Last year, several of my friends spent their holidays away from Thailand. I, of course, asked if they could send me a few postcards during their trip. Richard, a fellow American working here in Phuket, went diving in Maldives – a double chain of twenty-six atolls spread over about 90,000 square kilometers in the Laccadive Sea southwest of India. The first known inhabitants were probably fishermen from the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka between 300 BC and 300 AD. Buddhism was the dominate religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century AD when Islam took over. For most of its history, it was an independent nation except for three periods of foreign rule – by the Portuguese for fifteen years in the mid-16th century, by the Dutch for four months in the mid-17th century, and from 16 December 1887 until 26 July 1965 when it was a British protectorate.
In terms of both population (393,500) and land area (298 square kilometers), Maldives is Asia’s smallest nation. It is also the world’s lowest nation with an average ground level elevation of just 1.5 meters above sea level. Inundation of the Maldives due to rising sea levels is a great concern. The crowded capital city of Malé is located on the southern edge of Kaafu Atoll.