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