Summer Vacation, Part II
Indonesia and Singapore
From Georgetown on Penang we headed to Indonesia – and very specifically, to an island called Palau Weh, Weh, or Sabang (depending on who you talk to). The island boasts Indonesia’s Kilometre Zero, the starting point for the road system (… despite being an isolated island with no bridges…), and was an invasion point by the Japanese in 1942. We went to Palau Weh at the recommendation of friends in two very different demographics (single young woman + family with three kids, oldest being 10 years old) who raved about a particular place: Freddie’s Santai Sumurtiga (https://www.santai-sabang.com). We flew from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, had about 12 hours in KL and stayed at a hotel near the airport, and then flew KL – Banda Aceh, took a ferry from BA to the island, and then a taxi ride from the harbor to Freddie’s (crossing the island to do so). Freddie told us later that there is an airport on the island, but it only has flights to and from Medan (a city halfway down Sumatra).
Freddie’s has amazing food, cooked by the eponymous Freddie (for breakfast and the buffet dinner) and his staff (in part for breakfast, and the lunch at the small restaurant). Buffet dinner consists of soup, a starter, a minimum of 4 dishes for the main meal (1 meat, 1-2 salads, 1-2 veg dishes, 1-2 sides), and dessert. This comes at a cost of 65,000 rupiah per adult – at time of writing, that equates to CAD$6.50. We could rarely actually finish everything, and the meals ranged from vegetable soup (that Adam ate – and Asha cried when her bowl was empty!) to Acehnese cuisine to marlin steaks, fresh coconut tart, snow peas with garlic (which Adam also ate), grilled prawns, and more. Adam eating vegetables every night should tell you the caliber of the cooking!
Freddie’s is also genuinely beachside, so every day we went in to snorkel and play on the beach. The waves were rough a few days, so we ended up taking a couple island tours (one was a failure, one an absolute brilliant success) and being lazy on those days. We saw waterfalls, different types of monkeys, volcanos, and some neat architecture, but nothing capped the water… We also took a full-day snorkeling tour on our 5th (paperwork) anniversary with 4 other people at the resort; it was absolutely amazing, and we caught sight of sea turtles, moray eels, octopi (three! Out in the day! At once! In the same place!), a sea krait, and otherwise absolute masses of fish.
The one flaw in our plan in Indonesia was that while it is a Muslim country – it is also much more strictly practicing than Malaysia seems to be. Virtually all shops and restaurants were closed for Ramadhan, meaning that you could do very limited shopping and absolutely no eating off the resort from about 5am-5pm. The staff at the resort was amazing, since they were cooking and preparing food for us, but couldn’t touch any of it themselves: hats off to them! Our week at Freddie’s ended too soon, and we think fondly back on the beach and the water and the food, and Asha asking for “more oceans”, as well as saying “hi ocean!” and “bye ocean!”. … Yet she would not talk to the people. Sigh.
In Singapore, we booked a cheap hotel room – which for a city in which about 1 in 3 people are millionaires, can be hard to find. We counted hostels out, since we didn’t want to run the risk of Asha in a dormitory setup (though she slept all night long both nights, so…). This was the first time, I confess, that I had ever booked a hotel which also boasted hourly rates. That’s what you get for staying in the ostensible red light district (Geylang) – but Adam and I didn’t notice anything risqué while we were there, and it was close to two MRT stops, tasty food, and a 24 hour supermarket.
We saved the most expensive place for last, and while we were able to see about a sixth of the things we wanted to see, I think it was just right for ending our trip. I would much prefer 3-4 more days in Singapore in the future – time to go to the bird park, aquarium, Sentosa Island, more of the museums, and more of the street food. We got to see some highlights: the Peranakan Museum, the Merlion, the Ritz Carlton’s art exhibit (with an Ernest Zacharias piece – hilarious to us, since we’d seen his street art in Penang), and to eat at the Michelin-star chain Din Tai Fung.
Singapore has held a special place in my heart since about third grade, when I had an argument with a teacher – she said Singapore was a peninsula, I’d read it was an island, argued the point… and since then, have wanted to get there, just to be on the island that I’d had arguments in grade school about.