Aceh Province – a different world

Banda Aceh, that’s where the adventure starts in Indonesia! For me it’s the first time there, so I am quite excited. Banda Aceh is located at the very east side of Sumatra and it’s well known because of the Tsunami in 2004. Also the Aceh province is ruled by the Shariah law, which is a guideline for the Islams living there. But not only limited to that, as a tourist you also have to follow these rules. These also include:

1.No alcohol or drugs

2. No PDAs (Public Displays of Affection)

3. No homosexuality

4. Appropriate clothing

5. Unmarried couples can’t stay together in the same house

As I’ve been there during Ramadan, it was also a very special time for me being there. Ramadan means, you can’t have food during the daytime – when it’s dark and the last prayer has been made you can start to eat again. Also selling and buying food is not allowed, there are devastating penalties for these who breach the law. So I rocked up at the international Airport of Banda Aceh. Excited. Nervous. And also hungry! I was a bit unsure about what to do and how to act, so I thought it will be the best to get some local advice. It’s Couchsurfing time again! My host Darul told me to come to his office and meet him.

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I felt like a superstar as I arrived at the office. Around thirty of his coworkers were there to shake my hand and ask me questions. Guess how many photos they took! After the extensive meet and greet we went to his place. It was a great house in the middle of the city, surrounded by palm trees and other little cozy flats. As Darul had to work later in the afternoon he suggested to drop me at the tsunami museum.

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Seriously I didn’t know what to expect from visiting this place. As you come closer to the entrance, you can see a helicopter. No, it’s not a regular helicopter. It was wrecked by the tsunami. And this was just the tip of the iceberg.

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The lighting in the museum immediately puts you in a very nightmarish mood. It’s dark. You feel something’s not right. The smell of salty and humid air is around. There are a couple of rooms full with names written on signs, fragments of cars and other vehicles. Now I can imagine how many people lost their life and all their belongings. And all that in just a few minutes.

After I left the museum it took me a while to think about what i just saw. Darul picked me up again and he tried to answer all my questions. Banda Aceh is directly located at the coast, so if a Tsunami comes in they are… you know? That’s why they built those Tsunami Shelters, a safe place you should immediately go to when the early warning system rings alarm. For me it’s very important to ask people and try to understand what happened. Everybody was very open to it and keen to answer questions. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be like that in first place. Still – Banda Aceh and it’s surrounding does have a lot of beautiful places with stunning nature and beautiful beaches. Darul showed me around and we met some of his friends. It goes without saying we didn’t eat at all during the daytime 😉

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I stayed around one week in Banda Aceh. My new friends told me about the island Pulau Weh, which is located around one hour off the coast and well known for it’s awesome dive sites. After a ferry ride, a short walk and a scenic cruise on the motorbike I finally arrived in my new jungle-beach paradise.

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All I needed now is a place to stay. With a handful of recommendations from locals i was walking around the small strip where all the accommodations can be found. As I was walking towards the end of the street an older lady started to talk to me and asked if I need a place to stay. She offered me a beachfront treehouse with a hammock. Dang, that sounds pricy. I asked how much it would be for a week. $21 – take my money! She also promised to cook for me some local delicacies.

Accommodation with great view and food included? Sorted. The rest of the day was spent walking around the island, having a coconut and talking to people. I felt really lucky and grateful for what has been offered and happened to me. There’s not much going on in Pulau Weh. It’s very quiet and relaxed. That’s what I was looking for. Still, these sunsets were so amazing and mind blowing.

My agenda for the next day: Find a Diveshop! Easy as. After an amazing breakfast in my treehouse I was ready to start my day. The Diveshop offered me a very good deal and since it was very early in the morning we jumped on the boat and went diving straight away.

Oh. My. God. Such a high visibility. Such a diverse marine life. Such strong currents. My dive buddies Saray and Adrian from Spain were a great company and we started to hang out together. After three days of diving we decided to have a break and discover the island by motorbike. There are Japanese bunkers, beaches and markets waiting for us to be discovered. Snorkeling was also a great thing to do as it was hot ‘n humid outside.

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We all agreed to keep on traveling together around Sumatra. Yes! I found great travel buddies. Keep the adventure going 😉