Exploring the Indonesian theme park with no visitors – not living ones anyway…
Right now I’m back on mainland Bali after spending a week on the small island of Lembongan off the east coast. During my time on the island I spoke a few times to a local guy called Niko about ghosts and Indonesian folklore: I specifically wanted to learn about the Pontianak – vampiric ghosts which are said to be the spirits of women who died while pregnant. (The city of Pontianak in Indonesia is named after this creature, which was claimed to have haunted the first sultan who once settled there.) Unfortunately Niko wasn’t able to give me much information on the Pontianak as he said it is mainly an Islamic belief of the people of Borneo, unlike Lembongan which is fully Hindu. He did however share some information about Indonesian ghosts in general, telling me that most Balinese will not enter abandoned spaces for fear of spirits living there. “Like the abandoned theme park in Sanur,” he told me.
Hold up. What?
Before Niko had finished what he was saying I had already decided to go and try and find this place. Abandoned theme park? Sign me up! In Japan, haikyo – or urban exploration – is something I was always interested in, and so the opportunity to do it in Indonesia was too good to pass up. After taking the boat back to the mainland I rented a bike and cycled a few kilometres up the coast from Sanur. I had read online that it was easy enough to spot due to a huge building with an owl on it. Sure enough, there it was.
Taman Festival Park
I entered the park through the old front gate where the ticket offices used to be. A security guard was there but didn’t seem phased by me going in to have a look. It turns out Taman Festival Park was in the final stages of completion before the project was abandoned. The grounds are absolutely massive – with a movie theatre, a fake volcano and all sorts of outlying buildings which are now overgrown with vines and weird creatures. (The size of the spiders and hornets inside this place have to be seen to be believed.) In the heart of the park is the remains of a crocodile pit, and rumour has it when the park was dissolved, the owners left the crocodiles there to become wild. There’s an urban legend that the crocodiles became cannibals and ate humans, hence another reason why the Balinese won’t go near the place.
I myself definitely found it spooky at times, particularly inside some of the buildings. (The old cinema gave me proper weird vibes.) Because there was no one else about, my ears were finely tuned to every sound in the undergrowth and I needed to have my wits about me. I made a video of my time walking about. It’s pretty long at eight minutes but it gives you a feel for the place. Check it out along with the photos below. I’ll certainly not forget this one in a hurry.
Taman Festival Park still actually registers on Google Maps from when it was being built so you won’t have any trouble finding this place. Just go to the very end of Sanur Beach and keep on going until to you reach Padang Galak. After about 15 minutes cycling you’ll see the huge owl building on your left overlooking the sea. The guards gave me no bother but I’m sure if they did stop you they could easily be won round with a little cash. Bring water and bug spray, the place is crawling with all sorts of insects. The area the Park is in is quiet, with little shacks and stuff. Happy hunting!