TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part I)


The idea of Maldives came to me one morning in November last year while I was checking my personal email and got an alert from Tiger Air announcing its maiden voyage to Maldives from Singapore beginning January 2014. Not too long before that, I remember asking the Emperor if he had already plotted his 2014 travel schedules, in case I would be able to join him in one of (possibly) many trips this year. As you know, the Emperor and I have been to a few international and local travels together and knowing how he can be very flexible with his schedule (if he wants to!), I thought I’d mention Maldives when I saw him go online on FB. Et voila, in less than an hour, I had already booked Chris and I on a flight and Eric had done the same!

Knowing that Maldives requires no visa application (it’s VOA for a lot of countries, including Philippines!) made decision-making a no-brainer. Of course, the impossibly turquoise water surrounding the atolls and the promise of earthbound paradise go without saying. I mean, we would’ve gone still even if there was visa required. Maldives is just something you never say no to. What followed after that was a fun hotel hunting/booking. We had a reasonable budget to work with which, the three of us agreed, need not require us to smash our piggybanks open or you know, rob a bank.

After going through a long list of hotels and reading a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor, we opted to book our stay at Dream Inn Thulusdhoo for 3 nights and then spend our last night in Malé so we can explore the city and not be worried about missing our flight the following day (it takes an hour and a half from Thulusdhoo to Malé on the public ferry).

Finally, Maldives!

And so on the 12th of March, the three of us boarded Tiger Air bound for Malé, the urbanized capital city of Maldives. The flight was about 4 hours and 20 minutes long and by the way, Maldives is three hours behind Singapore. Soon as we exited the arrival hall, the first thing we saw was the exquisite turquoise waters dotted only by a few speed boats loading and unloading tourists. We had to physically restrain ourselves from jumping right into the water given the scorching heat outside. Gorgeous (easily three shades of) blue ocean water everywhere you look – and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before! It took a while for our airport pick-up to reach us and we were starving so Eric and my husband decided to get us some takeout meals from Burger King. An idea which we all would come to regret IMMEDIATELY as one meal costs a minimum of US $10! (The chicken sandwich meal Chris got me was $15!) Definitely one of the most expensive junk food we have ever ingested and I wouldn’t recommend that you try it. Unless you’re even more famished than we were at that time, or just plain addicted to junk. Ewww.

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Welcome to Thulusdhoo

It takes an hour and a half to get to Thulusdhoo atoll from Malé. I will not give you the wikipedia description of this charming little atoll but instead, I will try to paint a picture of Thulusdhoo based on what we have seen, heard, and tasted of the island. First of all, Thulusdhoo is also known as the Coca Cola island because of the presence of a Coke plant which is supposedly the only one in the world that uses aerated water to manufacture the carbonated drink for Maldivian consumption (Please feel free to verify that as I am rather lazy to Google it up). It is no surprise then that there is a hostel called ‘Cokes Surf’ in the island that specifically caters to surfers and backpackers. And in case you’re wondering why, it’s because Thulusdhoo is said to have the best waves in all of Maldives during surf season. Tim, the-hot-Aussie-surfing-instructor-with-six-pack- abs-that-won’t-quit at Cokes Surf, confirmed that when we all had dinner on our last night on the island.

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The cozy little inn we called ‘home’ for three days, Dream Inn Thulusdhoo, is such a great find! At first, we were disappointed when Shaheem (awesome travel organiser!) told us two days before we were to depart SG for Maldives that he had to transfer the three of us to Askani Villa because they have about 20 youngsters from Denmark arriving the same day. But Askani proved to be just what we needed because it only had four very spacious rooms and we only had to share the whole place with a nice Russian couple. We had good wifi connection in our villa – at least for my iPhone but my Samsung phone totally crapped out on me during this trip so I was struggling a bit doing some work while traveling. 100 points for iPhone, negative 100 points for Samsung S4! – which made it quite convenient for the social media junkies in us to post occasional updates on FB and Instagram. The hotel staff were very amiable and always ready to help make arrangements for our island hopping adventures. And I love how their English is almost impeccable – and how beautifully they enunciate words!

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Thulusdhoo residents take pride in their ‘Sunrise Beach’ and ‘Sunset Beach’ and by right, they should, because these two places certainly give you an awesome sunrise and sunset views. Look!

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Sunrise at 5:50am.

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Sunrise Beach at 6am.

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Sunset Beach at 6pm.

But if you ask me, the real treasure Thulusdhoo has is its charming people. Easily among the friendliest, accommodating, and well-mannered people you will ever meet, the residents of Thulusdhoo will make you feel welcome at any time of the day. Always smiling and often ready to greet you ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’, some will even inquire about your day/health. On our first night at Dream Inn, we were lucky to have been treated to a lively cultural song and dance production by the young men of Thulusdhoo and we were impressed by the passion and energy they put into their craft. The Danish group, as well as the young lady from Kosovo, had a great time jumping around and gyrating to the infectious beat of the drums. Being an old boring fart, I just sat and watched the revelry. Kidding! We had to turn in early that night because we were off to ClubMed Kani the following morning and didn’t want to be sporting eyebags to go with our lovehandles. Not at all great for selfies, haha.

Oh, one more thing that we noticed in Thulusdhoo are the colorful doors and walls in every home which truly fascinated us. But apparently, this love for bold colors is typically Maldivian as we would see more and more of these colorful doors around Malé.

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One great thing about living literally next to the ocean is that you get to enjoy fresh catch for your daily meals. Being just a tiny dot of an island (with only a little above 1,000++ inhabitants), Thulusdhoo does not have restaurants (though we saw one or two bars near the jetty) so we were only eating mostly at our resort and on our last night, at Cokes Surf Villas. There’s not much of variety here but the grilled fish we were served a few times was truly divine! It’s so fresh and tasty you don’t even need condiments to enjoy it!

If you are looking for some sun, surf and sand adventure with a little splash of culture, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this charming North Malé atoll called Thulusdhoo. And oh, good news to the ladies who might be wondering if swimsuit is allowed in the beaches of Thulusdhoo at all – the answer is yes, my sweetpea, you can wear your swimsuit on the beach! But please don’t go around the village in those tiny stringy cloths as you are definitely bound to offend the residents’ sensibilities and conservative ideals. Keep in mind that Maldives is an Islamic nation and all tourists must respect that.

End of Part One

Zambales Fun Run: That Which Became Woeful In The End


When you have two stories you can’t wait to share –  one is happy and the other is, well, quite the opposite – which one do you tell first? A bit of a pickle, isn’t it? I guess if the intention is to end the storytelling bit on a high note, you serve up the bad stuff first, hoping the bit of  good news would neutralize the jarring effect of the former.

TEAM REEBOK at the Starting Line

So, on to the unpleasant side of things…

Like I said in my previous blog entry here, our trip to Zambales over the weekend was mainly for the 400th Anniversary Fun Run, of which Reebok – our very generous team owner – was one of the sponsors.  Perhaps the one and only good thing that the race offered was the venue, specifically, the race route. For most of us who have gotten used to running the same old running routes in the Metro, the opportunity to take on a new race destination is incentive enough to go all the way to Zambales. Add ten points if you actually get to run on the beach for a third of a kilometer before you move on to the town proper before heading back down to the beach where the start/finish line is. Yes, that part was good.

These days, any race would not be complete without the gazelle-like Kenyans like Will

We woke up at 3:30am knowing that there are seven of us in one room and we would have to queue to use the bathroom and gear up for the race, if we have to make it to the 5:30 gun start for the 21k. It was still dark when we filed out of the room and made our way to the starting line, where the rest of the runners lay in wait.  But alas, it was already an hour past the gun start and we were still behind the line waiting for the real action to start. The runners were getting antsy and why not? We have participated in a lot of races and not a single one of those have made us wait for more than five to ten minutes past the published gun start.

Good call, Kassy!

Kassy made a brilliant call of going onstage and announcing the start of the race. It should have been the race director’s job to ensure that everything is well-organised even before making that call, but in this case, the race director himself needed some directing. After it was announced about 50 times that ‘the race is about to start’,  we were finally doing what we set out to do in Zamba — running! Ohhh weee.

But, whatever disappointment we may have felt at the beginning was quickly overshadowed by the obvious charm of the place. I loved the beach run, although very short, as it reminded me of those times I would run on the powder-soft sandy shores of Boracay. I did 10k with Kassy, Trick, and RunningAtom, along with several other younglings – most of them half my age. Literally.

50 minutes and 40 seconds later, I crossed the finish line. Arguably, my best time yet. I remember back in the days when I would cover 10k in 1hr 2mins or something like that. But now that I am older, I am evidently faster. How cool is that?!? Very.

Smug Smuggerson after placing 5th in the 10k female division

I placed 5th in the 10k female category and of course I felt exceedingly good about it. You would, too, if you’re running alongside 13 to 15-year olds. In my case, I was struggling to keep up with the young sprinters. The first place winner took only 34 minutes to cover the whole 10km stretch. Beat that, Vicky Ras! Uhrrrm, no, I don’t think so. But thank you for the offer. I will get back to you on that in my next life, ya?

After the last 21k runner has crossed the finish line, the organizers were ready to award the winners. And that’s when the drama ensued. THIS JUST IN: Jordan, one of the race event organizers wrote in response to the succeeding statements in my blog entry: Apparently, the runners-up were NOT supposed to get any cash prizes but they demanded for such claiming they traveled miles and hours to get to the race and therefore, deserving of some form of remuneration. Out of the goodness of the organizers’ hearts, they relented. But according to Jordan, instead of feeling grateful, they got greedy and asked for more.  Some of them even went to the Mayor’s office to ask for more dole-outs. If this indeed were the case, then it certainly puts things in a slightly different perspective. Worse, it reflects very negatively on the state that running as an industry is starting to show signs as becoming. Whatever happened to running for fun and health and social reasons? So yes, money was given – and even more – according to Jordan.  Itago na lang natin ito sa pamagat na ‘Ang Nawawalang Mga Pa-premyo’ or ‘The Tale of the Missing Cash Prizes’. We did not stay long enough to investigate as it was not in our place to do so anyway, but there were runners – young aspiring athletes – who were robbed of their cash prizes. One girl who was supposed to receive P5,000 only got P500. Now I don’t know about you guys but that to me is more heartbreaking than my first breakup. Much worse even if you consider how these kids have commuted from several towns and kilometers away to take a shot at the prize money and actually nailing it on the head…only to find the envelope containing only 10 percent of the published amount. THAT. IS. CRUEL. AND. INHUMANE. How are we supposed to inspire our young and talented but underprivileged athletes when some of us have no compunction – AT ALL – about dousing their fire even before it has had time to burst into flames? What do you say to these kids in their inconsolable state? Pasensiya na iha, ganyan talaga sa totoong buhay. Parati kang maiisahan kaya masanay ka na. Is that our way of telling them to just deal with it?

Me being me (is that even grammatically sound?!?), I am very quick to see the merit in things especially when crucial details are being put forward. Like I told Jordan, a lot of things did not exactly unravel the way they should (have) during that race event such that there were very loose ends at the beginning, during and especially after the race that were not exactly tied to perfection. I, too, come from an events management background which greatly explains why I tend to be very thorough in looking into details. Add to that my propensity to be obsessive-compulsive by nature, then holy moly, you have a weirdo in your midst!

No, but seriously, I’d like to personally thank Jordan for coming forward with his side of the story. As event organizers, I’m sure they have the greatest intentions for the race and the runners and perhaps it was just unfortunate that the outcome was not exactly what they had envisioned.  At the end of the day, I am blogger who calls it as I see it and if my being brutally honest with my thoughts has caused some people some measure of pain and discomfort, then I am sorry.

Now going back to runners who run purely for monetary reasons: can we blame them entirely for being too brutally honest in their intentions for doing what they do? This clearly runs deeper than what can be seen on the surface. A social illness, if you may. People do not have enough resources to tide them over for a day, a week, or maybe for months even that they resort to unconventional means to earn extra – such as emotionally blackmailing race organizers, for example to shell out more. It’s sad isn’t it? One day, when I am rich – and I mean filthy, disgustingly, inappropriately rich – three segments of the society will rank high on my priority list: the abandoned children, the elderly, and the underprivileged athletes.

But as promised, I will try not to leave you in that state of sadness and disbelief at other people’s beastly behavior. Because there, in fact, were one or two more good things that happened that day. Beep Beep, our Reebok teammate, placed 7th overall in the 21k race category. Titanium Runner, Alex, and Kassy all got good time for their respective race categories. Our guests RunningAtom and Trickoy also did very well at the race.

Now the other good, nay, great thing that happened that day was meeting the legendary and controversial Nancy Navalta. People my age and older would remember Nancy as the very promising heir-apparent to Lydia de Vega in the early 1990s. Nancy was fast, very fast, on the track and for a moment there, she seemed almost unstoppable. Until she was forced to undergo gender determination tests, which said that she was “genetically male.”  The Philippine Sports Commission instructed Navalta to compete as a male or to undergo “corrective measures.” The ruling effectively ended Navalta’s competitive career. It was a sad say for the Philippine running community but it must have been a million times heartbreaking for Nancy herself. I was in my teens when Nancy was all the media could talk about and I never thought the day would come when I would actually see her in person. I mean I was awestruck when I saw Lydia de Vega three times at the PhilSports Arena track and I remember she even said ‘ang ganda mo naman’ when I smiled at her one time (Thank you, by the way Idol Lydia! You don’t know me from Eve but I will forever remember that compliment you paid me that forgotten morning at ULTRA) But this, this right here is Nancy Navalta, arguably one of the most controversial Filipino athletes in history and even at present time.

With the sensational Nancy Navalta

Nancy, today, serves as the Athletics Coach of the University of Luzon. Those teenage girls that beat the crap out of me in the 10k division – they were Nancy’s ward. Perhaps if I were coached by Nancy, I would be running waaaaay faster than I do now. Yes, even with my 32-year-old knees. From what I’ve heard, Nancy is actively involved in promoting inter-barangay track competitions where, she says, we can find runners of Olympics caliber – especially those in the out-of -school youth (OSY) segment.

So how about we help Nancy help the struggling young athletes out there? Think about it. And one day, when you have made the decision to help, do it unquestioningly.

Having said that, I still want to end this post in a crescendo of good vibrations so how about I post some more photos of myself (I love to talk about myself so better get used to it!) and Team Reebok as we bring our Zamba trip to a worthy end?

REEBOK is Pro Active Lifestyle

Crash diet and starvation are a No-NO!

From running to beach bumming

To making friends...Hi, Will!

Goofing around with Kassy

Oh look at that, a little bit more of me...

...and me.

OKAY. This unabashed display of over-the-top self-love has got to stop. Vicky, you are out. TEAM REEBOK, paaaaaaasok!

Weeet...weeew!

SURFING: Another Item X-marked On My Bucket List


‘Whatever’s bound to happen is already happening…’ or something to that effect. Thus says my on-again, off-again friend earlier today, probably in reference to the latest thing I jumped right into over the weekend. SURFING. Yes, the kind that involves a surf board and  real waves, and me, making countless attempts to ride them.

Brown Surfer Girl.

But first, allow me to thank form the bottom of my heart, the group that keeps me motivated in staying true to my commitment of living a healthy, fit, and active lifestyle; the same group whom I have been running road races lately. Individually, we are as diverse as can be – but when it comes to things that matter such as passion, friendship, commitment, and going that extra mile to help others, we are one and the same. TEAM REEBOK, we rock and we know it!

TEAM REEBOK and friends conquered the waves the day before the race

Surfing was not part of the agenda when on Saturday, the 11th of June, our group (along with friends Dietrich and Running Atom) hied-off to Iba, Zambales for the Fun Run organised to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the municipality. Kassy said there was no forecast of waves in the area and so we may have to settle for swimming or sunbathing in my case, being the only non-swimmer in the group. I said, very well, I could live with that. But when we got there, whoa, the sea painted an entirely different picture from the forecast. The waves were surfable! Not one to waste time, Kassy immediately asked the locals where we can rent boards and if there’s someone who can give me crash course on surfing. Within minutes after checking in to our room, Kassy and I changed into our swimsuits, and I was getting very rough tips on how to mount the board and pop. My fear of water has certainly got in the way of my learning how to swim. For some reason, I get all panicky when water has come up to my neck and I would lose grip of my courage. I am one brave little monster but I draw the line when it comes to things that defy defy depths or heights. Oh but having done scuba diving and surfing nearly back-to-back, am I now to expect bungee jumping, paragliding, or cliff jumping in the near offing?!? Holy guacamole, pass me the barf bag, I’m feeling sick!!!

Grabbing life by the leg.

That must have been the reason why I found it rather difficult at first to pop, coming from a horizontal position on the surf board. My minds keeps telling me I would fall within nanoseconds and true enough, I did. Proving once again the extent of our mind’s power: I think, therefore I am. In my case, I thought I would not be able to stand up and float away and I did fail in my first few attempts. But I got tired of landing on the right side of my ass (which at that time was already starting to feel tender and not in a good way!), so I said ‘Eff it, I am gonna do this!’ And next thing I know, I was already doing this:

Oh but she can ride it!

and this…

Vicky and Kassy conquer Zamba waves

It was so much fun that for a second there I did not quite believe Kassy when she said I will feel the burn on my shoulders and thighs the following day. For how can something so good be painful at the same time? Uhrrrm, Vicky darling, there are actually quite a looot of good things that are painful in equal measure and you know that. Uhmm-kaaay, point well taken. I chipped a toe nail, too, and my nail polish got ruined but these things all seem inconsequential (I mean they really are, anyway) when pitted against the mad high I got out of actually being able to stay vertical for a few seconds on top of a moving surf board. Never mind that the waves were not as gloriously high as the 8-foot wall, for example, that experienced surfers prefer. Never mind all that, because on that day in Iba, Zambales, I became little brown surfer girl.

Again, thank you sooo much Kassy!

Partners in Girly Crimes

Tomorrow, I will tell you a little bit about the Fun Run – in which Aunty Vicky attempted to race against girls half her age and ended up feeling vindicated. I may be 32 next month but my speed, agility, and curves say otherwise. Keep tuned-in, loves!