By Shi Xin Wu – 17th Feb 2021
“You’ve Got Mail!”
The year was 2004, noontime, and I was sitting in my cubicle pondering over which room to book in a Phi Phi Island resort. Eagerly planning for a year-end trip to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. When suddenly, out of the blue, my lotus notes prompted a new email. The subject was “Ahhhh… the Maldives” with a PowerPoint attachment. In my mind, I thought, it seems rather unusual to receive an email at this hour.
I was reluctant at first to open it, but my curiosity was piqued, and knowing that it came from a colleague (though it was atypical of him to send me non-work-related emails), I carried on. The word “Maldives” sounded foreign to me back then, and my best guess was – probably it is a destination, a country perhaps, and it does bear some resemblance to a place called Mauritius.
Take me down to the Paradise City…
Setting the PowerPoint file in presentation mode, I scrolled through many photos of the fully revamped resort named “Hilton Maldives” and was amazed by the perfect paradise scenery. A passionate traveler that I was (and I still am now), never had I experience, and nothing even came close to that featured in the presentation. The last photo was a breathtaking view of a water villa – its living room had huge glass flooring encircled by granite tiles. While still in awe, the presentation ended on its own with large and bold wordings, “Stop dreaming… Now… Get back to work!”. What a bummer! I deleted it then, thinking that it was just a whimsical email. And instead of going ahead with our Phi Phi island vacation plan, we opted to celebrate within Singapore.
Asian Tsunami Strikes
Few months after my first serendipitous digital encounter with the Maldives, a tsunami hit the Asia Pacific in that same year. It wreaked havoc on nearby countries – millions of people lost their homes, thousands died, buildings and infrastructures destroyed. Good thing I decided not to go ahead with our Thailand trip, else we could have been very well affected. Tourism and many other beach resorts in Asia came to an abrupt halt. And in the year that followed, countries severely ravaged by the Asian Tsunami struggled to recover as travelers were still gripping with fear from the devastation.
From Powerpoint to Reality
To support their (tourism industry) valiant efforts to boost the economy, I took the courage to travel. I chanced upon an unbeatable Singapore airline flight deal to the Maldives – priced at only USD240 net (S$398) per person on a returned flight. What a find! Reminded of the PowerPoint photos shared by my colleague, I quickly checked the Hilton Maldives website, and what I saw blew me away – for a 5-star resort, their entry villa was selling at only USD150 net per night! It was a no-brainer. I booked immediately, and everything went well smoothly. The rest was history.
The opening 4 nights accommodation was at a beach villa. And for the remaining 3 nights, believe it or not, the resort offered the exact water villa featured in the PowerPoint before! Ecstatic and thrilled, we grabbed the chance without second thoughts and did not mind the small upgrade fee that came along. There were only two such water villas in Hilton Maldives – named the Sunset Water Villa (220Sqm in size, 2-bedroom with ensuite bath, two butlers, and a private speedboat).
Astounding how a casual intriguing email teaser from a friend realized into an unforgettable holiday experience in the Maldives amidst unprecedented times (the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami).
Panoramic View of Life
Fast forward to now, with all the restrictions in place due to COVID-19 including external travel, may we be resilient in facing the challenges – grit it out knowing that humanity had prevailed in similar situations before. Hold on to hope always in this time of pandemic for we are certain (by historical experience) that this is only part of the wider and colorful picture of life. Soon it will unfold into a beautiful 360° panoramic view that we can take pride and joy in if we persevere doing what is right.
So let us then continue to seek each other’s welfare as we endure. Submit to authority – follow the health and safety protocols. And with an expectant heart, maintain a positive outlook… “And this too shall pass”!
(Looking forward to seeing you in the Maldives when external travel opens)