Inspiring Places

The First Time Jaap van Zweden Saw the Maldives

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's music director describes his first impression of finding paradise in the Indian Ocean

Working with orchestras, much of my life is spent in cities: Hong Kong, New York, Amsterdam, Dallas. So when I do manage a rare break, I crave the opposite: a warm, tropical island.

This summer, my wife and I visited the Maldives. To go from the clustered skyrises and 24/7 energy of Hong Kong Island to the laidback, low-rise luxury of a Maldivian island felt like a true escape.

There are over 1,000 islands dotted across 26 atolls, each offering you your own little parcel of paradise in the vast Indian Ocean. Our nirvana came in the form of the One & Only Reethi Rah, an all-villa resort in the North Malé Atoll.

The rhythm of life here is very different. It’s like driving a slow car down a country lane: you observe more of the scenery, let your mind drift back to reflect on things and spend quality time talking and listening to each other. It makes for a very relaxing state of mind.

I spent my days studying musical scores, toes dug into the sand; my wife worked on her new book. We swam in the ocean, rode bikes and saw an enormous amount of sharks. We made plans for the year and for our charity, the Papageno Foundation, which provides music therapy for autistic children. When you have an autistic child, as we do, it takes a lot of time and energy, so this was the perfect chance to recharge.

The Maldives, Jaap van Zweden
Sophie Zhai

I am definitely an island type of person, as is my wife, who was born in Haiti; whether that’s the buzzing city kind, like Hong Kong and Manhattan, or the remoteness of our new favourite spot in the Indian Ocean.  ‭ ‬

Jaap van Zweden is the music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

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