The next morning, we find a couple of huge floral displays in the hotel’s driveway. Too colourful and hard to read. Bad fonts some more.
And more along the median strip at nearby Jalan Panglima Polim; actually plastic floral boards. None makes any sense to me.
Then we realise there is an election happening at our very hotel, and the floral thingies are all ‘best wishes’ from stakeholders. I guess that’s the way they do things here. Anyway the ‘flowers’ look recycleable.
We make our way by foot across the Aceh river towards the grand mosque again. I thought this fish-head would find a better home in front of the countless ‘fish-head curry restaurants’ in KL.
This is Banda Aceh’s most popular mode of transport, called labi-labi, plying specific routes.
It’s like a modified van, and would leave once the driver thinks he has enough passengers. Reminds me of the pickup-truck-taxis in Chiangmai – see HERE.
Near the mosque, it’s morning and the stalls selling sirih in my previous story, are unmanned. The ladies will start selling the stuff in the late afternoon. It’s called jambo ranup Aceh, whatever that is.
Next to it, a food stall, with a mini rubbish tip at the back. Swarms of flies keep switching between the two joints. Frankly they have to do a lot more in cleaning the whole place up.
I reach the mosque and the morning sun puts a different perspective to it. By the way, our 10-year-old Aina is denied entry into the compound for failing the dress code! She wears a T-shirt and long pants.
I gingerly enter the mosque, and expecting a sombre mood, as the case is with most mosques, I’m surprised by the crowd and the noise, and the running kids.
I also notice boxes of packed snacks. What is happening here?
Yes, an akad nikah ceremony, which I just missed. Marriage solemnisation. Apparently being a Saturday morning, it’s peak time for couples coming to Baiturrahman to get hitched.
A happy Acehnese couple (the groom looks a bit glum tho’), pose with relatives.
The solemnisation took place on this thick mat, groom on the left, bride on the right, as they faced the marriage official.
Elsewhere in this handsome mosque, usual business.
Built 1879-83 by the Dutch colonialists (to say sorry for burning down the original mosque in 1873), it incorporated classic northern Indian Moghul style. Note the many pillars.
I exit the mosque and try another frontal shot with the morning sun behind me.
An attempt to capture the whole 35-metre minaret without having to sweat it out in the hot sun.
As I admire the gate, ladies parade through the compound as a short-cut route.
I just cannot resist this morning view of Aceh Market juxtaposed against the white minaret and the blue sky.
Long morning walk deserves another round of es teler.
I notice this is a safe place. Bikers just leave the helmets on their machines with no worry.
NGO spotting. This pastime is addictive!
After a short rest, we go for a drive again, and in the western suburb of Banda Aceh, more new houses. In 2004, it was utter destruction here, 3km away from the sea at Ulee Lheue.
Next to the new houses, an oddity of the Tsunami. A huge power-generating vessel to supply electricity to Banda Aceh, originally berthed at the port in Ulee Lheue, was carried by the waves for 3km and deposited here. The crew were still on board and survived their most harrowing boat ride.
The boat came to a rest in this then dense suburb of Banda Aceh …
… flattening several houses under its immense weight. See related tsunami video HERE. Caution: some scenes may be disturbing.
There are still bodies underneath this giant, but nobody dares to crawl to retrieve them for fear of being squished if the boat settles. I think superstition is also a factor.
I peer and realise this huge thing is resting on some solid building structures or debris – I can see the other side of the boat. I wonder where the bodies are. But the thought of crawling underneath it is truly scary. Local people say after a rainy day an odd unpleasant odour still permeates the air. The chicken probably have no problem.
The front end of the boat, resting on the concrete base of an unlucky house.
And that’s the toilet, or what’s left of it.
‘PLTD Apung 1’ is the name. After being carried for 3km by the Tsunami, it came to a rest here. As it floated inland, hapless people clung to the sides of the vessel, the lucky ones being saved by the crew still onbord.
Beside the ship, another ruin.
In a northern suburb another new housing area. Is the design suitable for hot and humid tropical climate? Of course air-conditioning would solve everything.
Even good ol’ Coke chipped in – this is a primary school.
NGO spotting. House by Care.
Nearby, another Tsunami oddity, a fishing boat aloft, resting on the walls of a concrete house. Workmen are working on a viewing platform. Expect this spot to be commercialised soon. 🙂
The family is still living here, but I notice they use coconut trunks for additional support to shore up the boat. I hear when the boat got stuck here in the waves, the family climbed onto it to seek refuge.
Of course, a time-stamp.
It’s getting dark as we return to downtown Banda Aceh. Over here, the Tsunami water reached the 2nd floor. Dead people and animals, and debris were everywhere.
A banner commemorating the 3rd annivesary of the Tsunami. It’s late in the day and time to return to the hotel.
Sunday morning and we wake up to a gloomy day. The weather has been great since we arrived, and today is our last day here. We have a noon flight back to KUL.
The streets are wet with morning drizzle as we roam downtown for the final time. Looks nice now, but Tsunami water reached the 2nd floor with the dead and the debris.
On the way to the airport and the access road is fringed with rice-fields. The Tsunami never got here.
The whole airport does need upgrading if Aceh wants to attract business and tourists.
The terminal is dark, cramped and stuffy. Bureaucratic too, as we have to fill up forms and queue. Even in the international departure lounge, it is soon standing room only.
As we leave the building to board our plane, I glance at the people bidding good-byes to friends and loved ones.
Another long stroll to the plane.
Yes, so near and yet so far. Luckily the weather holds.
Incidentally this plane is the very same one which brought us here last Friday – reg. 9M-AHD.
As we prepare to leave, a classic Boeing 737-200 arrives.
Soon we are on our way home, as the plane takes off on time.
More scenic views of rice-fields and villages.
As we leave Sumatra …
… I set to put together a D-I-Y hotdog.
Nub got his done in no time and is soon happily chomping away …
… while I’m still trying to figure out mine!
As we pass over Port Klang, we are as good as home. It has been an eye-opening trip to Aceh. The terrible Tsunami of 2004 left an impact on virtually every Acehnese, and the hapless ones need all the assistance they could get to rebuild their lives and ravaged land.
Footnote: While in Banda Aceh, we used the services of Mr Faisal, as a guide cum driver. He was competent on both accounts. We thoroughly recommend him to any visitor to Banda Aceh. He can be contacted via cellphone +62.813.6073.3302, and needs all the business he could get. He lost his younger brother (and his family) who used to live in Ulee Lheue.
> THE END
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