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Chinese chronicles from as early as the sixth century speak
of a kingdom called Po- Li on the northern tip of what is now Sumatra. Arabic writings and Indian inscriptions from around the 9th century also mention this area and its obvious
importance. Of all the regions in Indonesia, Aceh, at the northwestern end of Sumatra, is the first to have
contact and be influenced by the outside world. Ironically, it is still one of the least known regions of Indonesia, even among Indonesians themselves.
Aceh has a fascinating history which over
the centuries has shaped and transformed the region into what it is today. In 1292, Marco Polo, on his epic voyage from China
visited Sumatra on his way to Persia and reported that in the northern part of the island there were as many as six busy trading
ports including Perlak, Samudera and lambri. The first Islamic kingdom of Perlak was established in the year 804 about 100 years after Islam is first believed to have reached the archipelago. In 1511,
the Portuguese seized the important strategic port of Malacca, pushing
many Asian and Arabic traders to call instead on the developing port of Aceh, bringing with them wealth and prosperity. Aceh's dominance in trade and politics in northern parts of Sumatra and
in the entire region had begun and would last until it reached its zenith between 1610 and 1640.
Aceh's decline began with the death of Sultan
Iskandar Thani in 1641, and as a result the British and Dutch both began vying for domination of the area. Eventually the
signing of the London Treaty in 1824 saw the Dutch gain control of all British possessions in Sumatra in return for their surrender
of enterprises in India and withdrawal of all claims on Singapore.
The Dutch found gaining control of Aceh to
be more difficult than they had anticipated. It was a long drawn out struggle for the Dutch in their attempts to subdue the
rebellious and courageous Acehnese. The Aceh War, which lasted intermittently from 1873 to 1942, was the longest ever fought
by the Dutch costing them over 10,000 lives.
Things are different now as industrialization
and global communications have made contact with the outside world a daily occurrence and with it have come a more open attitude
towards things alien. Visitors should keep in mind, though, that the Acehnese take their religion, their manners and their
morals very seriously.
AROUND BANDA ACEH
Banda Aceh is the capital
of Aceh and also the main gateway to the province. The Governor's Residence was built by the Dutch in 1880 on the spot where
the palace of the sultan once stood. This building is known as one of the historical sites with a unique architecture and
completed with traditional house equipments. This place is of course a restricted area and entering it must be with a kind
of Permission from the security guard.
BAITURRAHMAN GRAND MOSQUE
is one of the most outstanding landmarks in the capital city. The old mosque that stood there before it was burnt down at
the beginning of the Aceh War, was rebuilt in 1875, taking its present shape after a number of renovations and expansions.
It is another charm of the city. The museum is filled
with antiques. Among the exhibits is a big clock, a gift from the Emperor of China and brought to Aceh by the famed Admiral
Cheng Ho in 1414.
GUNUNGAN and PINTO KHOP
Gunongan and Pinto Khop
which are located at a few steps from the Pendopo are also charms of the city. Gunongan was erected around the 16th century
during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda.
KERKHOP or CHURRHYARD
is a much visited site especially by Dutch visitor where the remains of more then 2,000 Dutch soldiers lay burried.
THE SYIAH KUALA GROVE
It is another popular visitor's object. Teungku Syiah Kuala
was one of Aceh's great Moslem Ulamas of the past. His grave stands near the mouth of Krueng
Aceh River about 2 kilometers from the city, visited by local visitors and other parts of
Indonesia and Malaysia.
INDRA PATRA FORTRESS
This old fort was built during the time of Iskandar Muda. It probably functioned as a
defense against invader's attacks.
MUSEUM CHUT NYAK DIEN
It is a historical
object. The house is a replica of the heroine Cut Nyak Dhien, from the Aceh War. The house was burnt down by the Dutch but
a replica was built later, after Indonesia's independence. This house in Lam Pineung about 6 kilometers from Banda Aceh,
is now museum.
The most popular beaches are Gapang beach and
Iboh beach in Weh Island - Sabang, Kuala Dou beach in west Aceh and the others
most popular beaches uncrowded Banda Aceh are Ujong Batee beach, Lampu'uk beach and Lho'nga beach. Its located 16 kilometers
from Banda Aceh. All the beaches have clean waters and white sands. Sunsets are quite impressive at the all beaches.
Sea Gardens are located off shore from Banda Aceh at about 45 minutes by speed boat. Some
can be enjoyed around Rubiah Island in Sabang and the others are around Beras islands, Aceh
Island and other small islands around them. Sea gigantic clams, angel fish, lion fish, sea fans and much
AROUND TAKENGON and THE LAKE
Takengon is a town located at the central
area of Aceh. It is being promoted as a tourist resort since its temperature is about 20_C (68_F), cool enough for a holiday
resort. The main feature of the town is Laut Tawar Lake. The scenery is loved and the lake can be used for water sport, such as ski.
We can tour around the lake by motor boat or other water transportation. There are caves around the lake slopes of the mountain
and the mountain itself is suitable for climbing. A number of hotels are being built to encourage a rapidly increasing tourist
The others object around Takengon are a warm water pool at Simpang Balik, Loyang Koro and Loyang Pukes caves by
the side of Laut Tawar Lake.
AROUND LHOKSEUMAWE and
THE FORMER KINGDOM of SAMUDRA PASAI
Lhokseumawe is a town located 274 km from Banda Aceh which is now being developed as an industrial zone of Aceh.
Many gigantic plants are constructed following the discovery of huge LNG resources in the area. A touristic feature of the
town is The Samudra Pasai. It was the first great Islamic kingdom of Indonesia.
All that remains of it, however, is a graveyard 18 km east of the town. The historical indication of this can be
seen at the grave of Malikul Saleh, the first ruler of the kingdom and from the royal graves, including that a queen named
Nahrisyah and graves of other members of the royal families of Samudra Pasai. The kingdom produced its own gold coins which
still can be round in the surrounding areas. Other objects for visitors are Blang Kolam
Falls and Ujung Blang beach.
THE NATIONAL PARK
National Park of Gunung
Leuser is probably the wildest in Indonesia, located in Southeast Aceh that can be reached either Kutacane, or Takengon. This magnificent national park
has a wealth of flora and fauna. The park also has research facilities for the study of primates, birds, insects, and other
animals. Basic accommodation facilities are available at Ketambe. The rapids-infested Krueng
Alas River inside the park is popular with rafters.