Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Slight diversion from the usual post format, but in this case the words are more important than the pictures. 

Banda Aceh is a small city on the Northern tip of Sumatra. Its the capital city in the province of Aceh and was hit really badly in the 2004 boxing day tsunami as it was the nearest town to the epicentre of the earthquake which preceded the tsunami. Around 167,000 people died and 500,000 were left homeless.

During our visit we met a lovely local called Pidos, who took us round Banda Aceh to show us the things to do with the tsunami. He lost 14 family members in the disaster and we felt very grateful and moved that he wanted to show us the around and tell us about the tsunami, despite the loss he had suffered. 

Most of the town was destroyed when the tsunami hit - first was the earthquake which caused considerable damage, then followed the tsunami with waters flowing 7km inland, completely wiping out most buidlings. Nowadays there is little evidence of the destruction that the tsunami caused when you look at the fully rebuilt town. Huge efforts and amounts of aid from UN countires helped rebuild the city in the years that followed the disaster. 

The first signs of the tragedy were pointed out to us by Pidos when we drove past one of the 4 mass graves found in the city, it held 46,000 unidentified bodies. Thinking about this number of people right there in front of me that had lost there lives really brought home to me the enormity of the event and was deeply saddening. 

The significance of the tragedy that happened along with the memories of the many many victims is preserved in the Tsunami Museum, a beatifully designed building. The museum is informative, with very poignant memorial spaces. 

PIdos also took us to see a 2600 ton ship that had been washed 5km inland by the wave. You really get a sense of the force the water had as the boat is absolutely enormous and there are still signs of the houses it crushed on its way in underneath. The boat still sits in the exact same location that it stopped moving and it feels completely surreal to see it amongst all the rebuilt hoses and streets, so far a way from the sea. 

One of the saddest points of the visit was seeing a memorial park next to the boat. In the park there is a wall covered in photos of the aftermath of the disaster, showing many of the dead victims. Seeing image of body after body after body was very upsetting - you feel a sense of detachment when you are watching reports of an event like this back home on the news, safe in your house thousands of miles away, but nothing brings it closer than seeing hundreds of pictures of the dead while standing in the town the tragedy happened in.

I will never forget my visit to Banda Aceh and I’m grateful I was able to pay my respects to the people who lost their lives. If you will be in the area at any point and require a guide or driver, I highly recommend you contact Pidos (061) 082161253231 - he speaks excellent English and is the most lovely man. 

This is the entrance corridor into the Tsunami Museum. It was almost pitch black, with water falling down the walls splashing you as you walk into the museum. It was very thoughtfully designed as walking down you instantly begin to think about the tsunami and it’s effects.

Model of Banda Aceh before and after the tsunami.

Model that shows how the Mosque was one of the only buildings still standing after the tsunami hit. 

The museum.

The 2600 ton ship that was washed 5km inland.


  1. annastravels posted this