Kedah

Kedah

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Located 15km west of the scrappy town of Blangkejeran, the small village of Kedah has seen very few visitors since the conflict in Aceh, making it ripe for off-the-beaten-track travel. At the northern edge of Gunung Leuser National Park, Kedah is a magnificent starting point for treks into the jungle, which is home to orangutans, gibbons and other exotic wildlife, birds and plants.

Rainforest Lodge is run by the popular Mr Jali, with simple but pleasant bungalows in beautiful jungle surrounds. The lack of electricity adds greatly to its charm. Getting to the lodge is quite the rollicking adventure. Firstly, get to Kedah village and ask around for Mr Jali who lives in a house halfway up the village street; everybody knows him and can point out his house. The Rainforest Lodge is a good hour’s walk from here (motorbikes can just about make it along the track but not cars) and is literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s a very good idea to let him know in advance that you’re coming. He can organise jungle treks for around 350,000Rp per day, including food, guide and park permit.

To get here catch a bus to Blangkejeran, from where you can take a motorbike taxi (50,000Rp, 20 minutes) to Kedah.

Blangkejeren

Blangkejeren

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Blang Kejeren is a town in Aceh province of Indonesia and it is the seat (capital) of Gayo Lues Regency.

Lhoknga & Lampu’uk

Lhoknga & Lampu’uk

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Before the tsunami this area was a favourite spot of intrepid surfers and weekending locals from Banda Aceh. These coastal weekend spots, only 17km from Banda Aceh, were levelled by the tsunami. In Lampu’uk (population 1000) the wave travelled some 7km inland, killing four in five people.

There’s still not much in the way of accommodation here, although some of the bungalows along the beach in Lampu’uk are rented out by surfers. Joel’s Bungalows is the area’s legendary surfer hangout. Its huts have been built into and around the cliff face and overlook a drop-dead-gorgeous beach (though dumping shore break can make swimming dangerous). Rooms come in an array of sizes and styles, some of which have bathrooms that basically meld into the cliff face. Its in-house restaurant is known far and wide as the place to come for a wood-fire pizza, beer and a spot of surf chat; it also rents surfboards.

Lhok Nga (population 400) has decent waves too, but its beach is not as nice, particularly with the huge concrete factory and the nearby port.

Take labi labi 04 (20,000Rp, 20 minutes) from the opelet terminal in Banda Aceh for both Lhok Nga and Lampu’uk. A becak is 50,000Rp.

Meulaboh

Meulaboh

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Meulaboh (or Moulabouh) was the capital of West Aceh Regency, Indonesia, as of July 8, 2013 is an independent city Kota. Meulaboh is among the hardest hit areas by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Being just 150 km from the epicenter of the earthquake, Meulaboh was hit by tsunami, leaving the estimated deaths of 40,000 people out of 120,000.[citation needed]

Meulaboh is about 245 km southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province. Meulaboh is located in westhern part Sumatra island.

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake event

“The casualty rates in Meulaboh defy imagination,” said Aitor Lacomba, Indonesian director of aid group International Rescue Committee. “Tens of thousands need immediate assistance there.”

A damaged airstrip was cleared, enabling International Red Cross medical teams from Japan, Spain and Singapore to begin treating survivors. Red Cross engineer Sara Escudero said “There is a strong smell of putrefaction and, whilst body retrieval has commenced, it can be assumed that there are still hundreds, possibly thousands of bodies remaining underneath the debris”.

The Red Cross said it would use Meulaboh as an aid staging post for the Sumatran west coast. The government of Singapore deployed two helicopter landing ships there.

A urban legend was created around 2004-05 claiming that 400 Christians were not allowed to celebrate Christmas and went to a hill to celebrate. They were spared. This was proven false by Snopes.com.[1]

Tapaktuan

Tapaktuan

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The sleepy seaside town of Tapaktuan, 200km south of Meulaboh, is the main town in south Aceh. It’s very laid-back by Sumatran standards and, although it has few specific sights, it can be a pleasant place to hang out for a couple of days. The setting, between forest-draped mountain hills and sapphire-blue sea, couldn’t be nicer. Although its location would suggest otherwise, Tapaktuan was not noticeably affected by the tsunami.

The town can be used as a base to explore the lowland Kluet region of Gunung Leuser National Park, about 45km south. Kluet’s unspoilt swamp forests support the densest population of primates in Southeast Asia and are also good sites for birdwatching. It may be possible to hire guides through the national park office in Kandang, 38km south of Tapaktuan.

Pantai Tu’i Lhok and Pantai Air Dingin, about 18km north of Tapaktuan, are the best of several good beaches in the area. Opposite both beaches are waterfalls with natural plunge pools where you can cool off.

Most of the cheaper places to stay are located along Jl Merdeka. Otherwise try the gaudy but comfortable Metro Hotel, a friendly guesthouse with some rooms looking out over the waves.

Buses connect Tapaktuan with Banda Aceh and Medan, and NBA has two flights a week from Medan.

Pulau Banyak

Pulau Banyak

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If you’ve ever dreamt about having a tropical island entirely to yourself, complete with palm trees, powdery white beaches and gin-clear waters, the Banyak Islands are a great place to fulfil your Robinson Crusoe fantasy. A cluster of 99 mostly uninhabited islands, the Banyak (Many) Islands are situated about 30km west of Singkil. Remote they might be, but they are now very much on the radar of surfers and, slowly, slowly an increasing number of paradise-seeking travellers. As well as having arguably the finest beaches in Sumatra and a handful of quality surf spots, the Banyaks has some great opportunities for snorkelling (and maybe one day the dive operators will move in).

The 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, followed by the 2005 Nias quake, destroyed many coastal dwellings and contaminated freshwater wells. The main town on the island of Pulau Balai was permanently see-sawed by the quake, causing the west coast to rise by about 70cm and the east coast to drop below sea level. The once-beautiful beaches that surrounded the town were permanently washed away, hence most visitors only hang around to arrange transport to one of the other islands not so lacking in the sand department.

Haloban on Pulau Tuangku is the other main village on the islands, which many visitors actually prefer over Balai.

Singkil

Singkil

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Singkil is a remote port at the mouth of Sungai Alas. It’s a sleepy town with welcoming locals, although it merits a mention only as the departure point for boats to the Banyak Islands and Pulau Simeulue. Unusually for Indonesia, Singkil is very spread out and has no real centre. Facilities are extremely limited; there is a BRI Bank with an ATM but it only accepts Mastercard – come prepared!

Catching a boat will probably mean spending a night in Singkil, with Hotel Dina Amalia the best option. The manager speaks a little English. You can also find basic losmen. Your first point of contact in Singkil should be Mr Darmawan of Louser Group, who can organise any and all forms of onward transport, including speed boats to the Banyaks and minibuses and private cars to almost anywhere. In fact we give him the Stranded Traveller Guardian Angel award for saving our skin!

NBA has two flights a week from Medan.

There are daily minibuses from Medan to Singkil (1100,000Rp, nine hours), from Sibolga (100,000Rp, six hours) and from Banda Aceh (225,000Rp, 15 hours). If you’re travelling from Berastagi or Danau Toba take the Medan bus, and for Tapaktuan jump on the Banda Aceh bus.

There’s one overnight ferry per week (Wednesday) to Gunung Sitoli on Pulau Nias (tickets from 50,000Rp, five hours) at 10pm. Ferries also head to Sinabang on Pulau Simeulue (28,000Rp to 68,000Rp, 11 hours) at 8pm on Fridays and Sundays, returning on Satursdays and Mondays.

Iboih

Iboih

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More spread out than Gapang, Iboih (ee-boh) follows a rocky headland with a string of simple bungalows along a woodsy footpath. A small path leads through a stone gateway past the village well, and up and over a small hill to the bungalow strip.

Opposite Iboih, 100m offshore, is Pulau Rubiah, a densely forested island surrounded by spectacular coral reefs known as the Sea Garden. It is a favourite snorkelling and diving spot. The coral has been destroyed in places but there is still plenty to see, including turtles, manta ray, lionfish, tigerfish and occasional sharks.

If you are a strong swimmer it is possible to make your own way there. Beware of strong currents, especially at the southern tip of the island.

Adjacent to the Sea Garden is the Iboih Forest nature reserve. It has some good walks, and coastal caves that can be explored by boat.

Gayo Highlands

Gayo Highlands

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The beautiful Gayo Highlands deep in the interior of Aceh are ripe for off-the-path picking. This is coffee country, cool and mountainous with spectacular vistas drifting in and out of focus between cool morning mists. The road between Takengon and Blangkejeran, the main towns of the Gayo Highlands, is astoundingly picturesque (and yeah, OK, astoundingly slow!) and can be used as an alternative route to or from Berastagi.

The Gayo people, who number about 250,000, lived an isolated existence until the advent of modern roads and transport. Like the neighbouring Acehnese, the Gayo are strict Muslims and were renowned for their fierce resistance to Dutch rule.

All up, if you’re looking to break away from the well-trodden Sumatran banana-pancake backpacker trail, this is the place to do it.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/gayo-highlands