Pulau Weh, an untouched paradise with the most pristine of beaches and waters. I hope it remains untouched and retains all its authenticity. I hope the footprints of tourism tread lightly here.
Getting from Bukit Lawang was a journey in itself. We took a public bus from Bukit Lawang bus station to Binjai. How would I describe the public bus you ask? A death-trap. A rusty, bumpy, over-packed, cigarette-smoldering, hot death-trap. It is not for the faint hearted. It was a long and uncomfortable ride to Binjai but it sure was cost effective. As they say, you get what you pay for.
We were dropped off at the Binjai Sempati Star offices. When I say offices, I mean a desk under a tarp on the side of the road. It didn’t seem promising and our next leg of the journey was a 13 hour bus ride from Binjai to Banda Aceh. We purchased two bus tickets and hoped for the best while we waited for the bus to arrive. After a short time, the bus arrived and it was nothing short of luxurious to say the least. We were so happy. The difference between the public bus and the Sempati Star bus was night and day. We were seated on the top deck of a double decker bus. The chairs were big, comfortable and reclined back far enough to cradle our public-bus-beaten bodies. We had tv screens with a decent list of Hollywood movies. The air-con was crisp and we were provided with a pillow and a blanket to keep us warm during the night as we slept.
🚍Bukit Lawang to Pulau Weh: Firstly, many people said this route is not possible. We say hogwash! We did it. To get to Binjai from Bukit Lawang, take a tuk tuk (negotiate a small fee) from Bukit Lawang town to the bus stop located 1 km away. From the bus stop, take the public bus to Binjai and ask to be dropped off at Sempati Star. We paid IDR 25,000 but we definitely paid too much. I think you should be paying a maximum of IDR 15,000 for this trip. From Sempati Star offices, book a bus for around IDR 200,000 – 250,000 (depending on the bus and seat type) to Banda Aceh. When you arrive in Banda Aceh the following morning, take a taxi or tuk tuk to the ferry terminal (IDR 40,000 for the taxi). From the ferry terminal, take the fast boat (45min IDR 80,000) or slow boat (1h30m) to Pulau Weh. We stayed at Iboih beach and a seat in a shared taxi cost IDR 50,000 and takes about 1 hour to get there.
Now, very important to note. Banda Aceh and Pulau Weh follow Sharia law. You need to be very mindful of what attire is appropriate, especially in Banda Aceh.
🚹Men should wear long pants or shorts that cover the knees and a t-shirt or shirt. No tanktops and short shorts.
🚺Women should wear attire covering down to their wrists and ankles and up to their necks. No bikinis or hot pants.
On Pulau Weh, the rules for foreigners are relaxed. I wore tanktops and swimming shorts and Celeste usually wore a sarong and a tanktop. Be mindful of the signage at the beaches and public places. Most public beaches forbid swimwear.
🏢 Tip: We stayed at Pele’s Place for the duration of our stay. The bungalows all have aircon and are very comfortable and affordable. It is about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the bungalows down to Iboih beach. You can also rent scooters at the accommodation.
We didn’t have much free time to ourselves to explore during our stay on the island as we had signed ourselves up for our PADI Open Waters course. The course took 4 days to complete and included theory and practical (4 dives).
If you are planning on doing your diving course abroad, we highly recommend doing it through the Iboih Dive Centre. The instructors are great and the cost of the course is the best we have seen. It was much cheaper than doing it on the Thai islands.
On our last day on Pulau Weh, we had some free time to explore and relax. We were both aching for some beach time. We had heard rumors of a secret beach and decided to set off and find it. A short scooter ride through the island, we found what we believed to be the start of the pathway that would lead us down to the beach. As we descended down the jungle-seranaded path, we saw it. White sands. Crystal clear blue waters shimmering in our eyes. Not one other soul on the beach. We had just arrived on our own private paradise beach. The sand was as soft as powder and the water was warm yet still refreshing. The beach was lined with tall jungle flora. We both agreed that this was by far the most beautiful tropical beach we had ever been on.
After a month and 1 week of travelling through Indonesia, it was finally time to pack our bags and say goodbye. Pulau Weh was definitely the perfect place to end our Indonesia chapter. We came, we saw, we conquered. Thanks Indonesia. We hope our paths cross again.
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