Aceh (pronounced Ah-chay) is a special territory (daerah istimewa) of Indonesia, located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. Its current official name is Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam; past spellings of its name include Acheh, Atjeh and Achin. Aceh was the closest point of land to the epicenter of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which triggered Tsunamis that devastated much of the western coast of the region, including the capital city of Banda Aceh. Over 170,000 persons were listed as dead or missing, with a further 500,000 plus being made homeless.
Aceh region has a strategic position as the gate of trading and cultural traffic, which has been connecting East and West since the past centuries. It is known as a transit place of Chinese, European, Indian and Arab merchants. This relationship made Aceh region as the first entrance of culture and religion into the Southeast-Asian archipelago.
Aceh is known for its political independence and fierce resistance to control by outsiders, including the former Dutch colonists and, until recently, the central government of Indonesia.
Aceh has substantial natural resources, including coal, oil and gas. Aceh’s main income earners are petroleum and natural gas, fertilizer, estate produce and agriculture.
Aceh is rich of events, attraction and unique cultures that it will fascinate anyone. Aceh is also rich in natural beauty, waves and sea garden which is suitable for diving. Some of most beautiful Aceh tourism and historical sites and beaches have been damaged by the massive earthquake and Dec ‘04 Tsunami.
The museum is filled with antiques. Among the exhibits is a big clock, a gift from the Emperor of China and brought to Aceh by the famed Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414. Museum Aceh - There is a museum in Banda Aceh located near the Governor’s residence. The main building of the Museum is a house built in a traditional style by the Dutch Governor Van Swart in 1914. The museum is filled with antiques and among the exhibits a big bell Cakra Donya a gift from the Emperor of China conveyed by Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414. On the bell can be found a Chinese script, Sing Fang Niat Toeng Juut Kat, no one knows what it really means.
Pinto Khop which are located at a few steps from the Pendopo are also charms of the city. Gunongan was erected around the 16th century during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda.
Kerkhof or Churchyard is a much visited site especially by Dutch visitors where the remains of more then 2,000 Dutch soldiers lie buried.
Cut Nyak Dhien House.
The house is a replica of the heroine Cut Nyak Dhien House, from the Aceh War. The house was burnt down by the colonial forces but a replica was built later. This house in Lam Pisang, about 6 kilometers from Banda Aceh, is now a museum.
Indra Patra Fortress.
This old fort was built during the time of Iskandar Muda. It probably functioned as a defense against invaders. (Damaged because of Tsunami)
Lhokseumawe is a town located 274 km from Banda Aceh which is now being developed as an industrial zone. Many gigantic plants are constructed following the discovery of huge LNG resources in the area. Touristic features of the town is a.o. Samudera Pasai. It was the first great Islamic kingdom of Indonesia. All that remains of it, however, is a graveyard 18 km east of the town. One of the graves belongs to Malikussaleh, as Samudera Pasai’s first king. Other objects for visitors are Blang Kolam Falls and Ujung Blang beach.
Takengon is a town located in the central area of Aceh. It is being promoted as a tourist resort since its temperature is about 2O degree C (68F), cool enough for a holiday resort. The main feature of the town is Lake Laut Tawar. It offers soaring cliffs around the shore which are ideal for rock hiking. The lake is also stocked with trout. It is a pleasantly cool holiday resort, at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level. Central Aceh is one of Sumatra’s foremost producers of high quality coffee. A warm water pool at Simpang Balik, Loyang Koro and Loyang Pukes caves by the side of Laut Tawar are also interesting objects.
The Leuser National Park of Gunung Leuser is probably the wildest in Indonesia, located in Southeast Aceh, can be reached from either Kutacane, or Takengon. This magnificent national park has a wealth of flora and fauna. The park also has research facilities for the study of primates, birds, insects, and other animals. Basic accommodation facilities are available at Ketambe. The rapids-infested Krueng Alas river inside the park is popular with rafters.
The Great of Baiturrahman Mosque is the main feature of Banda Aceh today. Lying at the heart of the city completed with excellent architectural style, this mosque is really one of Indonesia prime tourism sides. The Mosque was built around the 12 Century and had caught fire several time including when the Dutch attacked Kutaraja (Banda Aceh) in 1873. Another mosque to replace the former one was later built by Dutch Military Government that was completed in 1883. The Mosque is extra ordinary in architecture and ornamentation. It has five onion shaped domes, two tall minerattes, wide white walls, and around is pillars various kinds of beautiful ornament.
War Memorial of Kerkoff Peucut Kerkoff is the burial place of the Dutch soldiers who died in the Acehnese War. About 2,200 soldiers were buried in this graveyard including the General Kohler. Their names, where and when they died can seen at the gateway to the Kerkoff.
Gunongan is a man made miniature mountain built by Sultan Iskandar Muda 1608-1638 for his wife Putro Phang (From Malaysia). This building likely functioned as an important recreational peace located in the Taman Sari Park for the Queen and other royal family members to climb.It is quite enjoyable to visit this place during the late afternoon or sunset.
The Monument RI.001 Seulawah
The Monument was erected to commemorate the heroic donation of the Acehnese to the central Government of the Republic of Indonesia became independent in 1945, the Dutch intended to reoccupy the country. In the ensuring struggle in 1949, the Republic of Indonesia was badly in need of an airplane to open the blockade of the enemy as much area had been already fallen into their hands. Mr. Soekarno, the president of the Indonesia at that time. Urgently requested that people of Aceh to donate the money for an airplane. A Douglas DC-3 was bought shortly afterwards, and paid for with Acehnese Gold. This very early plane was the precursor of the Garuda Indonesia fleet, which nowadays is the biggest airline in Indonesia.
The Alas River, 165 km southeast from Takengon, cuts through the Gunung Leuser National Park. This area is especially popular among the young and adventurous. The sharp bends and many rapids are challenging to white-water rafters.
The Governor’s Residence
Built by the Dutch in 1880 on the spot where the palace of the sultan once stood. This building is known as one of the historical sites with a unique architecture and completed with traditional house equipments.
Lake Laut Tawar
Located near Takengon, in the highlands of Cental Aceh, is very scenic. It has soaring cliffs around the shore which are ideal for rock climbing. The lake is also stocked with trout. There are warm water pools at Simpang Balik. Many caves dot the lake’s surroundings, Loyang Koro and Loyang Pukes caves by the side of Lake Laut Tawar are interesting to explore. Motorboats can be hired for fishing and sightseeing.
Syiah Kuala Grave
Syiah Kuala grave is another pride of Banda Aceh, which is located about 3 km to the east. Syiah Kuala was one of Aceh’s great Moslem Ulama of the past. He had spent more than 15 years in Mecca for religious learning before he dedicated most of his life to science and society. He had written many books on Islam, social studies, and science. He also had a lot of student coming from Malaysia, West Sumatra and Java. (mostly destroyed because of Tsunami)
Ulee lheue is an old port where one can see many typical villages are surrounding area. There is also beach, which is visited regularly by local people early in the morning every Sunday morning. The beach is also popular for fishing on holiday. (mostly destroyed by Dec ‘04 Tsunami and over 85% of its population killed)
Blangrakal and Bule Shop
The official name is Blangrakal. The shop has three locations; Lamlagang, Peunayong and Beurawe. In Lamlagang, since it sells western food, the shop is more familiar with name of Bule Shop. The shops also sell fruit, vegetables, western food, etc. The good news is that they accept credit card.
Peunayong, The China Town of Acheh
Peunayong is also known as the Chinese town of Banda Aceh. This is also one of the most popular spots for street sellers and small restaurants. The area is crowded at night with the people who hunt for delicious local street food for dinner. Obviously, this area is famous for its good Chinese food.
You can also find souvenirs here. Most of the shops in Banda Aceh offer bags, sandals, clothes, key holders and wallets with local craft and embroidery. The shops also sell Rencong, an Acehnese traditional weapon.
The market is still a favourite among the locals. The market is located next to the Grand Mosque Baiturrahman. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and chicken are sold here. This spot is particularly famous spot for buying gold. Often, the local girls come here to buy cheap pashmina, a type of long woollen scarf to keep warm.
Taman Ratu Safiatudin
Taman Ratu Safiatudin, also known as Pekan Kebudayaan Aceh (PKA) is a traditional housing complex. One of the Acehnese house (a building opposite an entrance gate) sells Acehnese Batik, which is expansive but very beautiful. Other than that, the palace also sells sofa from natural fiber such as pandanus.
This is a newly open shop. A shop with a gallery concept, the shop has a nice collection of furniture and house accessories such as candles, aroma therapy and paintings. The beauty of it all is the shop has a personal service such as manicure, pedicure and reflexology. They are known to have a good natural body scrubs with selection of olive, peanut butter and dark chocolate.
Keuchik Leumik: Famous for Gold
The gold shop is situated in Pasar Aceh. They have good crafted gold for the traditional Acehnese door (Pintu Aceh) in the form of bracelet, ring and necklace. Credit cards are accepted here.
Try the many varieties of smoked, marinated, curried, and spiced fish, curried goat hearts, giant grilled shrimp, and spicy miniature snails in oil, which are a local favourite. Other specialty dishes in Aceh include mie kepiting, an Acehnese specialty of noodles with crab. For the sweet-tooths, don’t despair, during all meals, you will be plied with copious sweets made of rice, coconut, bananas, rambutan, mangosteen, and snake-skin fruit.
Warung kopi (coffee shop)
The well known area in Banda Aceh to sip the famous strong black Robusta coffee of Aceh is Ulee Kareng village. Stop by at one of typical coffee shop along Teuku Iskandar street (try the busy Jasa Ayah Solong) and experience not only the strong coffee, but also the hectic ambience of people chatting and serving. For more expensive coffee in air-conditioned room accompanied by cheese cake or the like, try Banda Aceh’s Caswell’s in Peunayong which is a sister of its Bali and Jakarta coffee shops.
Spicy Acehnese food has had a strong influence from India and can be distinguished from the famous Padang dishes as the latter use much more coconut milk in their preparation. ‘Ayam tangkap’ chicken dish is a must when you dine at Acehnese restaurants such as Aceh Rayeuk in Lueng Bata, Banda Aceh. Acehnese spicy noodles (crab noodle deliciously cooked at Mie Razali, Peunayong) is also worth trying.
Padang Food in Aceh
Across Indonesia, you can find the ready-to-eat curried dishes in restaurants dubbed ‘Restoran / rumah makan Padang,’ and Aceh is no exception. There is always a vast array of curried or spiced food to choose from: chicken, beef, squid, prawn, fish, eggs, veggies - even the organs such as cow brain or ‘gulai otak’ (often the signature dish of certain Padang restaurants). While in Banda Aceh try Rumah Makan Bundo or the much smaller Ragil just off the grand Mosque.
Chinese / Oriental Food in Aceh
There are a few restaurants in Banda Aceh, which typically have the word ‘kitchen’ in their names, and they invariably offer chinese food. Some examples are the Imperial Kitchen and Marina Kitchen. The food here is freshly cooked and selection usually includes stir-fry veggies, black-pepper beef, steam fish, sweet and sour prawn, etc.
Grilled Seafood at Simpang Mesra
Been to Bali and dined at Jimbaran beach? Well, the concept is similar but Simpang Mesra is more laid back and situated on the river bank rather than a beach. Nonetheless, the prawns here are guaranteed to be tastier and offer great value for money. The fresh grilled fish is also recommended. For a healthy natural drink, ask for tender coconut in the shell.
Italian Food in Aceh
Pace Bene at the back of Jl. Sri Ratu Safiatuddin serves good value Italian food with relaxed, romantic ambience. Famous among expatriates in Aceh.
Pulau Weh Restaurant Guide
On Gapang beach, there are at least four restaurants serving simple food of fried rice, fried noodles, sandwiches and pancakes. The restaurants open early in the morning till late in the evening. The tables are set on the beach facing the calm water and Sabang on the other tip of Pulau Weh. Don’t be surprised if locals usually take the freedom to join your table and start up a conversation. Just relax and enjoy your meal. The restaurant in the centre of Gapang beach is Zero Café. Breakfast here costs Rp. 25,000 - 40,000. Their fruit salad and sandwiches are worth trying.
Perdagangan Street in Sabang
Sabang offers plenty of small restaurants offering various kinds of menu from the Acehnese gulai kambing, Sumatran dishes, to seafood and Chinese food. Most of the restaurants are on Jalan Perdagangan. For coffee and light meals, try Aneka Ria, which serves grilled toasts with home-made jams and steamy black coffee. The restaurant opens from early morning to about 9pm. You can also order tasty fried rice or noodles from a seller in front of the restaurant.
Further north-west from Gapang beach, Iboih offers more a secluded corner, facing the famous Rubiah Island. On Iboih beach, there are a few small restaurants serving standard nasi campur (a plate of rice and a few side dishes), fried rice and noodles. Try Chill Out Lounge or Warung Hanum food stall for simpler dishes.
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