While Ulee Lheue faces the calmer northwestern bit of the sea at the northern tip of Sumatra, 10km away to the southwest, the coast faces the open Indian Ocean, and the brunt of the Tsunami. The coastal villages of Lhoknga and Lampuuk were very badly hit.
Luckily parts of the road to Lhoknga are on higher grounds, so villages around it escaped the deluge.
At a roadside stall, we stop for a breather. It has been a hot day.
Local tidbits are on sale.
NGO spotting. It is claimed there are 128 NGOs, local and foreign, active in post-Tsunami works. And spotting them can be a wholesome hobby for some.
Nearby I discover a traditional house belonging to an Acehnese chief.
The original was burnt by the Dutch in 1893. A lot of things surely got burnt down during colonial time!
Another vista of this grand structure. Interesting that while this area is quake-prone, the house does not have the distinctive quake-proof design of Minangkabau houses in West Sumatra. Perhaps the Acehnese used another technique.
As we cruise southwesterly towards the other side of Sumatra, I can’t help but admire the northern end of the awesome Barisan Range, which extends all the way to the southern end of Sumatra, almost 1,600km (or 1,000 miles) away.
A first sign of major resconstruction work - a new bridge on this vital highway to the west coast of Aceh province.
Another depressing sight of mass grave. This one is for victims from an army camp nearby, which was decimated by the Tsunami.
More reconstruction work.
We come to a beautiful estuary at Lampuuk, a popular picnic spot 25km southwest of Banda Aceh. Afar, we see a cement plant, 75% destroyed by the Tsunami (and killing 193 of its 635 workers) including its port and a bridge. It has since been refurbished and is now fully operational. They badly need the cement for reconstruction projects anyway.
Same spot, looking slightly to the right at the Indian Ocean. Imagine waves taller than coconut trees crashing in.
A sound advice fallen on deaf ears. Littering is a major problem here.
Nearby, a queue for roasted corns forms. Sweet and deliciously burnt.
A one-legged local denizen listens intently.
An enterprising furniture transporter arrives, parks his overwhelmed machine, and asks for directions. He is lost.
But he regains his orientation and is soon off. Great balancing act!
I hear surfs and after a short walk in the hot blazing sun, I come to magnificient Lampuuk beach. On 26/12/04, in similar condition, gigantic 30-metre waves came rolling in. It must have been a horrifying sight.
Looking to the south, where the epicenter of the 9.3 Richter quake was, some 250km away.
We resume our drive and stumble upon another mass grave.
As the practice, the victims were declared ‘martyrs’, which helped simplify the process of their mass interment.
I peep through the gate and see a lonely path among the bushes growing atop the thousands of dead. The nearby village of Lhoknga lost 7,000 of its 8,000 inhabitants.
The Turkish government took it as their responsibility to bring back Lampuuk.
In the so-called Turkish Village, new housing estates on the right, and a brand new mosque on the left.
It’s a splendid mosque against the clear blue sky. The beach is just 700m to the left.
The facade is inherently Turkish.
The main road in front of the mosque is named after the Turkish PM. I notice most roads in this village are named after prominent Turks, and with their mouthful, alien names, I’m not sure how the local Lampuukans take them.
Anyway, the interior of the mosque is spartan, but at one corner I notice broken bits. Initially I thought the mosque was falling apart due to poor workmanship or something, …
… until I spot this notice. Apparently this new mosque was built on the site of the old mosque, demolished by the Tsunami. As a reminder, the builder preserved this bit of the ruined old Lampuuk mosque, now inside the new mosque. Very thoughtful, I think.
We wander around the new township. The houses look nice, though some criticise the design for not being friendly in tropical climate. Without airconditioing, the houses would be uncomfortable to live in.
Details of this project.
Unfortunately many houses are still empty, and weeds and shrubs are starting to take over.
NGO spotting. We took a sandy lane and spot more NGO vehicles.
NGO spotting. Another car in the coconut grove. These are tough trees - they survived the Tsunami.
We decide to try the road which snakes its way along the western coast of Sumatra towards Meulaboh, 200km away, another Tsunami ground zero.
But the ongoing construction of a new road makes the going slow and tough. We make a U-turn and return to Banda Aceh, in time for dinner. Maybe when the road is ready, we’ll come again and drive all the way to Meulaboh. It is indeed a beautiful country.
To be continued at the next chapter …
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