May 11, 2023
Dodging the cyclone.. we left Port Blair early to avoid the storm. The captain did a great job of sailing north then turning to the east before heading back south. It was a bit of a bumpy ride (didn’t affect us at all) but we felt very little effect of the storm which remains a threat to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
This is our first port in Indonesia on this trip and a first for us to this location. Sabang is a city in Aceh province, Indonesia which consists of Weh Island and several smaller islands off the northern tip of Sumatra. It was added to our itinerary when Myanmar was removed. It has the smallest population of any city in Indonesia.
We saw that most of the ship sponsored tours were walking tours so we knew that we could also walk from the port. But it was close to 90 degrees and very humid, so when we got off the ship we spoke to a woman who would take us around for a reasonable price. I admit, I was partial to doing business with a woman. Her name was Rose, and her husband Yoko was our driver. She is a government worker who apparently took the day off to be a guide. Her English was pretty good.
Our ship was originally scheduled to stay here until 7 PM but that got changed to 4 PM. So one of the things we thought we could see was the Zero Km monument which is the starting point for Indonesia. Kind of like the Key West of Indonesia. Here is a photo of it. We didn’t go because it would have taken too long.
This is a beautiful, clean island with very friendly people. Everywhere we went, people smiled and waved. We stopped to see many beautiful landscapes and beaches.
We stopped at a resort that Rose said is very popular with tourists. We saw several people from our cruise there! The deluxe beach front accomodation is 475,000 Indonesian Rupiah which is about $32/day US.
The main religion here is Islam and Rose and Yoko are Muslims. There are also Buddhists and Christians here and the people live in harmony and have respect for all religions. We saw a lot of mosques but did not visit any.
Sabang is also famous by the nickname of the island of a thousand fortresses with many assets and historical relics in the Japanese and Colonial times that are still left. The Japanese occupied the island in 1942 and installed many bunkers, fortifications and gun emplacements. On April 19, 1944, the Japanese facilities were attacked by a combined Allied naval force. Sabang became a free port under Indonesia in 1963 and gained city status in 1965. It was declared a free trade zone in 2000 and saw a rapid growth in shipping and trade.
We stopped for Indonesian coffee and Yoko bought us a kind of rice cake called pulut which was delicious dipped in the strong coffee.
The view from here was also stunning.
The large lake is beautiful but Rose said that no one swims there because it is very deep! The town’s water all comes from this lake.
We saw many cows, goats and a few monkeys during our drive around the island. They are often right in the road.
We mentioned to Rose that we wanted to buy bananas. She stopped at one market and we got out, but she didn’t like the bananas there so we went to another market. There, this vendor wanted to sell me all of the bunches of bananas for $5. We settled on just one bunch. Norm said they are different from our bananas at home but very good.
We were intrigued by the living fences here. Rose didn’t quite understand that I was asking for the name of the tree. These living fences were seen throughout our drive. I am not sure if they are planted as young trees of if they are somehow harvested and replanted to form the fences. Either way it is interesting and not something I have seen before.
I got Rose’s contact information in case we come back here or if any of our friends do. We had a great day with Rose and Yoko exploring Sabang.