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"Banda Aceh recovered from the tsunami" Top 5 Page for this destination Banda Aceh by theo1006

Banda Aceh Travel Guide: 130 reviews and 316 photos

Capital of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province

Aceh is the most northern province on the island Sumatra. The Acehnese are a fiercely independent people. They have fought the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Japanese and the Indonesians who sought to impose their government on them. Their revolt against the Jakarta government only ended with the Memory of Understanding brokered by Finland, after the Indonesian army had been discredited by their response to the 2004 tsunami.

Aceh remains a province within the Indonesian state, but with far-reaching autonomy. Unlike elsewhere in Indonesia with its 90% Muslim population, syaria is the law for Muslims in the province which is now officially named Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. And 70% of the oil and gas revenues now remains to be spent by the provincial government. Indeed it was the oil which incited the Dutch to subdue the rebellious sultanate in the East India archipelago late in the 19th century, and which led the Jakarta government to ignore the 'special district' status Aceh had obtained in 1959.

We made the trip to Banda Aceh to see how the town has recovered after the tsunami. The amount of rebuilding that has been achieved in five years and still is going on, is impressive. Many survivors we met told how they had lost all or most of their family. “But I have married again”, life goes on.

Syaria law for muslims only

Although syaria law is imposed on Muslims and Muslim women wear a head-scarf, Aceh is nothing like the middle east. The people are very friendly and tolerant. Acehnese acknowledge to be a mixed lot: 'The acronym ACEH stands for: Arabia, China, Europe and Hindia.'

Banda Aceh has churches and Buddhist temples, non-muslim women can show their hair. 'Muslim dress' is only compulsory when entering a mosque - as indeed Bali has its dress requirements when one enters a temple. Of course it is wise for foreign women to heed sensitivities and not dress 'tempting'. But in our hotel we saw several Chinese girls from Medan dressed in shorts and sleeveless blouses as they would at home.

When going to the beach near Banda Aceh, a woman cannot wear a bikini. Well, you can if you are sure there is no one around. Better bring swimming apparel with sleeves at least to the elbows and shorts to the knees. You may be bathing together with fully dressed Acehnese girls, including their head-scarf!

At the island Weh the rules are less strict. There we saw this curious notice at the Gapang Resort: “It is strictly forbidden for couples to spend the night in one room who are not husband and wife / have no marriage certificate (and are not muhrim). Trespassers will be punished by the Syaria Department of Sabang town. This appeal has to be obeyed by all Muslims. It does not apply to non-muslims.

Banda Aceh tourism

Most foreign visitors use Banda Aceh only as a lay-over on their way to Sabang (pulau Weh), a favourite diving and snorkeling destination. As we take an interest in history and culture, we spent a week in Banda Aceh and environment. The BA government of course is keen on promoting tourism as a means to put the economy back on its feet. The Tourism Authority has some folders and booklets available with the imprint 'visit Indonesia 2010' and 'visit Banda Aceh 2011'.

Accommodation there is more than enough for the present trickle of guests. There seems to be one 4-star hotel (Hermes Palace) and one 3-star hotel (Grand Nanggroe), but we did not seek them out as they are above our preferred budget (from USD 71 and USD 50 resp.) and located some distance south from the city centre. In the centre there are at least seven medium class hotels at walking distance from each other, of which we found Hotel Medan the best value for money.

For local transport there are taxis and motorized becak's, the latter donated to the owners by a NGO. Fares depend on distance, a taxi from the airport to town costs Rp 70,000. We asked a taxi driver about hiring a motor bike and he rented us his own (Rp 130,000 a day).
(Quoted prices for January 2011.)

  • Last visit to Banda Aceh: Dec 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (28)

Comments (3)

  • DaHongHua's Profile Photo
    Jul 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Hi Theo, your Banda Aceh pages are very informative. AirAsia fly from Penang to Banda Aceh that ease me a lot and make me feel I want to travel there. How many days you spend your holiday in BA ? and How much have you spend $$$ ? Just for reference.

  • planxty's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Theo and Helen, this is an excellent page on a place I have long wanted to visit. Very interesting, especially the legacy of the tsunami. Keep up the good work, fergy.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2011 at 4:18 AM

    Very interstign to see the long term effects of the disaster on this area.


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