North Sumatra & Aceh in 10 Days (8): Weh-Banda Aceh

22/01/2013
Weh Island quick ride

What a lovely morning, if only…I could see the sunrise. But it’s rainy season, and rainy season, my friend, depends on pure luck. Today, there isn’t any. The sun is slowly rising but hiding under the thick grey cloud, meaning that today I won’t be able to see the sun anytime soon.

It’s 7 AM, El and I are ready to flash-explore the island. We only have 5 hours before leaving for Banda Aceh. Haste is the key. Our first checkpoint is the calm and peaceful pier at Iboih beach. I bet if it’s a sunny day, it’d be very lovely.

Our second checkpoint is Balohan harbor to reserve tickets for Banda Aceh. Iboih-Balohan is ½ hour ride by motorcycle, approximately 20 KM. We arrive at Balohan only to find that the ticket counter hasn’t open yet. It’ll be open two hours before departure. Well, there’s nothing we can do, we go straight to the third checkpoint: Sabang, the main city in Weh Island.

Balohan-Sabang is another ½ hour ride. We stop for a tasty breakfast in town: Lontong Soto, a hybrid of lontong sayur and soto, a combination between salty and spicy sweet, nothing like I ever tasted before. Now that our stomach are full, we’re ready to cruise the north side of Weh Island.

Our fourth checkpoint is Sumur 3 beach. The lack of proper signage forced us to ask a lot of questions to find this beach. The beach itself isn’t special, just a little bit unorganized, no surprise. There’s no people on the beach (of course, it’s weekday, normal people go to the beach on the weekends). Unsatisfied with the beach, we’re riding back to Iboih, there’s no time for more exploration. To have a full experience in Weh Island, I must spend at least three days here. There are many tourist attractions from the tourism map I picked at Iboih. There is a waterfall, a hotspring, a volcano, a cave and other interesting attractions. I said to myself: “Maybe next time”.

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We arrive at Iboih exactly at 12 PM, Bang Jack says we have to hurry because according to the latest info, the express ship at Balohan will be leaving 2 hours early. Dammit! I prepare my backpack as fast as I can, and as soon as El is ready, we’re walking to the pickup point at the beach. Unfortunately, the van has just left, 3 foreigners in the van decided to go without us. Those assholes just can’t wait, we missed them a minute.

Now, we’re clueless. There isn’t any van available and we can’t afford to be late, every minutes count because Iboih is pretty far from Balohan, if somehow we can’t manage to board the ship, we have to spend a night here, and that’s unacceptable. In the middle of our confusion, a nice young fella offers us a ride with his SUV to the harbor. Well it’s way much better than riding that rusty van, we accept his offer and ride to Balohan. 45 minutes later, we arrive at the harbor and say many thanks to the SUV guy, our lifesaver.

It turns out that there’s no early departure, it’s still stick to the schedule: 4 PM. Great! Now we have to wait for three boring hours. At 3 PM, there’s an announcement to board the ship, I hop on it, enjoy the comfy seat at executive class and looking at Weh Island through the rounded glass window for the last time.

Banda Aceh

With express ship, Weh Island-Ulee Lheue only takes 45 minutes. It’s pretty fast compared to yesterday’s 3-hour trip. At the harbor, El’s friend and her husband in an Avanza pick us up. They’ll be our guides in Banda Aceh.

First, they take us for a ride around the town and stop at Lampulo to see one of the Tsunami monuments: Bubong Ship. During tsunami, the ship was stuck on top of a house, making it a unique tourist attractions years later. Done taking some pictures, now it’s time for chasing sunset at Lampu’uk beach. Unfortunately we don’t have enough time to reach Lampu’uk, so we change the course to Lhok Nga beach. After 8 cloudy sunsets, finally El and I see a decent one at this beautiful beach.

We’re going straight back to Banda Aceh. Luckily the need to find a hotel isn’t necessary because our “guides” offer their house for us to spend a night in Banda Aceh. It’s a small, old house with vintage wooden furniture.

After refreshing bath, we go to a coffee shop to meet some of El’s contacts. In Aceh, coffee shop is just as many as convenience store in Jakarta. People really really love coffee, I mean the real coffee, not some mediocre stuff you’d drink in Starbucks. In every corner, nearly on every streets, there are coffee shops, from traditional to modern ones. It’s said that coffee shop or “Warung Kupi” plays an important part in Aceh culture.

In the coffee shop, we talk about tomorrow’s expedition: climbing Goh Leumo mountain. We need a local guide and a porter. After interesting conversation and discussion until midnight, it’s decided that 3 men will accompany the two of us to Goh Leumo mountain. From the coffeee shop we don’t go straight to our “guest house”, but stop for awhile at our last checkpoint for today: Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, the famous landmark of Aceh with hundreds of years worth of history.

It’s a pretty long marathon, we finish at the “guest house” and have an awesome sleep.

 

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