China advises its tourists to avoid Maldives until political tensions ease

Opposition supporters protest against the government's delay in releasing their jailed leaders, including former Maldives resident Mohamed Nasheed, despite a Supreme Court order, in Male on February 4. (Reuters)
Updated 05 February 2018
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China advises its tourists to avoid Maldives until political tensions ease

BEIJING: China’s foreign ministry on Monday advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives until political tensions subside on the Indian Ocean archipelago.
A tropical paradise for holidaymakers, the Maldives has been beset by fractious politics for years, but concern over potential instability heightened after its attorney-general warned on Sunday that the government would resist any attempt by the Supreme Court to impeach President Abdulla Yameen for disobeying its order to free jailed opposition leaders.
“China suggests that Chinese citizens who are preparing to go to the Maldives in the near term to postpone going until the situation on the ground stabilizes,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a regular briefing, noting that the upcoming Chinese New Year was a peak period for Chinese tourists to visit the Maldives.
Geng said that China supports the resolution of differences between all relevant sides in the Maldives through dialogue and consultation to protect its national and social stability.
The Chinese embassy to the Maldives on Friday issued a travel warning urging Chinese citizens to be cautious when traveling to the country, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Mohamed Anil, attorney general of the Maldives, said on Sunday that the government had received information that the Supreme Court was preparing to fire Yameen, but such a move would be illegal and the police and army had been instructed not to carry out such an order.
Yameen has fired two police chiefs since Thursday, when the Supreme Court threw out terrorism convictions against former president Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition figures. Police had indicated they would enforce the ruling.
In power since 2013 and facing elections in October, Yameen is under international pressure to heed the court decision, while hundreds of protesters have taken to the country’s streets to demand compliance with the order.
President Yameen’s government has had good relations with China and a free trade agreement between the two countries was signed in December, despite criticism from the opposition.
China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its “belt and road initiative” to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout.


Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

The Finnish Capital, Helsinki, shot from above. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

  • The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air
  • The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki

DUBAI: Access to Helsinki has just become easier for Gulf travelers thanks to the introduction of a new route from the UAE to the Finnish capital. Last month, budget carrier flydubai launched its Dubai-to-Helsinki flights, offering the best connection from Saudi Arabia as well.
Our first port of call after the six-hour trip was the utterly enchanting Hotel Kämp, arguably the best-known hotel in Helsinki — after all, it has been around for over 130 years. The classy, comfortable five-star property is known as a place to see and be seen.
While there, do check out Kämp Spa, where saunas are, of course, available. (There are almost as many saunas as there are people in Finland.) Kämp Spa offers two options: the eucalyptus-fragrance grotto steam sauna and a traditional Finnish one.
The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air. The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki. You can take in the glorious architecture of Helsinki Cathedral, while also viewing the Government Palace, the main building of Helsinki University, and Sederholm House, Helsinki’s oldest building, dating back to 1757.

For shoppers, Helsinki is home to one of the world’s most exciting and influential design scenes, and a treasure trove for unique pieces. Try TRE, which stocks over 300 brands of well-known classics as well as mostly homegrown products — including fashion, jewelry and furniture — from new designers.
Be warned, though: Helsinki is expensive. Very expensive. So you’re probably better off investing in a cool design piece for the home rather than the usual gifts and gadgets. You’ll leave with something memorable that’s high-quality and, of course, unique.
For something on the quirkier (and cheaper) side, second-hand clothes store UFF has chains across the city, where you’ll find some gems that are as good as new.
Dining out in the city also doesn’t come cheap, but it is an experience to savor. For casual snacking, The Old Market Hall sells cheese, beautifully fresh fish (we’d recommend the salmon), fruit and veg, and has cute little cafés.

For dinner, it’s worth treating yourself. Garden by Olo is an official ‘spin-off’ of the Michelin starred Olo and serves Nordic ingredients fused with Asian elements.
One of the newer eateries on the block is Restaurant Andrea at the newly opened Hotel St. George. Here, Nordic and Anatolian kitchens come together to offer a variety of sharing plates, inspired by both cuisines.
If you fancy taking in some of Finland’s stunning scenery, head to one of the national forests close to Helsinki. Nuuksio National Park — forests and lakes spread over Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Vihti — is easy to get to by public transport, and features eight marked trails for hiking in the freshest of air.

If you are visiting for more than a couple of days, then it is well worth exploring Lapland, the official home of Santa Claus. You’ll need to take a one-hour flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.
If time is tight, try a reindeer sleigh and husky sled experience, where you can interact with the animals on farms and enjoy rides through the snowy forests.
There’s so much more to see and do than is mentioned here, of course. We’re sure we’ll return to Finland one day, it’s definitely a trip worth making. Just don’t forget to pack your thermals.