A bummer, but Joali prepared for this: sumptuous interiors, redolent in rose gold and emerald green, a bed that begot naps, a spa that offered a timely “inner strength and resilience” massage, which felt like being rolled out like a sheet of cookie dough. There was no shortage of gustatory delights: sushi and pasta conceived by Michelin star chefs, biryani as good as its brethren on the subcontinent, a Turkish breakfast buffet with an olive bar that rivaled Whole Foods. But I kept coming back to a simple curry of reef fish, creamy and piquant, that I ordered three days in a row before asking for the recipe.
Then there were the classes. Yoga and HIIT, yes, but also: gin tasting, wine tasting, sake tasting. We signed up for the last three and in the process, befriended the resort’s head sommelier, Gandip Khadka, and his associate, Tushar Patil, who invited us to the most exclusive hangout on the property: the staff bar, hidden behind a grove of palm trees. As at Lux and the majority of resorts in the Maldives, staff members live on the island along with guests, and it was on our final night, sipping gin and tonics while Bruno Mars played from the speakers, that we got to engage in the kind of conviviality that travel offers, and that the pandemic prevented. We shared Netflix recommendations with a bartender from Costa Rica, discussed Dogecoin with a server from the Philippines. “Pfizer or Moderna?” “AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson?” Everyone had an opinion, a story about side effects, bewilderment about vaccine hold outs.
We met a couple from Germany, fellow travelers who were on their fourth trip to the Maldives and had been island hopping for weeks. “Like maybe everybody, after the last year, I wanted total relaxation, a way to clear my mind from all the negative news,” said Teresa Wendrich, who works in the marketing department of the Munich International Airport. “Maldives is the place where I feel the most alive, where I can say thank you to my soul and body.”
Toward the end of our stay, a friend messaged me asking if the Maldives was “worth the million hour flight” “even though it’s basically just a beach.” You can’t blame the uninitiated for having that impression (I certainly did). Not even our departure from Joali — which, because of the weather, meant taking a speedboat to a barge that wobbled like a set piece on “American Ninja Warriors” and attempting to stay upright while walking across it to board a seaplane — could dim my enthusiasm for the Maldives. In the air, once the clouds cleared, the islands below gleamed like geodes, a final dose of sensory overload.
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