To the Maldives!

When we were planning our wedding, I remember mentioning to my fiance that my dream destination for a honeymoon was the Maldives- and it had been for quite some time. As he is always eager to fulfill my dreams, it must’ve been difficult for him to initially give me the bad news – there was no way we could afford a trip to the Maldives at this time. The ticket in economy for each person was over $2000, and we had not even considered the cost of hotel and food! So for a while, we were looking at more affordable locations such as Mexico.

Then one day he was extremely happy and excited to tell me that we would be able to go to the Maldives after all! How? Something about redeeming points which I didn’t really understand. But not only were we able to afford a plane ticket, now we were going to be flying business class! Our experience of flying first class until now was confined to sometimes being upgraded during the NY to Seattle flights, depending on availability. So this idea of having a guaranteed business class seat on an international flight seemed far fetched, but I trusted my husband and started to eagerly await the trip!

Our journey began on a Saturday afternoon when we flew from Seattle to LA on Alaska Airlines’ first class. My husband had high hopes for this and assured me that it was going to be better than our Delta first class seats from NY to Seattle. I didn’t think it was very different. If anything, it was a little less luxurious because there was no choice of dinner dishes. Everyone who wanted to eat was served a penne pasta dish with alfredo sauce, which was nothing special. It was a short flight, so it didn’t matter much.

From LA we boarded our Malaysia Airlines plane for the longest sector of the journey to Taipei. We were politely greeted by the beautifully dressed staff and ushered to our seats. The seats were awesome! I’ve never seen so much leg room! And of course the fact that when the person in front of you reclines you don’t have to worry about him/her getting into your space felt divine. We were readily offered a choice of mango, guava, or orange juice. And as the consumption of exotic fruits makes a vacation worthwhile for me, I really started to feel like vacation had in fact begun!

The flight attendants addressed us by name and when they found out that we were on our honeymoon, I felt that they were extra nice to us! Between sipping the juice and playing around with our seats (which transformed to angled lie-flat beds and had the option to customize pretty much every part you can think of) it was dinnertime… again!

Even though this flight was leaving past 1 am in LA, we were offered supper. Since it had been a few hours since our pasta dinner from Alaska Airlines, we both opted to eat. The first thing they brought out was probably my husband’s favorite food from the whole trip as he still talks about it!

Chicken Satay with peanut sauce as an appetizer:

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After finishing this plate, my husband asked for a second plate to eat in place of his entree and they gladly brought it for him. I thought the satays were very good too but I’m not a fan of peanut sauce (too sweet for me), which they put right on top of the satay before serving it. During later flights, I asked to get it without the peanut sauce. I decided to try the steak:

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I liked that it wasn’t huge, so I could finish the whole thing. It tasted better than most other plane food I’ve had. I actually really liked the veggies and little potatoes on the side too. The entree came on the same tray as fruits, which included a slice of guava! Again, I was very happy to get my exotic fruits fix.

After dinner as the lights were dimmed, the flight attendants walked by and gave us a bottle of water to keep by our side for the night along with our amenities kits. I went to brush my teeth and discovered that the bathroom was very clean and extremely spacious for an airplane! It even had fresh orchids by the mirror along with moisturizer. I loved it.

When I woke up, the first thing I checked was how many hours I had slept in a stretch. It was almost 9 hours of completely uninterrupted sleep. Happy with a good night’s rest, I was ready for breakfast! My husband I are both not caffeine addicts and do not drink tea or coffee in the morning. But the description of the “teh tarih” or frothy Malaysian milk tea made us both want to have it! The flight attendants were so nice that they didn’t mind taking my husband’s very specific instructions on how to make the tea not very strong.

This was the beginning of my realization that in Asia, hospitality is so extremely important that people are happy to provide it. Having grown up in the US, and specifically New York City, I was not used to people being so polite! But having grown up in Singapore, my husband was used to the awesome service industry in Asia. So as he would always ask for things to be customized to fit his needs throughout the trip, I would get really embarrassed and expect people to roll their eyes at us or say something like “forget about it!”. But as I watched the reactions of the people who were providing the services, I realized that these people are trained to be flexible and do whatever they can to make the guests comfortable.

The teh tarih was really good, and so was the rest of the breakfast. This was the first time I tried muesli. There were many other things on the menu that you could ask to eat anytime but in between meals and sleep, there was never really a time when I was hungry enough to try them! With the movies and the good food, the 10+ hour flight from LA to Taipei didn’t seem long at all! When we landed in Taipei, we were not able to leave our carry on luggage on the plane even though we would board the same plane and get to keep the same seats.

The next leg was Taipei to Kuala Lumpur. Since Malaysia Airlines does not give lounge passes for transit passengers, we were not able to use a lounge at the Taipei airport. The flight was much of the same awesomeness as described for the LA to Taipei leg. We used KL as a stopover to visit my in-laws, who are residents of Malaysia. After visiting them, we were back at the airport for our short flight from KL to Male International Airport at the Maldives.

This aircraft was much smaller – a Boeing 737-800. It reminded me of the Delta first class for domestic flights in the US (the seats were very similar). There was no in-flight entertainment. More chicken satay was served- but this time not as the appetizer, but as the main course for dinner. After having flown so many miles, especially in a nicer aircraft with better seats, I was ready to get out of this one and fast!

By the time we reached the Maldives it was dark and we were not able to see the beautiful waters as we landed. After exiting the plane, we had to go down the stairs with our luggage and then walk over to the airport building. It seemed like a pretty small airport and we cleared security pretty quickly as far as I remember. We had finally made it to the Maldives!

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