Travel stories to discover

Palau Weh, a hidden gem

Here we are, after a few weeks of exploring rough corners of Sumatra, staying in dirty places or sleeping in a tent, finally comes final part to indulge ourselves in little paradise, island called Palau Weh – just off the northern tip of Sumatra.

Sunset view from Yulia’s resort

Well… It actually has not started that easy. Firstly, we arrived to Banda Aceh. This time (and I am guessing the only time in foreseeable future) I have been in charge of making a reservation. I thought ‘Crystal Guesthouse’, nice name, “free airport pickup” – sounds convenient, 5.9/10 on Booking.com, might not be the best, but for just one night we will be fine. Let’s do it.

Welcome to Crystal Guesthouse, Banda Aceh

Ela was clearly not among the happiest guests, the room was quite small with rather limited facilities and a very, very basic outside bathroom which even in my opinion might deserve a proper wash or some renovation work, just to help them to improve their scores beyond 6 points.

Crystal Guesthouse still rates 5.9/10 on Booking.com
Showers may need a bit of refreshment touch

This was just one night in some random place in Banda Aceh. Now we are moving to our destination. A short boat trip takes us to the port Sabang on Palau Weh, from where we just get a ride to one of the recommended destinations, called Oboih. Here we find some nice bungalows at Yulia’s, simple, yet clean and cozy with great views. That’s exactly what we needed after the last night and several nights before that night too.

Palau Weh, where we are

On the very first afternoon we finally make use of our snorkeling equipment. The water is pleasantly warm, but to our surprise, there are some stinging jellyfish (the rash is not that bad, but it remains itchy for a day or so). Snorkeling is like playing a game avoiding floating jellyfish and sea urchins at the bottom.

Time for snorkeling
We need to watch out for stinging jellyfish
It’s also needed to watch your step for sea urchin

That is really a nice place to stay, the jellyfish luckily are just temporary thing, as they mostly disappear the next day. We have some nice restaurants nearby offering great food, notably Dee Dee’s. She serves also great avocado shakes.

Dee Dee and her restaurant, great place to eat!
Food is coming at Dee Dee’s
Coastline of Iboih village, Palau Weh, Sumatra
Local babushka preparing food

The other day we decide to rent a small paddling boat to explore the area. There are some spots you can go, among which a small island Palau Rubiah just outside Iboih, a nice spot for coconut drink. The boat also let’s us go to some open snorkeling spots and enjoy the views of the coast from the distance.

Paddling boat is great way to explore the area

However, with boat or kayak we need to be extra careful about holding the position and the range is limited, so it is also worth to have a proper snorkeling trip with a guide.

Our boat captain is easy going & chilled-out guy

It is possible to visit some different snorkeling spots during a day trip with a guide. The variety of fish and clarity of water is amazing.

There are plenty types of fish just outside the mainland Palau Weh
Blue water outside Sumatra

Having spent some days just by the coast, we decide to explore the island. The best way to do it is on your own by renting a motorbike. When you have a motorbike, you need to make sure it is filled up. We stop by one of gas stations.

Just filling up the tank and ready to explore!

There are places to visit on the island, but one of the more distinctive ones is so called Kilometer 0, the western-most part of whole Indonesia which begins right here on Palau Weh.

Kilometer 0, here is the official beginning of Indonesia!

There are also several beaches, but outside tourist area there is not much you can do besides “Enjoying the Beach”. No bikinis / swimsuits allowed!

What a nice beach to Enjoy!
Motorbike is great way to explore the area

For some parts we follow a map, sometimes we just driver randomly and see what is around the corner. We meet a friendly guy who is in charge of a swimming pool, which currently is under renovations. That’s good to hear, as for now looks more like swimming pool for guests of Crystal guesthouse ;-)

A friendly guardian of the swimming pool we met

We arrive at Pria Laot Waterfall, another highlight of the motorbike trip.

Pria Laot Waterfall, hidden beauty of Palau Weh
Monekys on the way – some can get agressive

There is something great about sleeping by the coast and waking up to such a view a few some minutes before the sunrise. It is also a great place for those who need inspiration for work or writing.

Before the sunrise outside our bungalow
Not a bad place to do some work before morning swim, Pulau Weh

Our daily routines include having a couple of avocado fruit shakes at Dee Dee’s, sometimes finding alternative places to eat, playing cards and swimming outside our bangalow. For those who need a beer it is also possible to buy it quasi-legally. Just ask around and you will easily get hold of a six-pack of ice-cold Bintangs. Psst… it is supposed to be a secret!

How many rounds of card games have we played… a lot!
I’m not kind of a card guy but once in a while when you are out of nowhere…

Remember about travel warning when visiting Indonesia. It is dangerously beautiful!

Travel Warning

Back to Banda Aceh

On our way back we spend extra day visiting Banda Aceh. Not so many know about how hard Aceh province on Sumatra was hit during the 2004 tsunami. All the Western media focused on covering Thailand (over 8200 deaths) , but Indonesia and especially Sumatra, a world away in terms of tourist traffic, had suffered most with at least 167,000 deaths. These are very sad consequences of a massive underwater earthquake which estimated to have moved 30 square kilometers of water that run towards the shore smashing everything like matchsticks and moving ships like toys.

Visiting memorial sites after 2004 tsunami
There are several boats left as far as a few miles inland
Mosque was among a very few buildings that survived tsunami
This fishing boat landed on the roof of a house kilometers inland from the sea
Banda Aceh before the tsunami hit coast of Sumatra
That’s how the city was destroyed after tsunami

All these facts are shocking and give a lot of thoughts about life, how fragile and unpredictable it is.

Banda Aceh is standing up to adversities and currently many parts have been rebuild, to make it again a bustling charming city as it once probably was.

This time it is a day trip, without saying in Crystal Guesthouse. Where are we going next? Is it …Malaysia? :-)