Teresa and I returned to Sumatra’s mainland by slow-ferry, across the straight between Pulau Weh and Banda Aceh. Upon landing ashore we hailed a tuk-tuk driver to take us to a place to stay for the next week until we needed to head back to Medan where, a couple of days later, we’d be catching an Air Asia flight back to Jakarta and eventually, out of Asia altogether. It was a depressing prospect, one that brings emotion to the surface even now, more than two years later recollecting on it. But all things must end, or evolve, and we knew that this beautiful continent would always be here waiting for us should we choose to ever return…again, and again, and again.
Rather than finding accommodation directly in Banda Aceh, we allowed the driver to take us to a small rural community on the outskirts of the city, along the shores of the Indian Ocean, called Peukan Bada. We’d heard there were a few guest house options here so we took a stroll up and down the main road in search of one.
About a ninety second walk from the ocean, we found a beautiful spot run by a young Scottish lady named Sarah and her husband Yuli, who was away the entire time of our stay. The guest house was called Yuli’s and had a variety of nice rooms to choose from. The only complaint I have would be in regards to the multitude of large black ants that just couldn’t seem to keep away from certain corners of the room. The bathroom walls were made up of ebony black tiles so the ants blended in quite well and were a little difficult to deal with there. Other than that, the rooms were beautiful, the grounds were beautiful, and Sarah was extremely pleasant and accommodating the entire time we were there. She even had a spare motorbike that she was able to rent out to us, the last motorbike I would ever drive on this glorious six month adventure of ours. It was bittersweet to be able to explore one last part of Asia before departing.
The beach out here was beautiful and secluded. The sand was made up of large brown granules, very different from the composition of any of the beaches we’d experienced thus far. The water was relatively calm and only broke a couple of hundred metres out. We spent a couple of hours a day just walking up and down the beach, laying out our towels and enjoying a swim here and there. The sun was almost always scorching hot, as per usual in this part of the world.
There were some delicious food options in Peukan Bada. Our favourite was a spot that served up these fried potato cakes. The sad thing is that right after we discovered the stall, it closed the next day for a holiday in which a massive slaughter takes place in all the land. Sarah told us she found it barbaric, saying the rivers and streams practically run red with blood during this particular holiday in which most businesses close down. Our favourite food stall never reopened, not even in the days that followed, so we missed out on those delicious potato cakes thereafter. To prepare for the holiday we stocked up on snacks and instant noodles.
A few days into our stay, we decided to upgrade our accommodation. We didn’t actually leave Yuli’s, just changed rooms. Upon walking into the grounds, it’s impossible to miss the standalone cabin-like room elevated a storey up. Made of a nice light-coloured wood, this room was so appealing, although fairly more expensive. We were coming to the end of our trip and had a lot better understanding of where our finances stood in relation to how much longer we’d be travelling for. We’d already purchased every plane ticket we would need, including the one that would take us back to Toronto, so we were safe in that regard as well. The upgrade was more than worth it and a beautiful way to spend the last couple of nights.
Banda Aceh, and particularly the little rural community next door of Peukan Bada, has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve been posting a lot of sunset pics from Long Beach in the Philippines. What we saw here in Aceh Province we didn’t even need to be standing on the shores to appreciate, though. The sky would explode with the most gorgeous pinks and reds. We could be in the middle of the street surrounded by homes and buildings and we still couldn’t miss out on the scenery. It reminded me of Pakse, in Laos, where we’d be eating dinner in the streets and all of a sudden the sky would just light up like some epic artist just painted the sky. A privilege, as always, and a visual reference point for some of the more exotic places Teresa and I had the pleasure of visiting.
We wouldn’t just witness this beauty from the streets, though. Not far from Yuli’s was a long rocky dock stretching out into the ocean, offering some beautiful views of the sea during the day, and in the evening. Locals would often take their children to fish off of the edge, always with friendly welcoming smiles on their faces as Teresa and I approached. The beauty of the locale was mesmerizing. In my eyes, though, this young lady’s beauty compliments it perfectly. None of this would be as great without Teresa along for the ride with me. I am indeed a lucky man.
That was how we spent some of our days and evenings on the outskirts of Banda Aceh. Before our return to Medan, we would of course utilize our motorbike privileges to drive right into the city and explore an area once devastated by the deadly tsunami of 2004. We would come to see the beauty and resilience on the faces of the locals who have stayed to rebuild their homes and community, and how the hard lessons learned from this natural disaster would be passed on to the children who were either not around or couldn’t possibly remember what it was like when their community was torn to pieces.