Thanks to the World Park, Banda Aceh

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A large park in the centre of Banda Aceh that is home to a couple of larger monuments and is ringed by a string of smaller ones each expressing thanks to the nations that contributed to the relief and reconstruction efforts after the 2004 tsunami.      
More background info: see under Banda Aceh
What there is to see: The main tsunami monument is on the western side of the park. It has the usual big blue breaker wave design element that has become a bit of a cliché here in Banda Aceh (see also the Tsunami Museum). More interesting – and much more depressingly real – are the inscriptions embossed in the concrete pavement in front of the monument: “167,000 dead or missing”,  “500,000 displaced”, “3000 km roads destroyed”, “4717 coastal fishing boats lost”, “ア2,500 teachers died”, and so on. The scale of all this, however, remains pretty incomprehensible even in the light of such accurate figures.
A panel in front of the main monument expresses the hope that the solidarity shown in the wake of the tsunami, both locally and through the help from abroad, may bring lasting betterment for humanity and the future. Another panel by the entrance to the park near the monument consists of a larger Indonesian flag next to a cluster of 53 little flags – representing the nations that donated most significantly to the relief and reconstruction efforts after the tsunami.
Furthermore, along the path that rings the park, 53 stelae have been erected, each with the flag of an individual nation, its official name, and the inscription “thank you and peace” in the respective languages of these nations (or one of their languages) plus the uniform translation in Bahasa Indonesia.  
Why not just “thank you” but also “peace”? Remember that while the tsunami brought unprecedented destruction it also facilitated peace because it made an end of the local independence war a prerequisite for the relief effort (and so far the peace is holding – see under Banda Aceh for more). 
Amongst the nations represented, most are predictable, either being the rich nations of the world (USA, most of Europe, Singapore, China, etc.) or fellow Islamic countries (the Arab world is hence disproportionally represented). But there are also a couple of surprises, such as Laos (which is neither Muslim nor in any way affluent – far from it). Disturbingly, a couple of the stelae show signs of vandalism, in particular the one for Romania, which has the flag and the word for “thank you” sprayed over in red (don't ask me why – I haven't got a clue). 
At several points around the park there are also panels with a plan and list of all the nations represented in this way, so that you can track down the nation you are looking for with relative ease. Most visitors will probably look for their own nation in particular. But because I live in Austria (without being Austrian) I was also interested in seeing its stele – and I was a bit puzzled by the spelling of the “thank you and peace” variant here. It read: “Dankschen Friede”. Read out aloud it does indeed sound like the contraction of “Danke schön” in the Austrian dialect of German, but I had never seen it spelled like this before (in one word).  
There are yet more memorials in this park, the most stunning of which is a plane on a plinth. This was apparently the first civilian airliner that independent Indonesia ever had, a DC-3 Dakota plane. It bears the number RI-001, presumably to stand for Indonesia Republic No. 1.  
The inner parts of the park itself are rather empty and featureless, except for a sports field in one of its halves (it's bisected by a road). From the open expanse of the lawn, however, you get the best view of the stunning architecture of the Tsunami Museum just across the road south of the park. 
Location: almost bang in the middle of Banda Aceh, a few hundred yards south-west of the Grand Mosque and the river, and right opposite the Tsunami Museum, on the main through road leading west towards the sea.
Google maps locator: [5.5503, 95.3128]
Access and costs: freely accessible at all times. 
Details: The park is easy to find: from Banda Aceh's main sight, the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, head south along the main road until you come to the Tsunami Museum. The park is just opposite. The DC-3 on a plinth stands in the south-western corner along the main road leading out to the sea/harbour. The main tsunami monument is in the middle of the western side of the park, north of the main road. 
The park is freely accessible at all times. 
Time required: if you want to do a full loop around the park to see all the nations' individual stelae in addition to the main monuments then you will need something like half an hour.  
Combinations with other dark destinations: Most obviously, the Tsunami Museum right across the road to the south of the park makes a perfect and fitting combination – and an absolute must-do when in Banda Aceh anyway. 
The second most important tsunami-related site, the PLTD Apung 1 stranded power-generating ship, is also not far, a few hundred yards to the south-west, first along the main road, then down the side street. It's well signposted. 
For more see under Banda Aceh
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see under Banda Aceh – the city centre is within easy walking distance, as are some of the main sights, such as the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque just up the road towards the river, and the Gunongan is not far either, in a south-easterly direction.  
  • 01 - main thanks-to-the-world monument01 - main thanks-to-the-world monument
  • 02 - death toll02 - death toll
  • 03 - IDPs03 - IDPs
  • 04 - business loss too04 - business loss too
  • 05 - infrastructure damage05 - infrastructure damage
  • 06 - heavy losses to education as well06 - heavy losses to education as well
  • 07 - multinational aid07 - multinational aid
  • 08 - thanks to Britain08 - thanks to Britain
  • 09 - strange spelling of thanks to Austria09 - strange spelling of thanks to Austria
  • 10 - somebody took issue with the thanks to Romania for some reason10 - somebody took issue with the thanks to Romania for some reason
  • 11 - another monument11 - another monument
  • 12 - frist Indonesian commercial aircraft monument12 - frist Indonesian commercial aircraft monument

©, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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