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Established in 1250AD, the city of Banda Aceh lies on the westernmost point of the Indonesian archipelago. The city is greatly influenced by the Islamic lifestyle and is said to be one of the oldest regions to embrace the religion. It is believed that it was in this region that Islam was introduced to Southeast Asia. In 2004, a devastating tsunami swept away and inundated 60% of the town’s infrastructure, including some of the heritage buildings. Aceh has bounced back since then with a fresh, new look that maintains the cultural heritage of the land.

After landing at Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport, a range of sites and activities are waiting to be explored. Some of the most notable would be those related to the tsunami of 2004. The Aceh Tsunami Museum commemorates the memory of those lost and serves as an educational center and emergency disaster shelter in the case of another major natural disaster. While exploring the town, be on the lookout for an inhabited house with a deserted boat on its roof. Although it could have been removed, it has been left there in remembrance of the tragic event as well as the 59 lives said to have been saved by the boat. There are quite a few historic sites that survived the disaster and stand ready for exploration. The Grand Mosque of Baiturrahman and the mausoleum of Sultan Iskandar Muda are well worth a visit, and the Kerkhoff Dutch Cemetery – the second largest Dutch soldier cemetery outside Holland – takes you back to the Aceh War of the late 1800s. Grabbing a camera and strolling the streets, making a stop at the central market, and browsing the cuisines and souvenirs are but a few more of the experiences to be had in Aceh.

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