Why do so few tourists visit Aceh?
Replies: 28 - Last Post: Nov 2, 2012 8:07 AM Last Post By: acehexplorer
Oct 25, 2012 10:13 AM
Why do so few tourists visit Aceh?I've just returned from yet another wonderful visit to the Indonesian Special Province of Aceh and thought I would ask the forum why so few tourists visit this province.
There must be a reason, or several reasons, why.
Here are some of my thoughts:
Maybe it's because some of the guide books miss Aceh out completely, a legacy of the independence conflict that led to the province being closed to tourists for a while.
Maybe it's because of those reports that appear from time to time in publications like the Daily Mail, that talk about the police beating women for wearing trousers, or rounding up spiky-haired young men for re-education. I've no idea if there is any truth to these stories, but by experiences with the police in Aceh have all been extremely favourable. Mostly they want to buy you a coffee and offer you cigarettes.
Maybe it's because of the supposed implementation of Sharia law, but I haven't seen any evidence of Sharia law in Aceh, and anyway, non-Muslims are exempt!
Maybe it's because the guides in places like Bukit Lawang bad-mouth Aceh in order to persuade their clients to book tours in BL, rather that going to the vastly superior forest near Ketambe or Kedah.
Or maybe there are other reasons.
I'd love to know why YOU haven't included Aceh in your schedule. Or if you have, I'd like to hear what you liked about Aceh the most.
Oct 25, 2012 2:22 PM
1I'd say its a combination of the Sharia law thing with the distance from the most popular parts of Indonesia (Bali,the Gilis and Lombok).
Maybe the after effects of the tsunami,earthquakes as well.
Aceh has the reputation of being hard to get to,dangerous and religiously fundamental
.Not a good combination......
Oct 25, 2012 5:12 PM
2The reports not only appeared in the Daily Mail. they appeared in the Indonesian press too and on television. But just as one swallow does not make a spring, (or is it summer?) I am sure Aceh is far from being a Saudi Arabia in the SE of A. One day I will get there as, with so few tourists as you point out, it must have a lot to offer in terms of genuine interaction with the locals.
Oct 25, 2012 6:34 PM
3sure the Sharia law has alot to do with it and also the remoteness of the place itself
and while for westerners there is usually not too much discomfort travelling here (besides the fact that alcohol is not widely available and actually forbidden)for indonesians or westerners married with indonesians its much more uncomfortable travelling here because of sharia law....and since there are ss any other places...they just choose to go elsewhere
and yes sadly there is thruth in the stories u heard
Oct 25, 2012 7:05 PM
4as you say merantau - Aceh is a far cry from Saudi Arabia. My first two visits to Sumatra were spent in Banda Aceh and the surrounding areas. I've been to several countries in the Middle East and I suppose I was expecting some of the "same" in Banda Aceh.
What a surprise I had during my first month long visit - friendly people, always ready to help and always with a smile. Day trips and overnight stays to areas like Calang; P Nasi and P Weh made the vacation as good as any other vacation, no; the best one ever!!!!
Driving a motorbike around the city drew some stares during that stay, there were a number of Int'l NGO's still around at this time, but I didn't see any foreigners for a whole month of my stay (except during the 2 night stay in P.Weh).
I was pulled over by the police on two occasions; had I caused a problem? - no, they just wanted to talk to me and when they discovered I was ex-Police I was their best friends lol.
The best thing to happen to Banda Aceh for tourism is the opening of a VOA desk at the airport - I speak to many people who have visited BA because of that reason alone - easier access. Most of them loved being there, whether it was a night of transit before P Weh or a couple of nights stay before moving on.
Travellers who decide not to go there due to historical problems need to do some more research I think, yeah , there is still some problems, but none that should affect a tourist - I was last there Jan this year - pre-election. The shootings of Javanese as a deterrant to vote for a certain candidate was horrible to hear of and even worse, it was horrible to hear gun shots across the quietness of the nightime air....... maybe these continuing problems cause travellers to think again before heading there!!
For me, my numerous visits to BA have been amazing - meeting the wonderful and friendly people of BA; sitting on the roadside watching football at 2am, on someone's TV which has been rolled out onto the street.... just amazing and friendly........ doing a road trip with newly founded friends.... all too good to be true but the people of BA just make it happen so easily.
Edited by: dc1
Oct 25, 2012 8:24 PM
5"Aceh has the reputation of being hard to get to,dangerous and religiously fundamental."
I can only speak about two of Aceh's seventeen-or-so regions, Aceh Tenggara and Gayo Lues, but both are easy to reach from Medan, extremely safe and religiously tolerant.
Alcohol is a it more expensive than elsewhere in Indonesia but it's not hard to find if you are looking. But why would you bother? There's so much else to do!
Oct 25, 2012 10:31 PM
Oct 25, 2012 10:36 PM
7There is also more competition these days.....both within Indonesia (I'd say Flores sees 10 times more tourists now than a few years ago for example) and outside the country...places like Thailand Laos,Vietnam and Myanmar have become far more popular,with the same attractions and the same type of atmosphere that you can (could) find in Sumatra.
Personally it doesn't bother me.The fewer tourists,the better.Not good for the local people though........
Oct 25, 2012 11:09 PM
Oct 25, 2012 11:28 PM
9The religious fundamentalism part doesn't bother me either...I've been to Iran,Pakistan,the USA etc.
Some people find that stuff very off-putting though,even if it doesn't really affect foreign visitors much.....
Oct 26, 2012 1:04 AM
10I answer the question: "I'd love to know why YOU haven't included Aceh in your schedule".
Two main reasons plus another (less important) one.
I can travel only in August (as many other Europeans).
August is dry season in most of Indonesia, wet season in northern Sumatra.
There are so many things to see in Java, Bali, Lombok, Flores, etc., that I don't need getting wet.
I often travel in very sismic regions.
I have been twice in Istambul and Turkey. Now I am just back from Peru and I am planning a travel to Java.
However, Aceh is too much sismic for me.
Furthermore thing are worsening for me. In May 2012 I experienced a 6.0 earthquake (also very superficial amd thus much more powerful than a "common" 6.0) very near and I am now more worried than I was before.
3) (less important) Sharia.
I often travel in muslim countries (Morocco, Turkey, Malaysia), but the more the country is fundamentalist the most unconfortable I feel.
Oct 26, 2012 1:56 AM
11Lucapal totally agree that the religious fundametalism part is not an issue or discomfort for most westerners,been there 2 x by myself before,loved it,incredibly friendly people and travelled in pretty much every country in the middle east and never felt uncomfortable,however this time brought my indonesian wife for first time and thrust me its a tottally different ballgame then than travelling by yourself... a few very unpleasant experiences that I would have never had if travelled by myself...too long to explain here though :),one of the reasons why u also see so few domestic tourists here...
Oct 26, 2012 6:44 AM
Oct 26, 2012 7:10 AM
let me put your first worry to rest: August is not the rainy season in Aceh (actually different regions have different seasons, so I'm really only talking about Aceh Tenggara and Gayo Lues).
August is the peak of the fruit season in Aceh Tenggara. A friend from Gayo Lues told me that if the month has a "ber" in it, then it's brrrr! So, September to December. I've just come back from there and yes it did rain, but I went trekking and rafting and had a great time. It doesn't really matter what time of year you go. It rains a lot during the dry season too.
I can't really argue with your point on earthquakes, except to say I spoke to someone who slept through an 8.0 magnitude quake in Aceh Tenggara (the quake was off the coast of Nias). He thought it was a monkey dancing on the roof of his shack! I've spent a couple of years in total in Aceh, over the past 20 years or so, and I've never experienced a single quake.
The people in the two regions I know best are religious but not fundamentalists, although I hear things are a lot stricter in other districts. AT is a bit like the wild west of Indonesia. Anything goes (if you have the right connections).
And I agree with lucapal about it being a richer experience if there are fewer tourists. However, the local people benefit enormously from the few tourists who do go and many of them asked me to find out what they can do to attract more.
Oct 26, 2012 7:20 AM
14I will be back in Indonesia in March and change my plans where to go every day. There are so many beautiful areas to go that the smallest thing can take me to an other place.
For Aceh: maybe I won't be able to get my beer in the evening!
So I change my plans to Sulawesi, Flores, Lombok or Molukku which are also very very beautiful and where I will get my beer. easy, but maybe works only for me
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