Taman Festival Bali – the abandoned theme park….
There are many places in Bali that are ranked as top tourist spots, so an abandoned theme park is an unlikely attraction. I’d heard about this place for years but only this week got to visit, and while there really isn’t much to see, I found it fascinating.
Located just four kilometres north of Sanur on Padang Galek beach, Taman Festival was a theme park built in partnership by an Indonesian business man and the government—it was rumoured to be worth $100 million in the mid 1990’s. It was built with high hopes, including attractions such as the world’s first inverted roller coaster, Bali’s biggest swimming pool, 3-D theatres, simulated volcanoes, laser shows and even crocodiles! The soft opening was help late 1997 with many locals attending, then on Friday 13thMarch 1998, the five-million-dollar laser show was struck by lightning. Yes, that date is spooky! With the subsequent Asian Financial crisis and when the government couldn’t find a purchaser for the now bankrupt park, it was closed and deserted. Subsequent battles over the land have left it to become the derelict place it is now.
Come to the entrance of the park these days and you’ll have every right to think you’re entering an empty, run-down block. At the front, the old ticket booths still stand, now neglected and the remaining walls covered with graffiti. Walk through the gate and you find the fountain remains empty, but you can imagine how majestic it would have looked with the water pouring from the lion’s mouth. Look to the ground and you’ll still see an impressive bright-coloured mosaic tile display, unfortunately now covered in fallen leaves and slippery moss. Nature has taken over the park, along with some talented graffiti artists. It’s intriguing, but probably more resembles Jurassic Park rather than Disneyland.
As we arrived out front, the men smoking clove scented cigarettes greeted us. We paid 20,000 rupiah ($2) each to enter, Made has been a guide for the last twenty years and was happy to show us around. When we asked him if it was a good job he replied no. Can’t blame him,t’s not a paid job after all, dependent on tips he may receive from people like us who happen to fall upon the place. Still, he proudly walked us through the area he knew well, pointing out sights as we went.
Most of the buildings are deteriorating, but as Made described what once was, I could visualise what it may have been like in its hey-day. Squeals from the excited children heading to the rollercoaster or the 3D theatre, families enjoying a day out. Instead, the silence is only broken by bird calls and the occasional sound of something scurrying on the ground. The buildings are empty and mostly covered in graffiti and crawling vines. It’s become known as a place for street-artists, with some impressive pieces around the place. It’s also a photographer’s dream.
There’s a large arch made from steel girders, the official use was lost in translation, but we believe it may have been an atrium of sorts back in the day.
The viewing platform was high enough to appreciate the views to the ocean, and listen as the waves crashed loudly on the shore. On the wall behind, a large painting of an owl or maybe a hawk sat prominently, two open-wide yellow eyes watching on. Even the discarded toilet blocks have been painted, with messages of “spread the love” and fancy faces on the walls and mirrors. Taking the steps down, and walking outside again, we followed the path as Made pointed out what were once old restaurants and dancing areas.
Large Banyan trees are scattered throughout with old offerings placed below the branches, the derelict site is still used for prayer on special occasions. The 3D theatre walls feature an Indians face, and again the eyes follow you everywhere. The place has an eerie feel to it, I wouldn’t want to be here at night!
Further on, we stroll by a big hill, which after dark was once a simulated volcano. In front of this is a large park area where you can still see the blocks where fountains created their displays. A vacant bell tower remains standing, empty and quiet, but look up high and you can see where the bell once hung.
By the time we neared the exit, we had walked for over an hour exploring the ten hectares of land. Some of the statues have crumbled but there are some in perfect condition still to be found. I’m sure there was lots more to see but we ran out of time.
The park can be accessed on bike or on foot, by following a path alongside the ocean from Sanur. But some of the path has eroded with the rough seas recently, so probably best to drive to Pandang Galak. There are reports that you can enter for 10,000Rp, but I think our driver kept some for himself, lol. Which is fine, it’s only one dollar. Then there’s the urban myth which states that the many crocodiles remained in the park even after it was abandoned, they feasted on each other until all but one was gone. Thankfully, I can’t attest to whether this was true or not, but Taman Festival is definitely worth a walk-through.