DestinAsian - - FLASHBACK -

that the names of so many of the Mal­dives’ 1,190 is­lands end in the sounds of “ee,” “oo,” or “ah.” These are of­ten the only sounds one can muster when a sun­rise re­flects a rainbow of pas­tels onto the sur­face of a glass-calm la­goon, or a school of bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent plank­ton floats by the beach at night, mir­ror­ing the Milky Way up above. For all the fragility of this low-ly­ing In­dian Ocean ar­chi­pel­ago of coral atolls, it is un­de­ni­ably one of the most beau­ti­ful places in the world.

Par­adise isn’t with­out its trou­bles, of course. The Mal­dives is fa­mously at risk from cli­mate change, with some sci­en­tists pre­dict­ing the na­tion—whose av­er­age el­e­va­tion above sea level is only 1.5 me­ters—will be in­un­dated by ris­ing ocean lev­els by the end of the cen­tury. Coral bleach­ing is an­other press­ing is­sue. Nev­er­the­less, new resorts are still pop­ping up seem­ingly by the dozen each year, push­ing a num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and ho­tel brands to har­ness the thriv­ing tourism in­dus­try, the coun­try’s largest source of in­come, to counter the en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects. These four, picked from the lat­est crop of pri­vate-is­land resorts, are all rea­son enough to hop on board a sea­plane and add an­other voice to the cho­rus of “oohs” and “aahs”—whis­pered not to en­joy this place while it lasts, but in the hope that it lasts for­ever.


On the ceil­ing of the Whale Bar at the St. Regis, a mu­ral by Paris­based artist Maya Bur­man de­picts the prop­erty’s own cre­ation myth. The story goes that a grand­fa­ther, fa­ther, and son swam across the ocean un­til they came to a beau­ti­ful is­land, where­upon they de­cided to build a place re­sem­bling all the ocean crea­tures they had passed along the way. This mu­ral was, of course, painted af­ter Sin­ga­porean firm WOW Ar­chi­tects spent four years cre­at­ing the re­sort, which is much more a study in retro-fu­tur­is­tic ar­chi­tec­ture than the charm­ing al­le­gory sug­gests.

Among the col­lec­tion of oth­er­worldly struc­tures—a seashell­shaped li­brary, a spa laid out like a lob­ster—only the pala­tial Alba restau­rant, its heavy-draped four-me­ter-high win­dows stand­ing guard over the pool and main beach, feels overtly re­gal and As­toresque. Else­where, in­te­ri­ors flit be­tween Mad Men hand­some in the manta ray–shaped over­wa­ter vil­las; tree­house-luxe in the A-frame beach and gar­den vil­las, which are dec­o­rated with geodes and hand­made seashell light fixtures; and serenely calm amid the pol­ished Vene­tian plas­ter of the whale shark–in­spired Whale Bar and mul­ti­pur­pose Vom­muli House.

Un­ex­pected sur­prises be­come ap­par­ent the longer one stays.

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