Banda Aceh is best known for the tragic 2004 tsunami that wreaked devastating havoc to the tip of Northwest Sumatra. The irony was that the natural disaster resulted in an unexpected resolution in peace talks between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government.
Many years later, the impact from the tsunami is still evident, but so is the progress. The locals have worked hard to rebuild their community and many NGOs are also involved in rebuilding homes and businesses. Visiting Banda Aceh is educational and a reminder of the fragility of humans in the face of Mother Nature. Many of the locals saved memories, from photos to landmarks, as a reminder of the event.
Photographs showing the aftermath of the tsunami reveal how many lives were lost and how much the terrain was altered in 2004. Don't let the fact that Banda Aceh was hit by a tsunami deter you from visiting. If anything, the quickly evolving terrain is fascinating to witness. Tourism helps the economy and, for divers, there is remarkable diving in nearby Pulau Weh.
Highlights from Banda Aceh
- Try the local Acehnese Black Coffee--strong and tasty--this is the preferred drink to liquor due to Shariah law
- Take the Tsunami Tour to visit various monuments dedicated to the 2004 tsunami
- You can juxtapose the modern Hermes Palace mall in the city centre with the local market vendors selling produce and meat.
- Nearby destinations to check out include the secluded beaches of Pulau Weh aka Sabang
Hints and Tips for Banda Aceh
- Most travelers must pay US$25 upon arrival for the 30-day visa (entry day counts as 1, not 0)
- The more secluded the destination, the less available ATMs will be--make sure to bring emergency funds
- Banda Aceh tends to have more calmer driving compared to other parts of Indonesia, but you may still face head-on traffic.
- You will face a horde of taxi drivers if you arrive into Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport. To help in the face of confusion, you may want to figure out an accommodation prior to arriving.
- The further away you get from big cities, the local dialects such as Bahasa Indonesia or, in this case, Bahasa Acehnese, will be more prominent.