Hindi: chhoti haziri, vulg. hazri, 'little breakfast'; refreshment taken in the early morning, before or after the morning exercise. (Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, 1994 )
13 July 2014
(In one of those rare moments where my working life suddenly becomes all it's cracked up to be, Outlook Traveller magazine sent me to the Maldives for three days -- to review a Club Med resort. This is that piece.)
Trisha Gupta finds an island-wide watering hole to wallow in at Club Med Kani
I’m usually the sort of person whose holidays involve lots of seeing and doing. I’m the museum girl, the city wanderer, the excited jungler. And yes, sure, I love the sea, but I could never get myself to plan a whole vacation around being a beach bum. Until now.
At Club Med Kani, a swim in the sea is the most hectic thing you can do. Actually, no, I should take responsibility for my decadence: it’s the most hectic thing I did.
The tone of my holiday was set on the first morning. After a long and lazy breakfast, I was idling in the sea-facing pool when they announced aqua gym time. I considered the temptations of water aerobics, but my waiting gin and tonic won out. I swam one last lap quickly and got out, and didn’t get back in for the synchronised pool dancing or the water basketball game that came immediately after. Instead, I moved my deck chair into a carefully orchestrated patch of palm-tree shade and finished the last third of my David Mitchell novel. And more G&Ts, of course.
With a beach bar that opens up at 11 in the morning (and stays open until the action shifts to the evening bar), superb and varied buffet meals, and the generally mellow vibe produced by a calm blue sea, Kani makes decadence seem normal. But Club Med’s all-inclusive vacation style caters just as well to the sporty, active holiday-maker: you’d certainly feel like you’re getting your money’s worth if you’re the type who goes sailing in the morning, snorkelling in the afternoon and kayaking in the evening.
I didn’t sail or go kayaking, but the snorkelling was a revelation. Two snorkelling trips are conducted every day at Kani, and all you need to do to sign up is a basic swim test. An instructor (often two) accompanies each boatload of snorkellers to a coral reef (there are over ten different spots in the vicinity) and keeps track of them in the water. I’ve only snorkelled in India before, in the very shallow, small stretch around Sindhudurg Fort, on the Konkan coast. I enjoyed that very much, but the reef in the Maldives is something else. I went thrice in three days, and before you ask: no, it doesn’t count as hectic. To float on the surface of a turquoise sea and let your eyes feast on the most spectacular-hued fish below, as the sun warms your back above: it’s as close as I’ve gotten to paradise.
The island itself is also quite lovely: great big bushes of cheerful red ixora act as buffers between one beach villa and another, and the path down to the villas is lined with fragrant frangipani trees, many-coloured hibiscus and multiple kinds of coleus. The beach is the classic palm-fringed variety, the water a perfect temperature and waves in the lagoon almost non-existent. The only thing you might complain about is that the sand isn’t powder-smooth, but I think that would be churlish. I didn’t spot a large variety of birds, though it was fun to watch the white-breasted waterhens chase each other and a solitary grey heron stood sentinel by the poolside for so long that I actually thought it was a life-size sculpture.
As with most Maldivian hotel resorts, at Kani the resort is the island, the island is the resort. Upon arrival, this can bring on the slightly surreal sensation of what I call ‘Hotel-California-ness’—the realisation that unless someone sails or flies you out of there, “you can never leave”. But once you get over that and stop imagining yourself in some postmodern version of an Agatha Christie desert island where people are going to start dropping off one by one, you could even begin to enjoy the resort’s rather predictable routine: large buffet breakfast, even larger buffet lunch, evening display of suitably tropical cocktails and post-dinner display of artistic talent by Club Med staff, who go by the name of GOs (Gentils Organisateurs). And the opportunities for people watching are aplenty. The international beach divides itself neatly into West Europeans and East Asians, one group spreading themselves out en masse to receive the sun, the other swathing themselves in scarves and edging their chairs into the shade. The staff, too, feels truly international, and since GOs are meant to drink, dance and generally hang out with guests, you can actually have conversations with someone of a different nationality at every meal.
I stayed in one of the 24 beach villas, which are ranked between the more regular rooms and the über-luxurious suites on stilts that are arranged at one end of the island in the shape of a palm tree. The first thing I did when I checked in was to experience that ultimate in ironic resort luxury — a shower open to the sky, with a high wall to protect you from prying eyes. The other highlight of the room for me was the wooden sit-out through which you can access the beach, equipped with its own long chairs and beach umbrella — and most marvellously thoughtful of all, a large earthen pot of water placed there with a coconut-shell ladle, to wash sand off your feet before you enter your room.
On my third and last evening, I signed up for something I’d never done before: a Balinese massage. Run by the Mandara chain that owns Balinese spas across the world, the spa at Kani is a calming space, with water gurgling gently into a little pool and therapeutic herbal smells wafting out of the curtained cubicles. The masseuse offered me a choice of four oils, dabbing my hand with them in turn. The one I picked turned out to be called Island Spice: a soyabean-oil base infused with ginger, clove and nutmeg, which I was told was a warming oil, good for energising sore muscles. After being slowly kneaded with it for fifty minutes, my body felt both energised and perfectly relaxed. It was in a happy haze that I arrived at the open-air Kandu Bar for my sundowner. I spent another hypnotic hour or so enjoying Kandu’s most fantastic feature: a light cast into the water that turns the sea around you into an open-air aquarium. By the time the evening’s stage show rolled around, I was ready to roll into bed. After all, it had been a hectic three days.
Location Club Med Kanifinolhu, North Malé Atoll; 35 minutes by speedboat from Malé airport
Accommodation 117 Superior rooms, 24 Beach Villas and 75 Lagoon Suites (also called Suites-on-Stilts)
Tariff Per person for 3 nights: $748 (superior room), $1202 (beach villa), $1634 (lagoon suite)