The ferry from Banda Ache to Pulau Weh was a pretty decent one. Tickets were just a few dollars and there weren’t too many other people, so we had a whole row to ourselves for the short trip. Behind us was a Belgian couple that we had met at Tangkahan. They were roughly our age and on their honeymoon. We were friendly with them at the elephant camp and even suggested that they change their itinerary to include Pulau Weh instead of Lake Toba. We preached to them the greatness of Malaysia, especially Penang and by the time we parted (they had take moto-taxis from Bukit Lawang and back just for the elephant washing) they told us that we had basically changed the itinerary of the last week of their trip. That’s how they came to be sitting behind us on the ferry to Pulau Weh. We were glad to see them again- they were our age and seemed pretty laid back and we hadn’t really befriended all that may fellow travelers. We were even comparing schedules and realizing that we had the same plans and were thinking of staying in the same hotel. We might have spent the net three or four days with them until they came out with some casual homophobia. We’re not rabid liberals or anything (we are liberals, but we’re liberal about that, too), and I don’t fault somebody for having their own point of view, but we do get pretty flustered when confronted with easy hate (see our experiences with casual racism in Louisiana). The guy made a comment about him not being comfortable with having an openly gay Prime Minister (they do in Belgium) and that about killed the kindling relationship we had. We made up some errands to take care of and then slipped away into another taxi to another hotel.
Crystal clear water? Check. Powdery golden sand? Check? Full waterproof burka? Yep, it’s a Muslim beach. A sign is posted asking women to refrain from wearing bathing suits in the water. Jeans and long sleeved t-shirts are de rigueur. Luckily, we had a private swimming spot right in front of our room for swimming in sin!
Our four days in Pulau Weh are amongst the most memorable of the whole trip. Not only did we have a waterfront room (like ON the water) for $10 per night, but the food was some of the best we’d had in Indonesia (we ate Western food half the time and local food the other half) and the snorkeling from right under our balcony yielded coral, anemones, schools of tropical fish, octopi, and even a sunken boat! We spent our time eating, reading, hammocking, snorkeling, and diving. We did two dives and would have loved to have done more since they were the most affordable, most fun, and most interesting dives we’ve done on this trip. No question, we would have stayed a few more days and let our wallets slowly bleed out on daily dives and homemade garlic bread, but we had mere days left on our already extended visas and a pair of plane tickets to Kuala Lumpur.
Oh, that old shack? NBD, it’s just our $10/ night waterfront room.
We still hadn’t exactly settled on our next stop, but all signs were pointing towards Myanmar, particularly after we met yet another traveler who had gone there and told us it was a highlight of his several months-long trip. We’d have to get visas in KL before we could buy tickets, but we were all but decided to go. In the meantime, we’d have the better part of a week in Malaysia to see the places we hadn’t gotten to the first time around and eat some of that fabulous Malaysian/Indian/Chinese food that we have been dreaming about since we left.
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