Friday, January 28, 2011


Thursday morning, Sarah put us on the ferry to the island of Weh, off the northern tip of Sumatra.  The town of Sabang is on Weh, and Sabang is said to be a wonderland for snorkelers and divers.  The plan was for Sarah to get some work done and to come over on the afternoon ferry and we could all go snorkeling today and tomorrow.  We have a bungalow at Freddies.

The ride on the ferry was pretty bouncy but fast, about 45 minutes.  It was raining when we got off, we looked for the driver who was to take us to Freddies, he threw our overnight bags into his trunk, we got in his car and off we went.  He doesn't speak English, we don't speak Indonesian.  I was sure it was just a regular taxi driver, not the driver from Freddies that had been lined up for us.  Whenever we're in these cars, it seems our drivers are always competing to be the first one wherever, passing every vehicle ahead of them.  We didn't see much of the scenery due to the speed and the rain, but he did get us to Freddies.  Freddie welcomed us, told us to have a seat in the restaurant, our room is being prepared.  So we sat and had a coffee, looked out the window at the rain, looked at the fish and turtles in the aquarium.  Freddie brought some snacks for us to munch on.  Soon we were whisked to our room.  Our bungalow, I should say.

It kept raining.  We came back to the restaurant with books to read, the porch was too wet to sit on and there isn't much space in the room.  There are cards and games for the guests to play.  We found a deck of cards and realized that neither of us knows any card we made up our own to pass the time and wait for Sarah.  We looked out at the sea - the Andean Sea - and I said those waves are too high, the boat won't come.  David said it's a big boat, it can handle these waves.

Soon we got a text from Sarah telling us that the afternoon ferry had been canceled due to the weather.  Sarah will come in the morning.  :(  We miss her.

Freddie is not only the owner of this place, he is the cook.  Or, I should say, the chef.  We signed up for the meals.  Dinner last night was an amazing gourmet feast, a diverse selection of foods from around the world, flavors I had never tasted before.  Sorry, no pictures due to the circumstances, it just seemed rude to whip out the camera.  The food is prepared and set on a buffet.  There are four long tables in the restaurant and more than four groups, so we share tables.  We sat with a German couple about our age who are traveling for 3 months, going where the spirit moves them.  They came to Freddies 2 weeks ago intending to stay a couple of days but it was too nice to leave.  They tell us they've been snorkeling right off the beach here and that it's amazing.  The sea is so rough right now, it's hard to believe you could just walk into the water and swim and snorkel.

At about 7:30, Freddie welcomed us all, greeting each party and commenting on their circumstances, welcoming people back or asking how their trip into the village had been and then he introduced the meal which started with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup that was unlike any mushroom soup I'd ever had before - it had flavors other than mushrooms!  (mushrooms taste like dirt, right Ben?)  Next course was tuna steamed in white wine.  After soup and tuna, we felt satisfied but then it was time for the buffet!   Let me try to list some of the foods, we had to be careful not to take too much, it all looked and smelled so wonderful!  A South African Banana Salad that had a sweet brown sauce and onions and some other flavor - this was so yummy and so different!  Sweet potatoes, seasoned and baked.  Corn, again spicy and delicious.  Chicken with ginger and other spices.   Green bean dish - NOT like that one we make at Thanksgiving with Durkee's onions!  More that I can't remember!   Dessert was warm because they say it's cold here now (cold is a relative term), it was baked and sweet and had apples in it...  Okay, I'm doing a really bad job of remembering all the dishes.  Tonight I will try to take notes.

All this for 65,000 rupiah, which is $7.20.  Yes, you heard right.  This place, the bungalow for two nights, plus gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), is costing us 1,060,000 IDR which is equivalent to $117.52.

 It's important to know which way to pray.  A sign like this has been on every hotel ceiling.

 The restaurant is the middle level.  I'm told the windows are usually open.
This morning it was raining so hard and the sea was so rough, we didn't know if the ferry would even go.  We talked to Sarah and it seemed silly for her to take a bouncy seasick-making ferry over here to sit and read in the rain, so she's not coming.  All day it keeps raining off and on.  I'm in the restaurant, the cooking area is adjacent to the eating area, and Freddie and his crew are here working on tonight's feast.  Soon wonderful smells will be wafting my way...oh, I smell onions cooking now... It's still early though, I think I'll go back to the room and take a nap.  Life is good.

Tomorrow morning we get the early ferry back to Aceh.   Tomorrow night Sarah is taking us to an Australia Day party.  See you later!

Pictures from Banda Aceh

Five Corner Cafe

Coffee Shop
The tsunami moved this ship 4 km away from where it was moored.  It's now a memorial site.

This is part of the memorial.  Just a park and a wall with lots of pictures on it.

You can go up onto the deck of the ship and look around at the city.

This is another memorial, in another part of town, the Boat on House.  The tsunami left this boat sitting on top of the house.


Solong Cafe is Aceh's first coffee shop.  We had breakfast there on Wednesday.

At all the coffee shops, they leave plates of food on the tables, and whatever you eat you pay for.  If you don't eat anything, they put it out on another table later.

Here's breakfast:  Lontong Pecel.  Sticky rice with water spinach and peanut sauce.

Typical street.  Businesses below, living quarters above.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Today, we had the services of a driver from the University.  He took us on a little trip out of Banda Aceh, to an elephant rehabilitation center.  The trip took about an hour, and when we got there, there was little to show that it was an elephant place, other than a truck.

Our Driver, Pak Rushdie, told us that the elephants were on break, and wouldn't be back until about 2:00 and so we should go have coffee and wait.  I don't really know how he knew this, but he did.   It was shortly after noon at that time.  So we walked up the street to a coffee shop.

We went here and sat and talked until after 2:00.  Sarah tells us that nothing happens at the time people say it will, so there was no point in going back until around 2:30.  When we did, the driver, who was just sitting in the car talking on his cell phone (he did not want to go have coffee with us), told us that the elephants are ready and we should walk down the road a bit and we'll see the place.
Sure enough, here it is.  And we see an elephant nearby.

 Meet Ahmoy:

And here is Rahmat:

We rode the elephants for about a half hour, through the jungle and then out on to the road, past all the shops where the people were hooting at us as we rode by.  If we had the time, we could have taken a ride to a waterfall, an hour away, and back...but after sitting in the coffee shop for so long, we didn't think we wanted to spend so much time riding.  Maybe next time.  A half hour on the back of an elephant was really plenty!

Here's the crew.

Sarah got to feed bananas to Ahmoy.

That's all for now!  Tomorrow we're going to the beach!

Monday, January 24, 2011

On to Banda Aceh

Have not posted in a while due to poor/no internet connections and also we've been moving around.  On Sunday morning we left Bali, taking a car back to Padangbai for a "fast boat" back to Lombok.  The seas were calm this time.

Goodbye Bali

Arriving on Lombok
This is the boat we were on. Had to grab our luggage and snap a quick picture, as it didn't stick around. We had arranged for a driver to take us back to Mataram, where we had a reservation for one night.

Scenes from the drive to Mataram:

In Mataram, we were in a cushy hotel right across from a huge mall.  

In the back of the hotel there's a beautiful yard.  Here"s the view from our window.  Look at those huge philodendrons growing up the palm trees.

Some in our party elected to eat at McDonalds.  One opted for an interesting beverage.
Sweet fizzy coffee flavored stuff.

At 4:45 am Monday morning,  we were taken to the airport (with our breakfasts in boxes) to catch a flight at 6am. 

Arrived in Banda Aceh around noon.

Unfortunately, our luggage stayed in Mataram.  This is the only time we didn't have a change of clothes in our carry-on bags, so we're kind of stuck in hot sweaty clothes until the airline people bring our luggage.  Hopefully that will be today (Tuesday) and soon.  It's pretty sticky for this northerner.  Not that I long for subzero weather, but a change of clothes would be really nice.

Here are some pictures of Banda Aceh.

Our hotel

Our mode of transport, called a becak - "bechak".  Indonesians can fit two+ people in the sidecar.  With David and me, I was half on top of him.

Sarah drives a motorbike.  That's her, up ahead.  We are in the becak, following.

It's Tuesday morning and Sarah will be meeting us in a bit.  In the meantime, we're at our A&W Hotel 61 with a pretty good internet connection.  And breakfast.