TRAVEL DIARIES: Banda Aceh, Indonesia with Lilliana Bowrey
After competing in the Billabong Taj Small Fries event in WA we decided to take a quick trip over to Indonesia before we headed home. When most people think of Indonesia they think of the crazy tourist filled areas of Bali, or the perfect waves of the Mentawai Islands. But we were headed further North, to an area on the North tip of Sumatra called Banda Aceh. This area was basically unheard of until it was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2004. In one day, over 150,000 people lost their lives, in what must have been a terrifying moment in time.
14 years on, the area has rebuilt and is encouraging tourism to help boost the economy. This was not our first time here and so we knew of some really good world class surf breaks in the area. With the weather forecast looking good, we were excited to get there and stay with our friend Yudi who owns a surf resort called ‘Yudi’s Place.’
The first think you notice when travelling to Aceh as a young female is that the culture is heavily Muslim. Females are expected to cover up from below the knee to above the shoulder. I am a firm believer that when you travel to a different country, you should respect their culture and abide by their cultural norms. In order not to offend anybody I had my sarong ready to throw on as soon as we stepped off the plane.
Once you get to the surfing area, things are a little more relaxed and it felt amazing jumping into the aqua blue water in my bikinis. For the next 7 days we surfed, swam, dived and basically spent the whole time in and around the water. I made friends with all the local groms and we surfed every evening after they finished school. I was lucky to be there during the local boardriders contest which was a fun day out!
We were stoked to have our friends from Bali meet up with us in Aceh. They run a clothing brand which offers ‘one for one’ – for every item of clothing they sell, they donate a t shirt or school uniform to a child in need. Their intention was to come and surf, however they thought it would be a great opportunity to do a clothing drop while they were there. Phone calls were made and a few days later I was joining them in visiting a secondary school and helping to hand out donations to the students. Most of the students walked up to 7km every day to get to school. The girls I met were only a few years older than me and I was told that most of them had lost both of their parents in the tsunami or due to illness. We laughed, hugged and took lots of selfies! It made me realise that although we come from such different worlds, we are not that different.
I left Aceh not only with great memories of the surf, but great memories of it’s people and the place as a whole.
Termia Kasih Aceh