Oh, I went to the mosque with my driver who picked me up from the hotel. The roads were rather quiet because Fridays are public holiday in Aceh.
It is an open fact that the Indonesian central authorities are Java-centric. It is an open secret that much of Java's development, Jakarta included are financed by wealth extracted from the lands of Aceh. In fact the first two airplanes ever owned by Indonesia were financed by the Acehnese! It is due to their magnamity that enough gold were voluntarily handed from their private possessions to make purchase of the planes possible. This is for the leaders to go the Netherlands to negotiate for independence.
Soon, we were close to Baitur Rahman mosque.
I think the time then was about 4 pm. Traffic around has picked up slightly since after Friday prayers...
In Aceh there's not much business on Fridays but that's OK. In Islam that's the way it should be. Friday to Muslims is like Sundays to Christians. It's a day to be respected with the congregational prayers, supplications and remembrance to Allah. It is also a day to relax and mingle with friends and family.
We walked through the mosque compound and observed a congregation of young school children singing some sort of anthem in line... or was it some nasyid or religious songs?
Apart from being an interesting place by itself, the mosque's compound is the short-cut for us to reach the other side where one could see the remains of a rather historical building.
Or rather, this is where a place of much historical significance used to stand strong. For this is the place where lies Hotel Aceh, the hotel where Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia stayed at while negotiating with Aceh leaders to get assistance to work for Indonesia's independence.
I don't remember what actually happened to the building. If whatever little memory I have serves me right, the hotel then was rotting from old age when the tsunami of 2004 totally brought it down!
This is a rather interesting water tower seen as we walked towards our main destination for the day...
Just under 1 km or so from the mosque, the destination in mind is situated at the city centre's main lungs...
... which is a park just like Taman Tasik Perdana in Kuala Lumpur or Hyde Park in London.
This one has the distinction of being the site of a royal garden which used to be a pride of Aceh 400 years ago! Why is that? I'll let you readers find out for yourself. Suffice to say it was a garden erected by Aceh's most famous king Sultan Iskandar Muda (ruled 1607-1636 AD). We went here because there is an important historical monument which we missed the last time we were around. It's called the Pintu Khop which used to be the gates marking the boundaries between the royal palace compound and the royal garden. I will highlight it at my bilingual blogspot SENI LAMA MELAYU (MALAY OLDEN ART) afterwards.
We then returned towards the Baitur Rahman mosque's surroundings to visit the modern version of Pasar Aceh, a spanking new shopping complex which I understand was completed only a year or two ago...
It was a while before we walked rather far back to the area where we started this little Friday walk. Refer to paragraph below the fifth picture here, the one showing the Aceh river. Oh by the way, the driver has left after showing the way to the park. I asked him to go as I wanted to have a nice time alone with the wife.
We stopped at a food-stall to rest and have some drinks. By then I have grown rather fond of a kind of drink I've just discovered in Aceh, I forgot the name but it is made from a sort of fruit or vegetable which I have never seen before.
Above is an interesting poster I saw at the stall. This is the first time I saw it anywhere. It features a number of outstanding deceased personalites mainly of religious and saintly nature who still remain a pride of Aceh.
After the drinks we decided to take a motorised rickshaw... by then my wife has become very weary. After all we have walked at least 3 km if not more 5 km!
While I do believe I still have the strength and energy to go on, I must remember that my wife is carrying extra load (she still is a I wrote this!). Besides we wanted to try the public transport right? And motorised rickshaws are one of the main moods of travel here.
Here's a north-wards view or so as we crossed the Aceh river from the closest and nearby bridge. Seen here is the mosque looming over the market district of Peunayong. Refer to the earlier article titled From Syiah Kuala to Kreung Aceh...
At the opposite you could see THE tower which is the tallest building in Banda Aceh, THE tower which lies just outside to compounds of the Baitur Rahman mosque. Got the idea how far we have walked? Remember, we went to the mosque, on to the park and back to where we started which is just around this bridge. So the distance we actually walked should be two to three times the distance from this bridge to the tower!
Oh. Just checked using Google Earth. The route we took passed the mosque to the park is about 1.63 km long while the return route which went through Pasar Aceh before veering to another part of town is about 1.96 km. That totals up to almost 3.6 km on foot, nothing to shout about for fitness buffs but something for an almost 40 year-old guy like me with a 6-months pregnant wife in tow!
I've decide to recreate the path taken using a satellite map of Banda Aceh created from Google Earth. So that should give some idea the path we took on foot...
Back to the rickshaw ride. It is refreshing to the see the city from inside one. The last time I took a rickshaw to explore a city was more than 10 years ago in Pulau Pinang.
It is interesting to note that in Aceh womanfolk can travel around freely on bikes with handbags slung around the shoulder without any fear or worry of being robbed or molested much less raped. I understand crime is low, practically non-existent since the authorities decided to implement the Syariah Hudud laws (the strict enforcement of Islamic laws) which are considered archaic by some but actually works to prevent situations of lawlessness.
At least this is true after the tsunami attack of 2004 pushed both leaders of Aceh and central Indonesia to negotiate for proper peace. Aceh is given the autonomy to implement the religious laws indepently while the rest of Indonesia persist under Western-made civil laws plus the traditional military authority. This is far cry from the pre-tsunami days where Acehnese lived under constant fear due to emergency rule under the Indonesia national army.
It was a period where outsiders, journalists especially were forbidden from entering Aceh. I understand that it was normal for families to be killed and their women raped using the excuse that the men were supporters of the separatist group GAM (Aceh Freedom Movement), or involved in its cause however vauge. Under this notion genocide were practically carried out. This what many Acehnese have to say...
Nowadays the sun smiles much brightly on Aceh. While the tsunami has taken more than 200,000 lives in the war-torn country, it did brought up the way for proper peace. I was around when Indonesia was about to face a presidential election. It is normal to see flags like this in support of candidates especially the incumbent Susilo who is credited for bringing peace to Aceh.