Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh


Aceh's come a long way since Boxing Day, 2004. Just before the big wave hit, the battle between the Indonesian army and the Free Aceh Movement seemed geared to go on as many decades as it already had, while just after the water receded, the capital, Banda Aceh, was almost totally obliterated: over thirty thousand dead, the streets filled with bodies that could only be dumped into mass graves. Next came a flood of NGOs, substantial peace talks, years of intensive rebuilding and--despite the strict rule of Sharia law all across the remote province--a steadily growing trickle of tourists, most heading straight for Pulau Weh. 

On the way to the harbor for my boat to Sabang, my becak driver pointed out some prominent reminders of the tsunami: giant boats that remain where they washed up nearly nine years ago. Some are several miles from the coast, sitting right on top of the homes and bodies they crushed. They're part of the neighborhood now, towering over the new houses and back-to-normal routines. 

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