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August 7, 2015 Comments (0) Asia, Experiences, Photo Essays

Life Along Aceh’s Remote and Stunning West Coast

There is a province in north Sumatra, beyond even North Sumatra. It was known for centuries for its strategic position guarding the Strait of Melacca. Then, for decades as the centre of a bloody civil war. And now, what images does the name “Aceh” conjur?

Probably tsunami devastation, owing to Boxing Day 2004.  Ground zero of killer waves was on the west coast of this province. Some towns were reported as “vanished completely, leaving only scattered shards of concrete”.  My base was Lhoknga, the nearest town on the west to the capital. After the tsunami, it had only one building left standing – the mosque.

But today you’d never know it, except for all the ‘Evakuasi Tsunami’ signs. This sleepy, fishy, surfy village is bustling (in a sleepy, fishy, surfy kind of way). In fact, Aceh’s entire west coast is reborn. Transformed, quite literally: The tsunami reshaped the coastline. NGO money has rebuilt the towns and roads. New opportunities in construction and tourism have ended the civil war. Life goes on here (with its typical challenges) amidst beautiful tropical scenery, where the jungles descend mountains to kiss the coast.

A newly rebuilt road runs down this stunning west coast, winding across rivers, over mountains, and along beaches. Let me show you a bit of who, and what, you find along that road.  I hope it gives you something else to conjur the next time you hear “Aceh”. I want my photoset to change your mindset.

[Click photos to view full-screen with captions. For the full tale – of narrow escapes, tragic ends and civil war; featuring Little John, the Sultan of Aceh, and Queen Elizabeth – don’t miss my Echoes of Nightmares (Indonesia #7) ]

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