Where to stay in Pulau Weh? In Iboih, we stayed at Yulia's Bungalows (no reservations accepted).
A seaside home for a week. From our porch we watched mud-skippers and crabs scuttle over the volcanic boulders and an occasional monitor lizard on the hunt would stalk by with forked tongue flickering.
Just a dive off of the dock is all it takes to enjoy the incredible diversity of marine life in Pulau Weh. In the azure waters directly in front of our bungalow lived a sizeable moray eel that spent its mornings with vulpine snout protruding from its domestic crevice, formidable jaws agape as an iridescent-blue cleaner wrasse worked over its gum line, darting around the jagged teeth and swash-buckler scars that lend to the eel's vicious countenance.
Besides the typical array of redolent reef dwellers, we also encountered deadly lionfish perched in the shadows, boisterously territorial titan triggerfish munching and chomping through coral with pit-bull jaws, color-morphing reef octopi, and, on a daily basis, an incredibly shy, meter-long goliath grouper that sulks underneath a massive coral structure blanketed with anemones and their ubiquitous clownfish residents.
For even better coral, get a boat over to the far-side of Pulau Rubiah to explore the Sea Garden. Check out Rubiah Tirta Divers for some stunning pics of our underwater friends.
Julia's Kitchen. The preparation of Acehnese Coffee (Kopi Aceh).
Randy Muhammad is Julia's nephew. An amiable young man in his early twenties, Randy grew up on the island and exudes confidence and a somewhat reckless joie de vivre. A pious man who regularly reads scipture and abstains from alcohol, he does indulge in a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit He is engaged to a girl from Banda Aceh and plans to run the bungalows with her by his side.
In a land of outspoken, larger-than-life characters, Dedy Santoso is a distinctively charismatic and intelligent individual. He grew up in a rural village in North Sumatra, learned English while giving jungle tours in Bukit Lawang, and has been living in Pulau Weh for the past two years. Suffering from a bit of cabin fever in the rarefied, sleepy air of island paradise, Dedy yearns for a change and eventually wants to run his own business.
A scholar, gentleman, and entertainer...
The newest addition to Julia's Bungalows. Spoiled rotten, but cute as a button.
Our favorite restaurants in Iboih were Mama's Kitchen and Dee Dee's Restaurant. Ran by rotund sisters, they are just across the path from each other at the second beach (next to Rubiah Tirta Divers), and serve up tasty comfort food in an idyllic setting.
Sweet, milky ice tea.
We consumed anything and everything tempeh - the world's best protein source. Thank you Indonesia for the gift of fermented soy beans!
Tempeh wraps with homemade tortilla @ Mama's.
Tempeh burgers with egg.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION - Getting to Iboih , Pulau Weh.
Flight to Banda Aceh (AirAsia from KL). Paid US$25 for 30 days visa on arrival and walked out to the far end of the terminal to take a public mini-bus (Rp. 15,000) into town. (Note: Everyone trys to push you to take taxi (Rp100,000) and will tell you no bus goes to town.) Got out the mini bus in town center (kota) and caught a labi-labi (Rp.10,000 per person) to Uleh-leh, where we caught the ferry to Pulau Weh.
We took the slow ferry @ 2pm, Rp 28,000 for “business class”, which has air-con and a nearly private room (took about 1.5 hours). There is a fast ferry that is Rp.50,000 and takes 45 minutes, but it leaves at 4 pm.
From the port of Pulau Weh (Balohan), you can take a mini bus (Rp. 50,000 per person) or motorbike taxi (Rp. 30,000 per person with some bargaining) to Iboih Beach. Walked all way to Yulia’s Bungalows (the last property on the trail), Rp 50,000 per night with decent shared bathrooms, Rp.150,000 for a simple waterfront bungalow with fan and bathroom, but we stayed for 6 nights and got it for Rp. 100,000 a night.
Iboih, Pulau Weh is a stunning place, great snorkeling at your doorstep and extremely low-key atmosphere. Make sure to take a trip to Pulau Rubiah and snorkel the Sea Garden – honeycomb morays, sea turtles, reef octopus, etc. Get a group together and a boat-ride over should cost Rp.100,000 for everyone. Also, rent a motorbike (Rp. 80,000), borrow a map, and explore the island. Eat at DeDe’s or Mama’s at the first beach in Iboih, the tempeh burgers are tasty.