The Travel Tart
Offbeat Tales From A Travel Addict

Banda Aceh – 5 Years On Since The Tsunami

Banda Aceh – A Moving Experience

Banda Aceh is world famous, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

This December will mark the 5th anniversary of the Tsunami which almost wiped out this seaside city – around tens of thousands of people were killed on the 25th of December, 2004.

This is my taxi driver, Dony.  I paid him to take me around Banda Aceh today to show off his town.  With the aid of a trusty English/Indonesian dictionary, we managed to communicate fairly effectively, and in combination with my guide book, managed to check out some interesting sites.

This is Dony relaxing next to the beach after a hard day of driving around!

At the beginning of the trip, I asked him ‘How long does it take to show me around Banda Aceh?’

He replied ‘About 3 hours’.  We took about 6 hours, and he refused to take any more money than what we negotiated. He was grateful to hang out with me for the day and show me around!

Like everyone else in Banda Aceh, he lost a lot of people he knew, both friends and family.  It seems no one was unaffected by the tsunami.

‘I live near the airport, which was OK. When I hear about the tsunami, I went to town to see and I could not believe’.

I could not believe what happened myself, and I’ve turned up here a few years later.

One of the iconic post-tsunami images of Banda Aceh was a large ship that was pushed inland for about 5 kilometres.  It’s still there.  However, the houses that were wiped out nearby have been since re-built around the ship.

I guess it’s not going anywhere soon!

Banda Aceh in Pictures

This is the road on the way to the ship.

Imagine it 5 metres underwater.

It’s hard to believe, but check out these photos of the PLTDAPUNG1, the famous ship that was pushed inland.  It’s now a tourist attraction.

Here is a photo from onboard.  See that horizon out there? That’s the ocean, about 5 kilometres away, where this ship was originally moored.  All of those houses you see in front of you have been rebuilt since.  Beforehand, it was a barren wasteland of rubble and saltwater.

Honestly, these photos don’t do the scene justice.  When you see this with your own eyes, it really does blow you away.

This is a photo taken underneath the ship. Those bricks and mortar you see were someone’s house.

But people’s lives go on.  It’s so matter of fact, that life goes on around the ship.  Here is a photo of a cow grazing next to the hull.

Everyone here is friendly, and the locals say hello to me when I’m walking down the street.  The atmosphere here is laid back, and the hustle and bustle of daily life occurs every day.  People are just going about their livelihoods, simply because they have to.

There are reminders of the Tsunami every where you go.  There are signs, and even a new Tsunami Museum which will open soon.

However, the most striking of the reminders are the two mass graves where thousands of un-identified bodies where buried.

This photo shows one of these mass graves.  This small piece of real estate is the only place relatives can visit to pay thier respects to their loved ones.  It’s still under construction, but it’s become a new Banda Aceh Landmark.

It’s hard to not be moved when visiting these places.  It’s really hard to comprehend what happened, but seeing these sights provides an unbelievable glimpse into one of the largest natural disasters of all time.

It feels weird seeing them from a travellers’ perspective, but the locals are grateful to provide a great service if you are ever through this way, and I think they see it as part of the rebuilding process.

More Banda Aceh Stuff

You can read more at Tsunami: A Document of Devastation, the 2005 Complete Guide to the Asian Tsunami Disaster, and Natural Disasters.

Anyway, I’m off to see more of this great place tomorrow, stay tuned!

This trip is kindly sponsored by Air Asia – check out their website for flights all over Australia, Asia and Europe!

About Anthony The Travel Tart

The Travel Tart writes about the funny, offbeat and weird aspects of world travel today. Travel wasn't meant to be taken too seriously! Check out ways to say hi below or sign up for his silly newsletter!

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  1. September 30, 2009    

    wow, so lucky that you met such a nice taxi driver!!! tell dony “nanti kalau teman saya di jakarta datang ke aceh, antar jalan-jalan, ya!” 🙂

  2. September 30, 2009    

    Ant, welcome to Indonesia and glad to see you get a flying start there.

  3. September 30, 2009    

    Nice writeup! Glad to see that they’ve recovered so well.

    PS : That’s a Bull, not a Cow 🙂

  4. pixie pixie
    September 30, 2009    

    Great story!

  5. Rob Rob
    November 29, 2009    

    I flew from my ship (USS Abraham Lincoln CVN72) to there a few days after to help distribute food. It was the proudest point in my Navy career and in life. It brings me endless happiness that I was able to help those people.

  6. February 8, 2010    

    Beautiful piece. The best things that can happen for these countries is having the tourists come back. We are in Sri Lanka now and locals are hoping tourism picks up soon. I saw that they have a Tsunami museum down the road from where we are staying, we are going to be visiting it soon. Great photos Anthony!

  7. mie aceh mie aceh
    March 18, 2010    

    What a great adventure you had there, your story reminds me of my kampung 🙂
    i am from aceh and im missing it soooo much. Went home last year but wanting to head off there again soon.
    Btw Dony your taxi driver looks familiar to me, i think he is one of my school mates. Any chance of me asking you his tlp no or email address or anything?

    thanks in advanced buddy…
    Mie goreng aceh

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