Honestly when I heard of Aceh, I wasn’t even excited to put it as my traveling bucket list in Indonesia no matter how much I love my diverse country. But, sometimes I couldn’t lie to myself that I just need to see how it is like over there. My curiosity once in a while emerged because foreigners love hanging out in Weh Island – located at the very far end west of Aceh and Indonesia- by just lying on the beach or go for a dive. It’s a chill small island that visitors love to relax in. Well, there were some of my shallow reasons that made me feel lazy travelling there because it sounded too complicated at first before even trying to pack for the trip such as the Shariah law in Aceh, then there were also never ending politic issues, conflicts, and the 2004 tsunami. I just don’t know how to seek for an adventure there. But then, as time goes by, negativity seems to diminish from Aceh. The land is growing and developing, yet still there wasn’t a ‘wow’ factor that made me want to jump in a plane and be there. Maybe, I wasn’t familiar with Aceh yet I thought to myself.
Anyways, I was given the chance to explore the land. And, of course, I wasn’t ‘that’ excited yet but at least it would feed my curiosity for sure. Or at least it would made me give a check on my list of the places in Indonesia that I have travelled. So, I started packing. I brought long clothes more as usual but I also brought my comfy shorts and shirts considering that I would be going off for an island hopping that maybe it would be okay to wear it at least at an appropriate place. It was a little bit hard in choosing what kind of clothes to pack because the packing was unusual from my packing habit. Well, this is one of the uniqueness of Indonesia I reminded myself in a second, lighting myself up.
I was ready!
Aceh is a special region located at the northern end of Sumatra Province with Banda Aceh as the capital city. Also if you see in the map, Aceh is located at the very far west of Indonesia. It used to be the centre of international trading since a long time ago.
Islam was spread in Aceh for the first time in Indonesia. By that, it influences Aceh’s culture a lot like traditional dances, handicrafts, designs, and local customs. Since Aceh embraced the sharia law, so there are activities and things that needs to be considered before doing. So, I want to know how it is like to be there.
My target destination was Pulau Banyak, in Aceh Singkil Regency. To reach closer, it’s better to go via Medan – a Capital City in North Sumatra – rather than from Banda Aceh which will be a much longer road trip. It was 11 hours ride including stops for lunch and picture taking, starting from 10am and arriving at 9pm in Singkil, the capital city of Aceh Singkil Regency. At Subussalam, an area where I stopped before entering Aceh Singkil Regency for pictures, the moment of sunset is lovely and there were double rainbow at my back. So, this was definitely a good sign. The universe welcomed me for this adventure. Thank you!
Along the road trip, rain starts pouring, sometimes drizzling and sometimes it stops. At the next morning, the traditional passenger boat made out of wood was waiting by the pier called Pulau Sarok. It took 3 hour and a half boat ride towards Balai Island [2°18′ 13,000″ LU and 97°24′ 27.000″ BT], the inhabitant island of 94,81 hectare. The boat had passed the sea gradation of blue and brown colour where the freshwater (swamp water and Singkil River) and seawater meets, around 10 minutes after we left the harbour. And around the sea gradation area, dolphins were swimming. When the boat came they quickly hid under the sea. I hope for some sunshine in this raining season.
Pulau Banyak – 97°3’40” BT – 97°27’58” BT dan 1°58’25” LU – 2°22’25” LU – is a group of islands consisting of -/+ 80 islands. It used to be around 99 group of islands but some drowned because of the disastrous tsunami in 2004 and the earthquake in Nias post Aceh’s tsunami.
So, Indonesia has many group of Islands in each of its regency. Overall, the islands are natural, exotic, and beautiful. So, I would love to see how the character of Pulau Banyak is. Well, when I arrived at the first day in Pulau Balai, I was directed to go to Pulau Panjang. There was definitely still enough time before the dark to explore that island.
Pulau Panjang [2°16′ 21,000″ LU and 2°16′ 21,000″ LU]. It resembles the name of panjang which means long. Yes, the shape of the island is long. White sand beach, white beautiful corals, clear bluish seawater, dense coconut trees with green plants tangled all together. I took a swim there. It was nice and relaxing. Oh, you have to know this, that the sunset was unbelievable there. It was very very perfect and magical! The sun was bursting colours of orange, yellow, blue, purple and a little bit of red outwards the sky. I was transfixed. It seems to be expressing a dance of joy towards the night. Oh, and it didn’t rain either. My visit to the island was welcoming. The universe gave such a beautiful scenery. I was blessed.
The actual island hopping of mine begins in the next morning. It rained earlier around 6am that I need to wait until around 8am until we have to start moving even the sky was still gloomy with heavy grey clouds. As we move on, the sky brightens a little. The first stop was:
1. Pulau Biawak [2°16′ 49,000″ LU and 97°20′ 26.000″ BT]
It was a small island, with white sand around the coast, dense green jungle, and clear green seawater surrounding the island. The boat couldn’t get to the shore for some reason and we had to move away from the rain that came towards us.
2. Pulau Lambudung [2°14′ 52,000″ LU and 97°20′ 34.000″ BT]
I didn’t enter the island even though it was bright because after considering with the guide and the boat crew we better move on towards the next island eventhough I was tempted to stay and swim there because of the clear water.
3. Pulau Asok [2°15′ 44,000″ LU and 97°19′ 45.000″ BT]
I love this island. It is natural, untouched, dense with coconut tree and other green vegetation, white sand, crystal clear water, there was a hut, and I have a short dip at the seawater, there were hundreds of baby jellyfish by my boat but when I went to the other side of the island the sun was much stronger and the water was shallower and jellyfish free.
4. Pulau Tailana [2°16′ 40,000″ LU and 97°13′ 52.000″ BT]
This island has natural decent cottages for holiday stays and getaways. There were around 5 foreigners when I visited the island. It also have clean white sands, dense coconut trees with healthy vegetation altogether, clear water, and the friendly island owner who owns the cottages.
5. Pulau Palambak [2°10′ 29,000″ LU and 97°26′ 8.000″ BT]
I visited for a little while because it was gloomy and it started drizzling. Just for a quick scan, the beach has nice white sand with white corals and shells, a nice jungle in the middle of the island, there were cottages being built, one of the resort called Point Resort was supported by the local government. I wanted to explore more but I have to go back to the boat quickly because it started raining.
6. Pulau Tapus Tapus [2°17′ 48,000″ LU and 97°25′ 23.000″ BT]
Heading home after a long day of island hopping venture. Before the sun sets down, the boat which the Acehnese also call the same in their language, parked the boat at Pulau Tapus Tapus not far from Balai Island where I stayed. It didn’t rain. How lovely it was to be able to see the moments of a sunset. While I enjoyed making pictures of the lovely sunset, the boat crew cooked Indomie – an Indonesian popular – nearly worldwide noodle sachet with eggs and vegetables in it. I had a delicious bowl but I just can’t stand of the island’s mosquitos, they were very aggressive. So, yes went home straight away after we finished eating.
Pulau Banyak was the first time I set my feet on the Aceh land. It washes away all my negativity and nervousness about Aceh. It was such a nice acquaintance. All my wild fantasy was pushed away instantly. Surprisingly, Aceh has so much positivity that needs to be more recognized by everyone. The locals are friendly, the nature are unbelievably untouched, and the culture is exotic. I am in love with Aceh. It was so magical that I could feel there was a certain energy, a positive magnet that keeps pulling me to explore more of the land.
After studying, dressing for the islands like my experience in Pulau Banyak are flexible. But please do respect their culture wherever we are in Aceh, wear decent clothes especially covered top for women. But in a special area like Banda Aceh, it is better to wear long trousers, long sleeves, and headscarves for women and long trousers for men when you enter the place.
It is okay to wear freely at a private island but always wear proper clothes back on when we enter an inhabitant island to show respect. As long as you wear covered top and shorts around knee length would be alright but not in Banda Aceh. Either way, they would notice us as visitors and understands if they saw us dressing or behaving unusually.
Over all, Aceh people are amazing. They are very nice and friendly. It is definitely a recommended place to go for an adventure. Aceh has changed my mind from thinking ‘the land that I thought that I would visit the last’ to ‘the land that I want to come back over and over again!’ Thank you so much Aceh for the wonderful experience! I still cannot believe that a land so naturally beautiful, magical and friendly that I recently travel is pulsating within Indonesia and worth visiting for. I am a proud citizen. Go Aceh!
Some helpful information:
There are 2 alternatives to reach Pulau Balai from Aceh Singkil:
Kapal Kayu – Traditional passenger boat
Price: One way ticket around Rp. 30.000, destination: 3 hours boat ride
Price: around Rp. 1.500.000, destination: much faster than the traditional boat.
Distance from Pulau Balai as the starting point to:
Pulau Panjang: +/- 20 minutes
Pulau Asok: +/- 30 minutes
Pulau Biawak: +/- 20 minutes
Pulau Palambak: +/- 1,5 hour
Pulau Lambudung: +/- 30 minutes
Pulau Tailana: +/- 1 hour
The time estimation occurred when you use the traditional boat. So, it would be much faster if you rent a speedboat but also much pricey.
Where to stay in Pulau Balai:
Nanda Lodging and Restaurant: Mobile phone +6281269210196 – +6281397685036
More info about Aceh please visit www.indonesia.travel
Note from The Adventuress:
Always stay as a Conscious Adventurer with The Adventuress spirit of Peace, Love, Adventure, Nature, and Positivity or PLAN+ in short. With that, you wouldn’t want to harm the nature and destroy it. Rather you would want to explore the earth to learn its beauty as your private experience that will teach you to be a better person each day and value the wonderful creation of God.
Peace & Light,