29th March 2012 – evening
I blame my passport. Either that or dark forces have been operating behind the scenes. But most likely it’s my passport.
It starts in the bar, before dinner. I’m used taking a seat and waiting for one of the waiters to take my order. But this evening things are a little different, as a beer is automatically delivered to the table.
I tell Ishmail it was a good guess. “You are a journalist, it’s respect,” comes the cryptic answer. I’d already told him what I did for a living so I dismiss the quip. But then, at dinner, there’s another surprise.
“It is your birthday?” asks the waiter.
“Er, who told you?”
“So we have a cake for you. You can eat it here or we take it to your room.”
I assume that this is a delivery option, rather than a proposition, so I say I’ll have it in the restaurant. I’m expecting a cupcake with a candle, or some similar token gesture. But as soon as I finish my main course I’m surrounded by most of the waiters and the manager, chanting a Maldivian version of Happy Birthday, complete with a sizeable chocolate cake.
I don’t usually shy away from the limelight but this is deeply embarrassing. I quickly turn attention to the neighbouring tables by cutting the cake up and forcing pieces on to my new best friends.
Back at my room, there’s another surprise. But before that, the yang to the ying. It turns out that this resort doesn’t only have three CDs. It also has Live Entertainment in the form of a terrible male/female duo. He plays recorded backing tracks topped up with keyboard accompaniment, whilst she sings – mostly in tune, but with the kind of vocalisation which suggests she’s not quite happy with the lyrics.
Each performance is concluded with stock phrases like “Thank you so much!” or “Yeah – keep on dancing!” despite the fact that nobody is. But hey, nobody else got a cake…
Nor did anybody else get the artistic room service – Happy Birthday spelt out in petals on my bed. To be honest, this isn’t the first flirty turn down I’ve experienced. But it beats Egypt hands down. The staff whip in discretely twice a day, whilst you’re at breakfast and then at dinner. And like everything on the island, done in almost complete silence.
So far I’ve only seen one motor vehicle. A small truck which transports heavier loads around the resort. Room to room commodities like sheets and towels are delivered by staff pushing wheelbarrows, which makes perfect sense in the sandy tracks. The only other mechanical sounds are the sea plane – once or twice a day – and three tourist boats putting back and forth from the jetty. Occasionally you can hear generators in some of the communal areas but that’s about it.
By far the loudest noise comes from the wildlife. Predominantly the noisiest animals are the crows, who perch expectantly on verandahs and bar decks in the hope of a few scraps. There’s another loud bird which I’m yet to identify – to me it sounds like a parrot, certainly something exotic. And then, bizarrely, there’s a cockerel – presumably belonging to the staff. I’ve also seen a lizard hopping across the outside shower.