A quick day in Banda Aceh

Monday, November 28, 2016
Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
We had a couple of options after leaving Pulau Weh. Our flight out of Banda Aceh to Medan to catch our return flight to KL was not until early the next morning then our flight from KL to Siem Reap in Cambodia was not until the day after that. We planned on spending one of those nights sleeping in the airport and the other getting a better nights sleep in a guesthouse somewhere. With KL being the bigger airport with more amenities we decided it would be better to sleep there and grab some cheap digs in Banda Aceh. We seem to be spending a lot of nights sleeping in airports lately and also spending a crazy amount of time getting from one place to the next. 3 days to get from the island in Indonesia to Siem Reap in Cambodia sounds ridiculous when I think about it. You could get round the whole twice in that time.

Banda Aceh has a small town feel about it . It is a very strict Muslim district of Indonesia and when we finally found somewhere to stay that was both clean and cheap we got a bit disheartened when we were turned away for not being a married couple. They ask you to provide either a marriage certificate, wedding photos or rings as evidence, but thankfully the girl came running after us down the street having checked with her boss who said it would be ok as we were foreigners and not locals.

Despite being tired from an early start, (we were up in the pitch black yet again as there is only one cheap local ferry on a Thursday that sails very early) we still headed out for a walk to see what the town was like. As with the rest of Sumatra all off the locals in Aceh were extremely friendly towards us. Particularly when they found out we were from England. We headed to the Tsunami Museum as it wasn't far from our digs and we learned that the UK donated the third highest amount of money to aid recovery behind Holland and the entire EU so it now made sense that they were particularly excited to meet us .

The Tsunami here back in 2004 has to be one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, killing around 230,000 people across 14 countries. Banda Aceh was the worst hit with a death toll of 170,000. Waves as high as 30m hitting the coast here. I wasn't overly keen on coming to this museum. We went to the war museum in Ho Chi Minh a few years back which was a horrible insight into the atrocities of war and I promised myself after that that I wouldn't visit anymore of these kind of places such as the killing fields in Cambodia or Auschwitz as the history is well documented and I don't feel the need to go on some sort of dark tourist trail of mans in-humanity to man or to places that only exist due to a mass number of human lives being lost. But I guess being a natural disaster it was a little different and it was an interesting insight to find out that following the Tsunami a peace agreement that is still working to this day came in to effect. Prior to the Tsunami, Aceh was in a state of civil war . Local rebels had been fighting for many years with the central government for independence from the rest of Indonesia, it was a war that claimed over 15,000 lives. Despite the devastating effect of the Tsunami it seems that something good came from it in the form of peace. The government pulled out it's troops from Aceh and the rebels happily agreed to a gun and weapons amnesty. The fighting stopped immediately and has not returned since. It just shows that good things can come from the darkest of times.

That was about it for the museum really. It was pretty much what you would expect from a museum dedicated to a Tsunami. Lot's of old news articles from when it happened. Photos and facts and figures about what causes earthquakes and tsunamis. We didn't hang around too long.

From there we took a short walk to go and see a boat named PTLD. This boat weighing 2,600 tonnes was washed 5km inland by the giant wave. It's certainly a strange sight to see but again we didn't hang around for too long.

That's it really for Banda Aceh. Only the one day there so not much to report. It was early to bed after that. Our Tuk Tuk was sorted for 4am the next morning to get us to the airport in time for our flight. It's going to be a long couple of days from now making our way slowly to Cambodia.

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