After all the running around I had already experienced in Indonesia, a nice relaxing week on Sabang beach sounded just about right. Clear blue skies, clearer turquoise water, and pale white sand. Maybe even a fruity tropical drink to sip on while I focused on doing next to nothing. Yep, this all sounded pretty good.
But, of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way…
After a quick overnight in Medan, I hopped aboard a speedy 1-hour Garuda flight and landed at the still under-construction airport on Pulau Weh island (referred to by the locals as Sabang). I had already booked a bungalow at Freddies Santai Sumurtiga, overlooking Sabang beach, so I quickly found a taxi driver who would take me there.
The drive was a short one, which is always the case here given that the island is only around 60 square miles. We soon pulled up along a sign for Freddies and, after handing the driver a few thousand rupiah, I was pointed down a long nondescript path.
It certainly wasn’t the friendliest of entrances I’ve come across during my travels. With rusty barbed wire, half-built concrete pillars, and scrawny chickens with their chicks darting around, I was beginning to expect the worst.
I trepidatiously continued down the path, hoping with everything that I had that I hadn’t made some big mistake. If the conditions hadn’t been quite so warm and sunny, this would have seemed like the perfect setup for some cheeseball direct-to-dvd horror movie. Would I end up wandering through some abandoned slaughterhouse, only to find a menacing meat-hook wielding maniac who’s house had long ago been burned down by a far too curious travel blogger?
Instead, the path ended, and I was presented with a sight that was truly stellar.
There sat Freddies, directly overlooking Sabang beach as promised. In fact, to say that the scene was as-advertised would be an understatement. It was more like I had stepped directly into the advertisement and was now living in the type of hyper-real paradise you see in Corona beer advertisements.
After a round of quick introductions with the manager, I was shown my bungalow. It was a cute little thatched hut, complete with ceiling fan, a full bathroom, and flushing toilet. Not too shabby really, especially considering the cost is only 300,000 rupiah (about $22 USD) per night.
But it wasn’t until I stepped out onto the balcony and saw the view that I realized how much of an absolute steal this place really is.
By the time I had unpacked everything and settled in, it was time for dinner. I walked over to the beautiful open air lodge where, for around 65,000 IDR (about $5 USD), the cooks prepared a multi-course feast from local and western recipes.
After polishing off way too much delicious beef rendang, I slowly waddled back to my bungalow and immediately flopped into bed. As the sound of waves crashing along Sabang beach washed over me, I couldn’t help but think I was in for an amazing week of pure relaxation.
That dream ended as soon as I woke up the next day and realized that I couldn’t breath out of my nose. I was completely stuffed up with some kind of gunk that resembled instant oatmeal mixed with glue. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t chisel through to get even the smallest of openings for air.
To make matters worse, I had completely broken out into a full-on flop sweat. Whatever was inside of my body was pushing every once of fluid through my pores and it just wouldn’t stop.
Whatever it was, there was little else I found myself able to do other than just lay in bed, blow my nose, and futilely attempt to keep liquids coming in as fast as they were seeping out.
I was a pretty disgusting really.
Before I knew it, my weeklong stay on the island was up, and I had done next to nothing. On my final day, I peeled myself off my mattress, put on some shorts, and shuffled out of my bungalow. There was just no way that I wasn’t going to at least walk down Sabang beach at least once.
The beach itself is beautiful and completely free from the usual tourist hustle and bustle you’d normally expect from a small tropical spot like this. In fact, outside of me and a few of the local fishermen in their colorful boats, there were only a handful of other people swimming, sunning, or snorkeling.
There are even a few old crumbling bunkers scattered about from when the Japanese had occupied the island during WWII.
I returned back to my bungalow, thankful that I had taken the quick stroll but also beginning to feel worse for wear. It was about time to check-in for my flight the next day, so I opened up my email, only to be hit over the head with the following subject line:
URGENT: Flight Cancelled – Sabang to Medan
Perfect. Now, instead of having a nice relaxing morning at Freddies before my a mid-day flight, I had to take the early morning ferry to nearby Banda Aceh and then catch a different plane to Medan.
I’d eventually get to where I needed to be, but my nice breezy 2 hour trip had now increased by 8 hours. What a bummer.
Sabang beach really was everything I had hoped it would be – a perfect little inexpensive paradise. In this case it was me that didn’t live up to expectations, which is how it goes sometimes I guess. Oh well…