Political coups just don’t happen on tropical beaches, do they? Not normally, but then again there isn’t anything you would call normal about the Maldives, a land of US$35 breakfasts and sweeping sunsets. One thing that definitely hasn’t changed is that top-flight resorts continue to open on the coral atolls, and I was privy to one on a brief visit to the still under construction Dusit Thani Maldives. Politics aside, and visitors will feel next to nothing on that front, the Indian Ocean nation continues to see an increase in tourist arrivals, though they still number less than a million annually.
So to glimpse a 100-villa resort getting off the ground, or at least the coral, was an eye opener. Remember that everything has to be imported to these coral atolls. With only a handful of villas complete, government hotel inspectors and construction crews outnumbered resort guests. Where the resort’s Devarana Spa was several weeks from opening, I could console myself at Benjarong, a Thai restaurant with Bangkok cred. That I did so over a Cosmopolitan at the Sala bar as the sun set dipped into the Indian Ocean made things even more palatable.
More villas were coming on stream with every visit by the hotel inspectors. I stayed in an overwater villa—a room type common in the Maldives—that, had I lounged on the pool deck out front, would have me staring straight into that same sunset. Inside, the villa is divided evenly between a oversized bathroom with a stand-alone tub—complete with Molton Brown amenities—and the living/bed room, one fitted out with a better surround-sound entertainment system than I could ever dream of.
With so much of the tedious work still going on, it was a great opportunity to get behind the scenes at the resort, to witness how much really has to be done, normally within a very small window of time. I’ll get into that more in a future issue of the magazine. For now, I will say that even the process of desalinating seawater, while not as sexy as that sunset Cosmopolitan, is more fascinating than I would have imagined.
Of course, the natural side of the Maldives is the real lure. On Mudhoo Island in the Baa Atoll, 35 minutes by seaplane from Male, the Dusit Thani is close by a biosphere reserve and is encircled by one of the better house reefs in the Maldives. Snorkeling around the island brings guests face to face with fish in colors that simply do not exist above the tide. That’s when you really feel away from it all.
—Christopher Kucway is the editor of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia