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Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Experiences

What Aceh Offers Tourists

If your goal in life is to be a beach bum, Aceh is well able to supply you the necessary environment to fulfill your dream. Would you prefer white sand or black sand? Pulau Weh (Weh Island) off the very north tip of Sumatra offers perhaps Aceh’s favorite beach spots. Gapang Beach there has white sand and accommodations for under $2 U.S. a night. Ancient trees surrounded the bay until the tsunami hit. And the bay was the playground of manta rays. The island has a 2,600 hectare marine part and a 1,300 hectare recreation area, a semi-active volcano, waterfalls, a cave complex, a fresh water lake, a dozen dive spots, brilliant and diverse coral reefs, a small fishing village, a stretch of rainforest inhabited by tribes of monkeys that occasionally make an appearance in the populated areas, and a variety of accommodations ranging from the previously mentioned $2 beach bungalows to a moderately expensive resort property. At least that’s what the island was like before Christmas…

While Pulau Weh provided Aceh with an attraction divers found hard to resist, there was no need to take the two and a half hour ferry ride all the way to Pulau Weh to find most of those same attractions. Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, has a number of lovely beaches - including Ujong Batee beach, Lampu’uk beach and Lhok Nga beach. All three are located within about 10 miles of the city. Ujong Batee was a black sand beach and offered a rich variety of shells; the other two were white sand. Lhok Nga has been a popular picnic spot for residents of the city.

If the ocean isn’t your thing you could always make the trip inland to Takengon, a little town on the shores of Laut Tawar Lake. The town and lake are about 3,700 feet above sea level. Thermometers there hover at just under 70F degrees most days. You can water ski on the lake or trek in the surrounding mountains. About 200 small coffee plantations in the region grow beans organically and the forests around the lake support a several varieties of exotic wild orchids. There are also a few caves and some geothermal springs near the lake.

Banda Aceh itself had most of the historic trappings of a colonial capital. The Dutch tore down the palace of the last sultan and built a governor’s mansion on the spot in 1880. The 800-year-old Baiturrahman Grand Mosque was burnt once by the Dutch and rebuilt in 1875 to become one of the most well known architectural landmark of Indonesia. The Regional Museum in Banda Aceh included a large clock given to the Sultan of Aceh by Ming Dynasty Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414 when he stopped there. About 2,000 Dutch soldier and citizens are buried in the Kerkhop (Dutch for “churchyard”) in the city. And a few pre-colonial sites existed, like the burial site of the Muslim cleric Teungku Syiah Kuala (d. 1693) just over a mile from town.

There are, of course, attractions in Aceh outside the immediate area of the provincial capital. The National Park of Gunung Leuser is an example: 950,000 hectares (about 3,000 square miles) of virgin rain forest, it is among the most untamed parts of Indonesia. The park in Aceh’s southeast is now the only place where orangutans, rhinoceroses, elephants and tigers live in the same location. The park contains about 5,000 orangutans, over 100 Sumatran tigers, and perhaps as many as 120 rhinos. Mountains in the park climb to over 11,000 feet. The Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in the park is open to the public. It is possible (with permits) to trek in the park. Gunung Leuser is home to 387 species of birds. There are also macaques, gibbons, leopards, civets, deer, otters, and much more.




Irwansyah Yahya Student of Economics Agra University, Agra - India

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Irwansyah Yahya. Student of Economic in Agra University, Agra - India