Just north of Sanur, in Padang Galak, stand the mysterious remains of an amusement park. Vines drip from every building and the walls are covered in artistic graffiti. Crumbling stone statues stretch exposed metal fingers to the sky. This place seems haunted and holds a thrill that any of the normal tourist attractions only dream of replicating.
Taman Festival was a state of the art amusement complex that boasted a 3D theatre, amphitheatre, rollercoaster, simulation games, laser show, bird park, reptile park, brewery, crocodile pit, and even an erupting volcano in the center of the park. Tommy Suharto, the son of Indonesia’s second president, funded the expensive project (estimates vary between fourteen to one hundred million USD). It opened its doors in 1997 and offered the first week of entry for free to all Sanur residents.
People flocked to Taman Festival for this first week and enjoyed everything the park had to offer. Unfortunately, after the free tickets expired, a twenty-five thousand rupiah ticket price was set. While this seems like nothing today, in 1997, this was very expensive, especially for locals who were the expected clientele. Taman Festival closed its doors after the first month and the park was abandoned.
The crocodiles were rumored to have been abandoned with locals feeding them live chickens for a while. Eventually, the crocodiles ate each other and some still wander the park. The less exciting story told by the locals, is that the crocodiles were sold to a park near Ubud. An amazing graffiti of a very large crocodile skull is on the artificial volcano to keep you on your toes.
The jungle has spent the last twenty odd years reclaiming its property. The ticket booths sit with shuttered windows at the entrance. Some local men hang around the entrance to collect the ten thousand rupiah entry fee.
What I really love about Taman Festival is that after paying this nominal fee, I can wander the property as I wish. I can explore every nook and cranny, every structure, with no restrictions. It is like an expedition to find the most interesting graffiti or remnants of the amusement park attractions. And the really amazing thing is that it changes every time I visit! The jungle moves and grows, buildings crumble, but the most eerie of all is that the statues seem to roam the park, freezing when you come upon them. They are in different places every time I visit.
A large ominous statue of a garuda looms over a dilapidated fountain to welcome you to the park. To the right, there is a very large building, once used for single’s dances with roof beams that soar into the sky. There was a fire in 2012, destroying the large arched roof. Now, the skeletal remains can be seen from far away, a reminder of what was once a grand park; that is now in ruins. In this building, is a bit of graffiti that hasn’t changed in years, the owl. Painted on the second floor, the owl looks out onto the ocean with bright yellow, orange eyes.
The rest of the park is an adventure of vines and stonework. The 3D Theatre recently lost its roof, making it much less frightening. You can walk all around the artificial volcano and if you are brave, step off the path to discover the amphitheatre and some hidden buildings. Taman Festival is truly one of the gems of Bali. Be sure to visit it before the jungle completely swallows it up.
Written by Ashley