Wednesday 25 June 2014

Pulau Weh 21-27.6

Pulau Weh is said to be the best place to dive in the northern Sumatra. Excited to get to dive again we arrived on the Weh island by a public ferry, which took two hours from the Uleh Uleh harbour in Banda Aceh. These couple of hours felt like forever listening to bad techno in the dirty seats of the hot and humid ship. Again we were attacked by locals in the port but we managed to get a cheap taxi to our hotel Lumba Lumba diving resort in Gapang beach. Our room was nice with a small kitchen and a spacious terrace. The only thing missing was aircon. Over the next days we (actually only Rosanna) did get used to sleeping with a fan but we still prefer aircon ;) The houses we stayed in were situated on a hill and surrounded by a wonderful garden, which had lots of creatures crawling in its bushes :)

Pulau Weh is a very green and luscious island with two small beach villages, Gapang and Iboih, and a larger town Sabang. On our first day we already spotted monkeys in the trees close to Gapang beach and over the next days we saw lizards, crabs, snakes, frogs, bats and geckos. One day also a wild boar ran by our terrace, quite random! Gapang beach had lots of street cats and two dogs, Brownie and Meshi who were lucky to have Christian owners. Pulau Weh is mostly inhabited by muslims who think that dogs and particularly their saliva is dirty or prohibited so they aren't really allowed to touch dogs. The local kids did always run away if one the dogs approached them. Many of the cats had cute kittens, who came to play on our terrace a couple of times and even stayed for a well-deserved nap after all that wrestling.

We dove two times in Pulau Weh, each dive costing us 45€ per person. Not very expensive. Our instructor Ron was an experienced fellow who taught us many things we hadn't learnt in Manta dive during our Open Water course. On our first dive, which was an adventure drift dive, we saw two Devil rays! Drift dive is meant to familiarise you with diving in currents. The second dive we did was also an adventure dive, this time a peak performance buoyancy. In peak performance dive you practise getting neutrally buoyant and do some skills like hovering. This dive was done on our house reef in Gapang beach where we mostly saw fish, such as bufferfish, boxfish, angelfish, parrotfish, lionfish, cowfish, stonefish and many more.

Of course all this diving makes you hungry as a bear! Unfortunately the food wasn't really the strong suit of Pulau Weh... The "restaurants" on the beach were houses where the owners lived in, so when you went to order, you stepped in their living room and wrote your orders on piece of paper (because English wasn't spoken almost in any of the restaurants) and took that to the kitchen :D The food was average at its best. Watermelon juice had the seeds of the watermelon in it and chocolate milkshake was milk+chocolate syrup+ice cubes. Since the restaurants weren't really restaurants they also made you wait for your food at least 30 min, not depending on if you ordered scrambled eggs or a chicken curry, and hardly any compliments were exchanged between the customers and the owners. If we thanked for our food, the normal response was silence, sometimes a "yeah" and rarely "sama sama" which means "your welcome". Serviettes were replaced by toilet paper and cutlery was held in mugs on the tables. In most of the restaurants customers could have tabs during their stay and pay them off when they were leaving.

We felt a bit more welcome in the Barracuda restaurant whose owners, a couple with a young daughter called Rishma, spoke quite good English. We ate most of our meals there and also rented a scooter from them. Rishma was very intrigued of Yatzy as we played it when waiting for our meals and joined us. The owners also made greek yoghurt by themselves which was delicious. That with fresh fruits was our everyday breakfast on Weh island.

The best food we ate was in the only real restaurant of the island, an italian place a scooter ride way from Iboih beach. They had delicious tiramisu and home made tagliatelle (again we ate all our food before remembering that we had the camera with us). They also served beer for Oliver, yeyy!

Our own beach Gapang was relatively small and quiet. There were some westerns staying in Lumba Lumba and some other places along the beach but we still got to know all the faces during our stay.

In addition to diving we drove with a scooter around the island and visited a waterfall quite close to Gapang beach. We turned two times wrong from the crossings while searching for the waterfall and were almost about to give up the search when finally we found the right road leading to the waterfall. After trekking up the river and arriving to the sadly small waterfall, we cursed the missing road signs of Pulau Weh once again and felt like the journey hadn't been worth it. 

The first time we went to Iboih beach, which was a lot busier with locals than our own beach Gapang, we got told off by a local man because Rosanna was only wearing a bikini on the beach... The guy directed us to a smaller beach right next to Iboih beach, where Westerns were allowed to sunbath. We couldn't help but to feel embarrassed and wished that somebody would have told us that on days when there are many locals on the beach, wearing bikinis is not really allowed. For us it was also amusing that locals didn't seem to know how to swim because they always wore life jackets while snorkeling. We snorkeled on Iboih as well, since the water was clear blue and it was easy to swim to the reef right next to the beach.

Our feelings of Pulau Weh were a bit mixed. We enjoyed our stay in Lumba Lumba because of the room but didn't enjoy eating at Gapang beach. We had fun on our first dive but the next one was a bit of a disappointment. Still the strict muslim customs were a bit disturbing and locals were eyeballing us wherever we went. Luckily we left Weh island a day before Ramadan started, because during it most of the restaurants are closed and you are expected to behave even more respectfully towards the local religion so it might have been so that Rosanna would have had to cover up more. But anyway, we might go back to Pulau Weh some day for the diving and the beaches but definitely not for the food ;)

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