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Banda Aceh With Its Memories and Beauty

During recent Ied holidays (16th-25th July), I went to my hometown Aceh for 10 days visiting family and taking vacation. My hometown is in Lhokseumawe, a northern part of Aceh province, but I also wanted to visit Banda Aceh and Sabang again. It had been 7 years since the last time I went there, and my husband had never been there before, so it would be a perfect time to go!

Banda Aceh is about 300 km from my Lhokseumawe. We —  I, my husband, my baby, my parents, my sister and my brother — went on a road trip from Lhokseumawe on the second day of Ied, stopping by at relatives’ places on the way there including my grandmother’s. By the time we reached Banda Aceh, it’s already 10pm. We went straight to the hotel we’ve booked and got rest.

The next morning when I and my husband went out to look for some foods for our baby, I had the first glimpse again of Banda Aceh city. I lived here for 1 year from 1999 and 2000, but I didn’t remember it was beautiful like this: fresh air, blue sky, fine streets and roads without holes, no traffics, many trees/plants on the main road, green and clean. My favorite part was the view from a small bridge where Krueng Aceh (Krueng means river) and a mountain (my guess was Mount Seulawah Agam) were in one picture. It was pretty that made me ask my husband to stop the car for a while. River and mountain… reminds me of Seoul.

Back to the group in the hotel, we started off to visit some Tsunami-related places. Sadly when we talk about Aceh, we always remember that big disaster and the victims. But in the other side, Tsunami made Banda Aceh a better city. As I said above, I didn’t recall Banda Aceh could be this beautiful 15 years ago, nor 7 years ago. Tsunami also created new interesting places like Museum Tsunami, PLTD Apung and Kapal di Atas Rumah.

Our first destination was PLTD Apung in Punge Blang Cut. This 2,600 ton electric generator vessel had been on the sea and was flung 3 km to the mainland by Tsunami 2004. Tourists can go up into the viewing dock, and almost can’t see the sea line. That’s how powerful the nature was. It has been changed since the last time I went there in 2008, where there was the ship only. Now the ship is surrounded by fence, park, nice flying walk, jogging path, fountain and monument. There’s no entrance fee but it’s closed every praying time (Dzuhur and Ashar) for 15 minutes.

Next we went to Museum Tsunami, which was located about 1,5km from PLTD Apung. The first area we entered on the first floor was Tsunami Alley (Lorong Tsunami). It was a dark narrow alley surrounding by watery walls, they say like in the middle of Tsunami wave. What made it more scary was the sound of people saying “La illaha illallah” (“There is no deity but God”).

The next room was gallery showing sad pictures of Tsunami destruction in Aceh. The last room on the first floor was Chamber of Blessings (Ruang Sumur Doa). It was a dark high ceiling chamber with the names of Tsunami victims written on the wall, and “Allah” on the top of chamber. With a backsound of a man reciting Al-Quran, this chamber really made me goosebumps. No wonder before entering the first floor-ed areas, there was a warning message written on the wall saying that if you had trauma with Tsunami, better to skip the first floor and directly go to second floor using other way.

Going to the second floor from Chamber of Blessings, there were countries flag from around the world hanging with message “Peace” in their own languages. In the second floor we could see videos/movies playing in the auditorium, some photo, item and diorama galleries related to Tsunami.

Finished with museum, we went to Lampuuk beach to have grilled fishes for lunch. Lampuuk is located in Lhoknga, about 15km from Banda Aceh city. The view on the way there was soooo stunning! Lines of rice fields and hills/mountains. I thought I was more a beach type, but after Korea I fell in love with mountains too.

Lampuuk beach that noon was crowded but I could still see its beauty. The sand is white with beautiful cliff view and blue sea and colorful huts. The huts are belong to each kiosk based on the color. If we sit in a red hut, we could order fish from anywhere, but rice and drinks must be ordered from the red kiosk. We could bring our own rice and drinks too. Sadly we did not come here for swimming. There was not enough time and we could enjoy swimming on the sea later in Sabang.

I and my husband went off first to pick up my mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law in the airport who would join our holidays in Sabang. While my daughter with my mom, dad, sister, and brother went back to the hotel for rest. The international airport of Banda Aceh is called Sultan Iskandar Muda (like the name of a king in Aceh Kingdom). The building has a dome and a tower which looks like a mosque. People arriving here would rightaway feel the Islamic nuance of this Serambi Mekkah (Mekkah terrace) province.

Before going to our hotel, we brought my in-laws to visit Tsunami related places. So, I and my husband visited Museum Tsunami and PLTD Apung each twice that day hehe. But this time we also visited Kapal di Atas Rumah (a boat on top of a house) in Lampulo. Same like PLTD Apung, this site is located in the middle of housing area, but the streets were smaller that we thought we went the wrong way and my husband almost gave up. By fully trusting GPS in Google Maps app, we finally found it; the fisherman boat that was flung 1km from the beach to this housing area by Tsunami and landed on top of a house.

It was around 5.30pm when we went back to our hotel for in-laws to check-in and get some rest for about an hour before walking out again. We went to Baiturrahman Mosque, the famous symbol of Banda Aceh city, for Sholat Maghrib. This big mosque was soooo elegant, inside and outside, even more during sunset. Too bad many rubbishes found on the grass and gardens around it.

After that we went for dinner. Like Chinese New Year in China, during Ied Fitri in Aceh many food shops are closed. So we did not have many choices to try the best culinaries in town. We ended up having dinner in Rex Peunayong, an outdoor foodcourt in the center of the city where we could find any kind of local foods. Well, not only local foods, because there was Ayam Penyet (smashed chicken) as well which was famous in Java. So, everyone ordered different kind of foods like Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Mie Goreng (fried noodle), Mie Basah (steamed noodle), Sate Matang, Ayam Tangkap (chicken), Kerang Rebus (oyster), Martabak Telor (egg pancake), and so on. This Peunayong area is also famous for souvenir shops. Many shops are opened from early morning until late night, but usually closed for few minutes during Maghrib.

That was the end of a nice day in Banda Aceh. Early next day we would head off to Sabang, so no more walking around Banda Aceh city. Because it’s the third day of Ied, many of my old best friends were still in their hometown out of Banda Aceh. But later I managed to meet one of them shortly after I came back from Sabang, while I had breakfast in Nasi Gurih Pak Rasyid (in front of Baiturrahman Mosque, very recommended!), before I went back on the road trip to Lhokseumawe. Hope we’ll meet again someday in a longer visit.

Banda Aceh might have a painful memories, but now it’s healing and becoming more beautiful. This short visit makes me in love with Banda Aceh so much.

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