While I was about to leave the first tour bus discarded the excited tourists at the cathedral. For me, it was almost time to head back home.

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I initially thought I would not go scuba diving at Maafushi, Maldives even though it is supposed to be a great spot for diving. I then thought I would just go and ask how much would it cost. I hoped it would be too expensive and I would walk away! No such luck, the first place I asked at was quite reasonable, they quoted me 80 US dollars for two dives. In the end I could not dive with them because they were full by the time we decided to register. When I told guys at my hotel about the rates, they said this particular diving center was new. Their tone sounded a bit cautionary. It didn’t work out anyway!

I then went to Maldives Passions. They quoted 70 dollar per dive per person (without taxes) and even this was fine with me. Both my nephew and I decided to take a recreational dive, the hitch was my nephew doesn’t know how to swim. If you can’t swim you get to do only the bubble maker! We decided to go together so I also did the kiddie dive. I paid 100 US dollar as advance in the evening. We were to dive at 11.00 am the next day. I asked for a camera too, as this time I wanted some pictures of the event.

I have to admit I was anxious even though this was the second time I would dive. I had done one dive in Havelock in 2011. I had not opted for underwater pictures then. All evening and part of the night I kept thinking why can’t I be content with snorkeling? It required no special skills and it was such fun. I was telling myself that in future I would restrict myself to snorkeling. My nephew on the other hand was cool, his motto- no point in taking any tension. Actually he was a good influence on me.

Scuba Diving, Maafushi, Maldives

Scuba Diving, Maafushi, Maldives

The day of the diving arrived calm and fine. We went for a light breakfast. After that I stayed in my room till it was the time to dive. My heart was trying to come to my mouth forgetting that it has dived before. When it was time to clear out I was happy, finally I would be done with it.

When we reached the shop, we were told that we would have to wait a bit as the dive master, Adham Rafeeu was, well out diving. I went and deposited myself into a hammock in front of the shop. The wait was not long. I thought I was wearing a wet suit but I was told that the water was pretty warm. They charge separately for the wet suit so I asked them if they would waive if off? They told me not to worry about all that, we would do costing after the dive.

Then came the time to breath with the regulator. I so love breathing with my nose and I so hate it when I am not able to do so. As this was a bubble maker we were not going deep, even like 10-11 meters. I was actually relieved. So, initial instructions were less rigorous than my last time.

When it came to breathing in water I was not feeling comfortable. When I said so the Adham, he quipped- “you are only breathing in, you are not breathing out!” There it was, as simple as that. Once I started breathing out inside the water, I was fine. In spite of having dived before I was so nervous I forgot to breathe out!

Soon, it was time to go for the actual dive. I remember the weight belt from the previous dive. I put on the cylinder on the land at Maafushi, and how heavy it was, I almost staggered even though I had to take just a few steps to the sea. There were two of them for two of us. When I saw this I asked why could I not go deeper as I could swim, Adham told me that the other diver Rene was an apprentice! I told him, I was happy to follow the original plan. Rene was a young girl from Norway and I had a great dive with her.

Sunil and I at Maafushi, Maldives

Sunil and I at Maafushi, Maldives

The underwater world was as fascinating as ever, full of fish and colors. The view from above never ever lets you see what a beauty it actually conceals! I was most fascinated by a set of corals whose tips seem to glow! I also strangely felt responsible for my nephew even though I could do nothing for him underwater. But he was always ahead of me, I could see he was doing fine. There was a short span of time when my head was getting crowded with negative ideas, like what if there was a ship above us, what if my air flow was interrupted! Thankfully these thoughts went away soon.

I don’t think we stayed very long under water but then it is the best; to come out and start breathing through my nose again! Rene told me and Adham that I behaved well through the drive, I gave her no trouble at all! She said many times that I should consider doing a certification course! Now why do people put ideas in my head?

My nephew told me later that at the start Adham took him out of water. He was asked to go slow and not run through. I somehow missed this entire phenomenon.

In the end they did not charge me for the camera saying it malfunctioned underwater and there were just too few pictures. I was welcome to the pictures without any extra charge. Now that was mighty nice of them, I would have not known the difference. When I said so I was told true to their name diving was a passion with them and not just a source of money. Thank you Maldives Passions for the great time you gave us.

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After staying in a villa in Finland I thought I would not get impressed with anything else easily. But I was wrong, I really like The Rajputana at Udaipur.  The first thing that caught my eye was the colors. There is something about Rajasthani colors, as bright as they are, they still don’t hurt the eyes. I mean the dustbin in the room was in shades of orange and green and yet the overall effect was so pleasant and cheerful! I liked my room at the first sight.

My Room at the Rajputana, Udaipur

My Room at the Rajputana, Udaipur #Lumia1020

The bed was comfortable, the air conditioning good and there were plenty of spaces to sit and lounge around. There was a fruit plate and cookies in the room as well. I cannot live without tea and they had it in the room too.

The hotel is not close to the lakes, it is in a quieter part of the city. For me, it did not make much of a difference. The hotel has its own spaces where you can lounge around. It also offers tented accommodations, which are luxury tents.

Swimming Pool, The Rajputana, Rajasthan

Swimming Pool, The Rajputana, Rajasthan #Canon550D

All my school and college years I had access to a swimming pool and I always took it for granted. Then I started working and I now have no access to a swimming pool. So now I realize its value. It was a pity that I could not find time to use the pool at The Rajputana, the reflection of the spa in it looked gorgeous.

I had all my meals at the hotel restaurant and I would complement them for their Ker Sangri, the traditional Rajasthani dish, I really liked it. The food in general was good, the broccoli almond soup specially good.

The Rajputana, Udaipur at Night

The Rajputana, Udaipur at Night #Lumia1020

The staff was courteous with me all the times. The only issue they had when I was there was the internet and they were aware of it. The net connection was incredibly slow which is difficult to figure out as the place is in a city. I am sure they must be working at it.

Finally, here is a video of the room, to give you a better idea.

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Maldives is the second country after South Africa where I want to go back and look for work! My nephew asked me if we could extend the trip somehow? I often leave a bit of my heart at the places I visit, at Maldives I left behind a sizable chunk.

Maldives

Maldives #Lumia1020

The capture started right from the airport. After all at how many places do you take a boat from the airport to go somewhere? The Male airport is on a separate island from the city.

Fihalhohi Island Resort, Maldives

Fihalhohi Island Resort, Maldives #Lumia1020

I am torn between the resort islands and the budget islands. Budget islands have locals residing there, whereas the resort islands have only tourists. In the end I think I will settle for budget islands as it is more fun to have people around and not just tourists.

Wall Art at Maafushi, Maldives

Wall Art at Maafushi, Maldives #Canon550D

Somehow Maafushi had an earthy environment about it and it was as stunning as anything else in Maldives! What a beautiful nation it is! I am keep gushing on and on but let me post some more pictures.

Beautiful Maafushi

Beautiful Maafushi #Lumia1020

I remember calling one of the travel portals a long time ago inquiring Maldives for a solo traveler. And they told me I would be bored to death as only honeymooning couples go there. Well, I am happy to say they were wrong, dead wrong. I didn’t do it solo but every island was not overrun with honeymooners. I have nothing against honeymooners but I am not really seeking out the islands they frequent as well! In the end I am happy I didn’t go with that travel portal.

Ah! Maldives

Ah! Maldives #Lumia1020

And then I chanced upon Svetlana’s blog on Maldives. That was my inspiration. She talked about doing it on a budget. I had some budget. My nephew and I had some leave and there it was, Ah! Maldives. You stole my heart.

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During my short stay in Maldives we hopped to a resort island Fihalhohi, for a day. We were staying at the budget island of Maafushi- which is inhabited. The resort islands have nothing but the resort and the tourists. But whichever way you look at Maldives it is incredibly beautiful. Forget diving, even the snorkeling is amazing. In fact at Fihalhohi I could see fish with my eyes by the shore. The same was true for Maafushi.

Fihalhohi Island, Maldives

Fihalhohi Island, Maldives #Lumia1020

This was a personal vacation that I took with my younger nephew, Sunil. He is a big fan of football, so we left Fihalhohi island around 3.00 pm so that he could play football with the locals in the evening at Maafushi. So, these pictures are just point and shoot effort from my cell phone in bright light, no tricks involved. Talking about my nephew again, he behaves like a piece of luggage on these trips, I have to do everything, fill every form for him! But he is so much fun.

The day we visited Fihalhohi, it was a hot day! And I forgot to put any sunscreen as we were getting late for our speedboat. By evening I was tanned beyond recognition!

Fihalhohi Island

The Beautiful Fihalhohi Island, Maldives #Lumia1020

I mean with water like this who could stay away from it, sun or no sun, tan or whatever! Now my skin is peeling off and my shoulders hurt like crazy! But then I am relying on the weekend to recover. I have had a really beautiful time in Maldives and even though there are so many places in this world to visit, Maldives is one place I will like to go back to. It helps that it is close by.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday, an awesome community of people who love watching skies.

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Flying Over Maldives

by Mridula on April 10, 2014

in Lumia 1020,Maldives,Videos

I knew Maldives was beautiful but I didn’t know it was this beautiful. So, if you live in India haul yourself to Maldives at the first opportunity with your dear ones. You will find flights from Kochi cheaper. Even from Delhi as I booked in advance I got 17 thousand Indian rupees as the return fare. It was the same for Lakshadweep, Andaman and Male. Though I have not been to Lakshadweep I would recommend Maldives over Andaman any day. As for my costs, I visited a budget island, Maafushi and for two people it was almost as expensive as my going to Andaman alone. I am smitten by Maldives. After South Africa this is the second country where I thought of applying as a college professor. Let me send my kid to college! Sigh, which is such a long time away.

In Maldives one of the most expensive expenditures is the speed boat transfer. And even though local ferries are incredible fun, they are very few and far between. Also every one accepts the US Dollar as currency on the islands. My nephew had local currency which we used for ferry and having coffee at Male.

Now there are a lot of pending stories, while I am really looking forward to not traveling for next two weeks. I never thought I would ever say these words but I am also looking forward to not seeing the insides of a plane for the next two weeks. There I said it.

It has been three weeks of continuous travel, first to Finland then to Rajasthan and now Maldives. Even though I know I am incredibly lucky as the first two trips were invitations, it  does take a toll. So while I try and recover a bit, you enjoy my video of flying over Maldives.

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