Tuesday, August 1, 2017
French Polynesia (the Brando) vs Maldives (Cheval Blanc Randheli)
I have often wonder what's the difference between going to French Polynesia versus going to the Maldives. Both have unreal ocean colors. Both have luxury resorts. How can one choose between the two? Now that I have been to both, with four months apart, I can give you my two cents. If you are saving hard for that once in a lifetime trip and choosing between the two locations, here are the differences.
1. The distance. To me, flying time does make a difference. If you are going from Europe, obviously the Maldives are much closer than French Polynesia. If you are in California like me, French Polynesia is infinitely closer. It will take me easily 24-26 hours to get to Male. It takes about 12 hours to get to Tahiti.
2. The villas. Strictly speaking, if just comparing the finishes of the villas, Cheval Blanc Randheli wins hands down. The finishes here trumps the Brando and the Four Seasons Bora Bora by a mile. There is no ifs and buts. Cheval Blanc Randheli's finishes is above and beyond anything I have seen at any commercial resort.
3. The water. Both locales have very similar water color... it's this multiple shades of neon blue. I would say the water in the Maldives are slightly calmer than the ones at French Polynesia but that may just be the time I was there. I would say it's a tie between the two.
4. The service. They are of the highest caliber at their respective location. Cheval Blanc assign a butler to every villa whereas the Brando doesn't. But because it has less villas than Cheval Blanc (35 vs 45), I would say the level of service is fairly equal. Overall I would rate the service level is really quite high at both places.
5. The spa. Here Cheval Blanc Randheli definitely wins out. Their spa is on its own island and in order to get there, you have to take a boat. Once you reach there, you are checked into a stunning reception area and then lead to treatment villas. That's right. You are lead to a villa NOT a room. The treatment villas have pretty much everything in them. From shower, toilet, huge makeup area (free Guerlain products), to snooze/relax room and treatment room. I mean they are literally villas where you can live in. Of course the finishes in those treatment villas are just as unbelievable as everything at this resort. The treatment rooms at the Brando don't even come close. I also find the massage I had at Cheval Blanc Randheli is better than any resort I have ever been to.
6. The excursions. Here the Brando wins hands down. Unbelievable atoll. It's incredibly pretty. Some of the islands has lots of birds such as red footed boobies where there were none to be found at Cheval Blanc Randheli. There are also lots of marine life such as sting rays, manta rays, and whales at the Brando whereas my time at the Maldives, we didn't come across such animals. But this may be because we were at the Maldives at the wrong time. I don't know. But as far as my personal experience, I feel there are more than just water sports that's on offer at the Brando whereas at Cheval Blanc Randheli, it's water sports or nothing else.
7. The food. If we just solely compare the breakfast, the Brando absolutely wins hands down as their bake goods are actually flaky and crunchy. I'm not sure how they do it as tropical humidity typically means soggy bake goods which is what Cheval Blanc served me every morning. However, if you compare lunch and dinner, Cheval Blanc Randheli won out easily. The food there is as good as one to two Michelin star level whereas the Brando has very tasty food, but just not the same caliber. In addition, Cheval Blanc Randheli has a lot of choices of restaurants whereas the Brando pales in comparison.
8. The culture. Most of the Cheval Blanc is actually a landfill... meaning the island was much smaller and was enlarged artificially. So to me, everything feels somewhat artificial including none existent cultural experience. If you are looking for a gorgeous resort that devoid of any cultural reference, then Cheval Blanc Randheli is it. I would guess most of the Maldivian resorts are similar in that way. I didn't get a sense of place when I was there. The Brando, on the other hand, is definitely very French Polynesian down to weekly dance shows. They even have programs where they teach you how to dance the Polynesian way!
9. The snorkeling. Right off the villa, the one I stay at Cheval Blanc Randheli has tons of colorful tropical fish. Simply amazing. However, my understanding is that this is the exception. Most of the villas there has very little to zero fish right off the villa. The Brando, on the other hand, has decent amount of fish off the beach on Turtle Bay section. I would not say there are tons of them and they are not nearly as colorful as the ones in the Maldives. However, both places can take you to areas not too far from the resort where you can find tons of fish. Therefore I would call this a tie.
Conclusion. It really comes down to what your vacation goal is. If you are looking for luxury experience with no cultural references, then Cheval Blanc Randheli is it. You will feel like you are on a foreign planet where you are pampered to Nth degree. It's simply an incredible resort to stay at. If you are like me, who likes luxury experience with cultural references, then the Brando is for you. The Brando, without a doubt, is physically not nearly as luxurious as Cheval Blanc Randheli. However, I think they made up for it by having an incredible atoll that you can explore and by giving you incomparable French Polynesian cultural experiences that are u can't get anywhere else. Now that I have given you my two cents, which locale will you be going to?