We are well and truly in the swing of travelling here now. what was originally quite a culture shock has become easier as we get to grips with (some of) the language and recognising the different food choices available for the vegetarians and chili averse amongst us. A lot of restaurants do food "Padang" style - That is, bringing about a dozen different dishes to your table, from which you can pick which of these to have with rice.
I'd put Sumatra about halfway between Thailand and India on the travel difficulty scale. You really need to speak a bit of Bahasa to get by as not many people here know any "Inglis". Kris has taken to this with great effect. It makes everything from flagging down a Becak(motorcycle with passenger sidecar) to buying a coffe a whole lot easier. Great coffee here, but am yet to try the local delicacy of cracking an egg and adding 4 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to my long black. Generally coffee is served with a third of the cup being sugar.
Pulau Weh was amazing. We had to drag ourselves away after 9 days of sitting round in hammocks, snorkelling and deciding what to order for dinner(insert sympathetic violins here). The kids aren't looking forward to returning to dishes duty. It was a welcome stage of the trip after our big flight over and jamming in the sights of a sweltering Kuala Lumpur. I went for a couple of dives at Iboih where we stayed. Big currents and amazing Gorgonian sea fan coral formations but not much in the way of large sea life sadly. Also about 80% of the coral in the shallows had died a couple of years ago due to an abnormal warm weather patch courtesy of El Nina. Still Nice and the kids had a ball spotting lots of colourful fish, rays and octopus. Iris gained a lot of confidence and would snorkel out into quite deep water with me.
Banda Aceh was full on at first. Big town and staunch Muslim under Sharia law, although the people were friendly and helpful. We went to the Tsunami museum which was a moving experience. It opened two months ago. Every architectural feature had a meaning and the entry was through a narrow descending corridor in low light. Water cascaded down either side of the 10 meter high(the tsunami height) walls and covered you with a fine mist. The local population was left at 200,000 after 230,000 died in the disaster.
We are now in the Gayo highlands travelling south to the Gunung-Lueser national park. Bring on the Orangutans!