Banda Aceh

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Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Sumatra Aceh Banda Aceh

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Introduction

Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh Special Region, the most northern province of Indonesia. Most foreign visitors use Banda Aceh only as a lay-over on their way to Sabang (Weh island), a favourite diving and snorkeling destination. But for those interested in history and culture a few days spent in Banda Aceh are well spent. The sultanate Aceh has absorbed cultural influences from China, India, the Middle East and Europe, but always fiercely resisted foreigners who tried to subjugate it. The narrative of this is preserved in the State Museum, in traditional architecture, in graveyards and remnants of fortifications. The city and neighbouring low-lying villages were hard hit by the 2004 ‘Christmas’ tsunami. Mementos to the disaster are to be found all over town, but it is also impressive how well Banda Aceh has recovered, with international aid well spent. Not far out of town there are opportunities for eco-tourism and beach recreation.
Banda Aceh’s Tourism Department (Dinas Pariwisata Kota Banda Aceh) is located at Jalan Sultan Iskandar Muda No. 4, Ulee Lheue (facing Ulee Lheue mass grave). The address of the Provincial Tourism Department (Dinas Pariwisata Aceh) is Jalan Tgk Chik Kuta Karang #3 (on walking distance of the downtown hotels Medan and Sulthan International).

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Sights and Activities

Historic sites

Grand Mosque Minaret

Grand Mosque Minaret

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  • Baiturrahman Grand Mosque - Of course there are many mosques in Banda Aceh, but the Mesjid Baiturrahman or Grand Mosque is the paramount landmark. If you want to see the interior, make sure you are dressed properly. There has been a mosque at this site since the 12th century, but it was destroyed several times by fire. In 1873 the Dutch invaders set fire to the newly rebuilt mosque, during the first expedition of the Aceh War. The colonial government then had a new mosque built in the same place, designed by an Italian architect in Moghul style. His design was completed in 1881. Subsequently the mosque has been enlarged several times. It now counts seven onion-shaped domes and four small minarets. One tall minaret stands at some distance, in front of the entrance gate, and is flood-lighted at night. See the website for more on the mosque's history.
  • Aceh State Museum
  • Taman Ratu Shafiatuddin
  • Cut Nyak Dien house
The Gunongan

The Gunongan

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  • Taman Sari Gunongan - Taman Sari means Pleasure Garden and Gunongan means Artificial Mountain. The garden and the 'mountain' in it were constructed by order of Sultan Iskandar Muda (1607..1636) for the enjoyment of his queen Putroe Phang, a daughter of the Sultan of Johore. The 'mountain' is a queer brick and plaster construction in the form of a ten-sided polygon. Imagine the queen and her ladies-in-waiting climbing up and down the steep and narrow stairs. That should have cured her of homesickness for her mountainous land of birth! In our time newly-weds come here for a photo session. For what remains of the garden you have to cross a busy street. In the 17th century the garden was much larger, including ponds, waterfalls and five pavilions of various design (among them Chinese and Turkish). Part of the garden has become the Dutch Cemetery.
Dutch Cemetery

Dutch Cemetery

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  • Peucut Kerkhof (Dutch Cemetery) - The Dutch Cemetery or Peucut Kerkhof is well maintained. Which is remarkable as it is the exclusive resting place of the Dutch military who fell in the bloody Aceh War. Damage caused by by the December 2004 tsunami has been repaired as well as possible. A notice board at the entrance states that 50 new crosses represent those whose tomb or grave-mark was lost by the tsunami. The Netherlands declared war in 1873 and considered the war over by 1904, although some pockets of resistance held out until 1913. The walls flanking the entrance gate list over 2200 names of those fallen in battle or succumbed to disease. Prominent facing the gate is the monument of the commander of the first expedition against Aceh, major-general J.H.R. Köhler, who was killed in the first week of that expedition.
  • Indra Patra Fort - Along the road east of Banda Aceh leading to Malahayati Harbour there are three historic sites which testify to the heroic struggle of the Acehnese against foreign invaders. The first of these is the Indra Patra Fort (Benteng Indra Patra), part of a defence system that consisted of three forts at different compass directions from town. It is constructed of limestone rock and consists of two parts. In one part were the barracks housing the soldiers. Within the walled yard there are two covered wells still containing clear water. The other part, closer to the sea, evidently held the cannons to attack enemy ships. It has embrasures in the seaward walls and a thick-walled and thick-roofed shed which must have been the ammunition store. Some restaration work has been done by the Aceh government.
  • Malahayati Grave- About 32 kilometres east of town along Malahayati Road, on a hill overlooking Malahayati Harbour she lies buried, admiral Keumala Hayati. The story of her life proves that a public role of women is fully in line with islamic teaching, at least in Aceh. She served as chief of the Royal Secret Intelligence Department and the Royal Protocol during the reign of Sultan Saidil Mukamil Alauddin Riayat Syah (1588-1604 A.D.). She enlisted widows whose husbands had died fighting the Portuguese in the Royal acehnese Navy. In 1599, as commander of the navy, she captured two Dutch vessels, De Leeuw and De Leeuwin. Dutch captain Cornelis de Houtman lost his life and his brother Frederick Houtman spent two years in Aceh captivity. In 1602 she received Sir James Lancaster, an emissary of Queen Elizabeth I.
The Fortress of the Widows

The Fortress of the Widows

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  • The Fortress of the Widows - A few kilometres north of Malahayati Harbour, on a steep cliff, are the remains of a fort, Benteng Inong Balee. The name means ‘Fortress of the Widows’. It is here that admiral Keumala Hayati garrisoned as many as 2,000 female warriors. The remaining fortifications consist of nothing more than a few low walls of limestone rocks with embrasures in it for discharging cannons at enemy ships. Knurled trees grow on the wall and over the embrasures. At the foot of the 10 metre cliff there is a sandy beach. When the place is deserted (as usual) here women can swim without the compulsory islamic dress. Plans to build a hotel near the site seem not to have materialized as yet - fortunately!

Tsunami landmarks

Alue Deah Teungah Escape Building

Alue Deah Teungah Escape Building

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  • Escape Buildings - On the hard hit coastal plain near Ulee Lheue, also referred to as “tsunami ground zero”, at least four Escape Buildings have been built. These are essentially strong multi-storey buildings with easy access through ramps and stairs. In case of a tsunami threat people living in the neighbourhood can seek safety on one of the higher floors. For that purpose two of these floors contain a kitchen and sanitary facilities. Three buildings are almost identical, and were donated by Japan. The fourth one is combined with the Tsunami & Disaster Mitigation Research Centre. In the absence of an emergency the buildings are designated as Community Buildings, anyone can walk in and out. When visiting walk up to the top floor, where helicopters can land, for a grand view of Banda Aceh.
  • Tsunami Museum - The Tsunami Museum was officially opened in February 2009. It is located next to the Dutch Cemetery or Kerkhof. The building was designed by local architect Ridwan Kamil and inspired by Acehnese architecture. It can also serve as an escape building in case another tsunami strikes. The museum is meant to function as a research and educational centre on earthquake and tsunami hazards.
The Boat on a House

The Boat on a House

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  • The Boat on a House - The tsunami moved a 25 metre wooden fishing boat one kilometre inland from where it lay moored and left it on top of a house. It is now among the must-see attractions of Banda Aceh, located in Gampong Lampulo on the right bank of Aceh River. Actually the house beneath the boat has been reinforced for fear it might crumble under the weight of the boat.
  • The Floating Power Station - Banda Aceh used to have a floating power station, on a pontoon moored offshore. The tsunami carried the 2,600 ton vessel a couple of miles inland, where it is now the centre of the Taman Edukasi Tsunami (Tsunami Educational Park). An exhibition in the park shows some gruesome pictures of the devastation by the tsunami.
Lampuuk Mosque Damage

Lampuuk Mosque Damage

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  • Lampuuk Mosque - Lampuuk is a village on Aceh’s west coast ten kilometres from Banda Aceh. The low-lying village suffered the full force of the tsunami, not a house was left standing. The only building that not collapsed was the mosque, though it suffered severe damage. The mosque and the village were rebuilt with aid from Turkish Red Crescent. The mosque, which used to stand in the village centre is now the most western building, as the new housing has been built more inland. In the interior of the mosque a corner has been left as it appeared after the tsunami. Villagers point to the sickle moon and star on top, which stands a bit askew due to the force of the waves that went over the mosque.
Porch to Chinese-Indonesian Friendship Village

Porch to Chinese-Indonesian Friendship Village

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  • Chinese-Indonesian Friendship Village - The Chinese had a different approach to rebuilding Banda Aceh. They constructed a new housing complex high on a barren hillside beyond the reach of any tsunami. The Chinese-Indonesian Friendship Village is neatly laid out complete with roads, electricity and water supply. The only problem may be that it is far from where people used to make a living. Located at 15 kilometres east of town along Malahayati road.

Ecotourism

  • Lhok Mata-Ie Bay
  • Ujong Pancu Nature Tourism
  • Lampuuk Beach

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Getting There

By Plane

Sultan Iskandarmuda Airport (BTJ) offers flights to/from Jakarta, Penang, Medan, Kuala Lumpur, Blang Pidie, Meulaboh, Simelue, Takengon and Tapaktuan.

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Getting Around

By Car

If you would go exploring out of town, cars are for hire with or without driver, for similar prices as on Java.

By Public Transport

For local transport there are taxis and motorized becak's, the latter originally donated by an NGO to men left jobless by the tsunami. Fares are comparable to those current on Java.

By Foot

These attractions are in walking distance from each other: the Tsunami Museum, the Dutch Cemetery and Taman Sari Gunongan. If you stay at a hotel on or near Ahmad Yani Street a motorized becak will take you to the cemetery in five minutes. Walking there may take 20 minutes, but in passing you can visit the Grand Mosque and the State Museum.

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Drink

Banda Aceh is famous for its coffee. Acehnese like to pass the time chatting with friends over a small coffee. A favourite hangout is Solong Coffee in Ulee Karang district, but there are warkop (warung kopi) all over town serving a small glass of strong Aceh coffee for about a quarter dollar. Chilled strong and sweet coffee is sold in Coca Cola bottles.

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Sleep

Budget

On Ahmad Yani Street there are three budget hotels in a row: Hotel Medan, Hotel Prapat, Hotel Wisata. It is a good location with restaurants, banks and the night food market on walking distance.

Medium

In the streets adjoining Ahmad Yani Street are located several medium priced hotels: Hotel 61, Hotel Sulthan, Hotel Arabia, Hotel Kyriad Muraya Aceh, Ayani Hotel Banda Aceh.

  • Joel's Bungalows - At the northern end of Lampuuk beach, where the beach abruptly ends at a cliff, Joel has rebuilt his restaurant and bungalows. Some bungalows are actually hanging on the cliff, offering great views. Surf-boards are for hire. This is the only accommodation on the beach, perfect for a few days of surfing.

View our map of accommodation in Banda Aceh or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is becoming more widely used in Indonesia, and warung Internet (warnet) - Internet cafés - are emerging everywhere. A lot of restaurants and cafés in big cities normally have wireless internet available for free. Internet connection speed in Indonesia varies between ISP and location. Prices vary considerably, and as usual you tend to get what you pay for, but you'll usually be looking at around Rp3,000 to Rp5,000 per hour with faster access than from your own mobile phone. In large cities, there are free WiFi hotspots in many shopping malls, McDonald restaurants, Starbucks cafes, 7 Eleven convenience stores, and in some restaurants and bars. Some hotels provide free hotspots in the lobby and/or in their restaurants and even in your rooms.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

You can use 112 as an emergency number through mobile phones. Other numbers include 110 (police), 113 (fire) and 118 (ambulance).
The international phone code is 62.

If you have GSM cellular phone, ask your local provider about "roaming agreement/facility" with local GSM operators in Indonesia (i.e.: PT Indosat, PT Telkomsel, PT XL Axiata). The cheapest way is buying a local SIM card, which would be much cheaper to call and especially use internet compared to your own cell phone's sim card.

The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competitive and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 10,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 300 a minute to some other countries using certain carriers (subject to the usual host of restrictions). SMS (text message) service is generally very cheap, with local SMS as low as Rp129-165, and international SMS for Rp400-600. Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones, and basic models start from Rp 150,000, with used ones being even cheaper.

Post

Pos Indonesia provides the postal service in Indonesia. Pos Indonesia is government-owned and offers services ranging from sending letters and packages to money transfers (usually to remote areas which have no bank branch/ATM nearby) and selling postcards and stamps. Sending a postcards, letter or parcel is relatively expensive, but fairly reliable. It takes several days at least to send it within Indonesia, at least a week internationally. It is recommended to send letters from a Pos Indonesia branch, not by putting it inside orange mailbox (called Bis Surat) in the roadside, because some of the mailboxes are in very bad condition and aren't checked regularly by Pos Indonesia. Opening times of post offices usually tend to follow general business hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm (sometimes shorter hours on Fridays), Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm, closed on Sundays. Bigger cities, tourist areas and central post offices tend to keep longer hours, into the evenings.

Private postal services based in Indonesia include CV Titipan Kilat (CV TIKI), Jalur Nugraha Ekaputra (JNE), Caraka, and RPX. There are also foreign postal services that have branches in Indonesia, including DHL, TNT, UPS, and FedEx.

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Accommodation in Banda Aceh

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Banda Aceh searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Banda Aceh and areas nearby.

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This is version 37. Last edited at 11:05 on Nov 14, 18 by Utrecht. 8 articles link to this page.

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