There is little doubt about the resplendent natural beauty Aceh has to offer. For one, its beaches are absolutely serene:
These beaches are on an island off of Banda Aceh called Sabang or Pulau Weh. I didn’t have an water-proof camera to show pictures of the incredible colours of marine life one could witness underwater.
It was also fun that we got around on “mario carts:”
From the beaches down below, Aceh has magnificent mountains above as well. Another popular location is the coffee growing region of Takengon:
Gayonese coffee is internationally renown, and grown right here:
Moving south, here’s a shot of a beach in Meulaboh:
Even Banda Aceh, the capital, has terrific sights:
As a claustrophobic city kid who grew up in Singapore, even the sight of expansive open green space (with a volcano in the backdrop) absolutely takes my breath away.
In my most recent trip, I heard that Singapore was often used by separatists’ propaganda as a posterboy of what Aceh could look like if only it got independence. While Singapore can often be attractive as a model of catch-up development in Asia, I wonder what gets lost in the pursuit of “development” – nature, but also heritage and spirit – themes that Singaporeans are all too familiar with.
Ironically, even as Acehnese are looking to Singapore for a model of development, Singaporeans are looking to retrieve something that which has been lost through their experience of development, that which has been endearingly called “the kampung spirit,” or the spirit of community (associated with the village).
For many Acehnese, the site of the community is in the WarKop (Warung Kopi, or Coffee Shop). I will take up this theme in my next blog post.
Amoz JY Hor is PhD student in Political Science at the George Washington University. His research explores how emotions affect the way the subaltern is understood in practices of humanitarianism.