...get weird in Banda Aceh.
Trip Start Mar 05, 2012
58Trip End Ongoing
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What I did
We met a man working for an NGO who was still stationed there from the boxing day tsunami of 2004. He offered to drive us from the airport to our first night's accommodation. Dude's homestay came highly recommended by blogging backpackers for his hospitality and cheap rooms. Since the tsunami, all hotel prices skyrocketed because the NGO workers would pay the prices. The prices simply never went back down. We agreed to the 8 dollar room. He invited us to sit with him in the back courtyard of his home. Then it got weird.
He was a tall, heavy-set, 65 year old Muslim man. He wore the traditional Muslim sarong, with the long white button-up shirt, and a taqiyah. His breathing was strained and he appeared weak and tired, though he remained smiling through his white beard for most of the evening.
He offered us some of his clove flavored tobacco, which we politely declined. He insisted it would help us sleep. We still refused, but asked why. It turned out that this man had refined the art of extracting the oil of the marijuana plant using butane gas. He mixed the oil with store bought tobacco and cloves. He said the cloves masked the already weakened smell of the oil when smoking it so that he was free to smoke it whenever and wherever he wanted. Paul, Dude's friend and a becak driver, was sitting to my right and jumped in on the conversation. His English was very poor so Dude mediated to explain that they had been sitting somewhere when two policemen started approaching them. Paul warned him to conceal his 'tobacco', but Dude kept rolling and lit his cigarette. He said he blew smoke out just as the policemen walked by. Nothing happened. Dude continued to brag about his process and the health benefits of his habits. He then brought out a giant scale and a small plastic pouch that contained the oil. He had 6grams of it. He offered to sell us some, but we declined. It was at this point though that the thought occurred to me; "This guy is some kind of drug kingpin in a city that upholds Sharia Law, in a country that sends drug possessors to jail for 4 years at a minimum." Dude then asked me if I was religious. I told him no. I should have told him yes. He went off explaining the Muslim genealogy using a family tree that was conveniently positioned above my head. By this time though he had smoked two of his 'cigarettes' and was having trouble maintaining any train of thought. In the middle of a sentence he would stop talking and stare at me. Then he asked 'You don't believe in evolution do you?" I quickly deflected the question by drawing his attention back to his other major interest - hash-oil production. The conversation faded and Cody and I jumped at the opportunity to head to bed before things got any stranger. The next day we left for Pulau Weh.
Upon return from Pulau Weh we decided it would be best to spend a little more money and not head back to Dude's. We stayed in a central location. The city of Banda Aceh has recovered considerably well from the tsunami, and is actually the nicest city we saw in Sumatra. An infrastructure seems to have been established and some thought and planning was obviously put into the rebuilding of the city. It was nice to see that some good came out of such a devastating disaster. Many buildings were new or reconstructed, but some evidence of the tsunami remained. The lower half of buildings looked new from being painted over while the tops maintained their worn, tattered appearance. In some places you could still see where concrete walls were bent inward fro the impact of the wave. Some areas were completely cleared. Somewhere in the city a ship had been left on top of a house from the wave and was left there as a memorial.
We decided to check out the tsunami museum in the hopes that we would get a better idea of what had happened and how the city looked before, after, and today.
The museum was a bit of a bust. There was no English on any of the pictures. The pictures themselves were of low quality. They had been expanded beyond their limits and were grainy. Some dioramas showed the effects of the tsunami and we took what we could from the displays.
We could have have used more time to get a better feel for the city and to see some of the more interesting sights but we had to catch a flight.
Off to Java from here, land of the volcanoes.