Of the six days we’ve spent on this first-ever Circumnavigation of Sumatra expedition thus far, it’s extremely challenging to choose a favorite. However, being a glutton for variety, I must choose Monday: Banda Aceh, Sumatra.
We traveled to the city by Zodiac, a dry landing—what a way to travel! Once ashore we were greeted with a beautiful welcome ceremony involving a traditional Indonesian dance performance and speech from the Mayor welcoming us to her city. We then transferred to the Museum Government House complex where more dancers awaited us. Their clothing is so spectacular; the colors and detail are a total work of art. Two women stood at the gateway to the ceremony with gigantic flower headdresses on. One of the crowns had to be five feet wide and looked quite heavy on her head. The dancing at this ceremony was the most spectacular so far. The women with their lovely, intricate, and graceful routines and the young men performing their raucous, snapping-clapping-stomping dances! One of our Indonesian guides told me to watch closely when they took the stage, “This is the cool one,” she exclaimed.
I decided to stroll away from the dancing and to enjoy a bit of my favorite hobby: shopping—now I was really in my element! Hand-painted textiles and clothing (painted on the spot), homemade sweets and baked goods, henna tattoos, jewelry, crafts, and purses.
We then headed to the PLTD Apung Monument where a large electrical generator ship had been tossed a few miles inland during the 2004 tsunami. We were able to climb aboard the vessel, which offered a spectacular view of Banda Aceh from the top. The Tsunami Education Park was built around the ship with a playground as well as before and after images of the tsunami damage—what a touching experience. We ended the event by visiting a mass grave dedicated to those who died in the tsunami; the site was at the remains of a hospital that was only one-year-old when it was destroyed.
Wow, did that Zodiac ride back to the Clipper Odyssey feel refreshing after such a HOT day in Banda Aceh. After a delicious lunch on deck, we were told that a fantastic snorkel spot had been located, as well as the option of a beach walk for the botanists and birders. We did a drift snorkel because the current was fairly strong, but it was no problem for the Zegrahm staff. I’ve never seen such a well-orchestrated operation! Not to mention the underwater sights we saw; table coral as far as the eye could see and even more beautiful fish. This was a first for me—snorkeling and having experts right there to identify the coral and fish I was seeing. The water was just the right temperature and I was having so much fun that I literally had to be dragged out to head back to the ship.
Our nightly recap reminded us of everything we’d seen that day and I learned even more names of fish and flowers I’d seen that afternoon. After an amazing dinner, as usual, I headed to bed and was out by 9:30. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to bed so early and slept this soundly!
Zodiac rides, traditional Indonesian dance performances, museum visits, magnificent shopping, snorkeling off of a remote island, and mouth-watering cuisine. Ahhh... I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store.