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What Is (Formerly) Known As Parklife

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What was once a megaproject to construct Bali’s first theme park, is now an abandoned site full of empty buildings and pathways covered in vines, dry leaves and colourful street art. That didn’t stop Taman Festival Bali from being an acquired point of interest, though – a rather perplexing fact that I determine to investigate.

The story (as well as the scenery) was a whole different thing a 20 years ago. In 1997, Bali was at the peak of its reputation as the tropical heaven on earth, with five star accommodations sprouting all over the southern coast. According to the locals, Taman Festival Bali was the brainchild and owned by two brothers of Indonesia’s most powerful family back then – capitalising on Bali’s raise into tourism stardom. It was different, highly exciting and ambitious to name a few description about this place. Multiple vendors spread here and there, while the attractions were ranging from an inverted roller coaster, a 3-dimension theatre, a man made volcano with impressive eruption action and one of the largest crocodile pond in the country. But a year later, when the park wasn’t even fully functional, the 1998 Asian financial crisis hit hard. Taman Festival Bali tried to survive, but eventually gave up and closed permanently before the new millennia even started.

Now, it’s like a scene taken straight from a disaster movie set on an apocalyptic future. A deserted area, scattered with constructions that have not seen their golden days in a very long time. Wild critters running or flying through its windows, raving overgrown plants and all its wastes creeping and piling everywhere. The only signs of human touches in recent times were leftovers of bonfires, shards of broken bottles and countless graffitis covering nearly every inch of the walls and pillars. I didn’t probe the whole eight-hectare area for many reasons – and fear is one of them. Who knows what (or whom) I might encounter on this mad solo research. There were stories, even news about the eeriest things happening here – things I’d rather let you search for them yourself in the internet. But I sure was curious, and being here actually validates the whole notion about this place’s appeal. At least from site planning alone, it craves to be explored – while the crude natural surge gives a completely new dimension to the experience.

“There were stories, even news about the eeriest things happening here – things I’d rather let you search for them yourself in the internet”

Those graffitis was the first clue of how this place still draws in many kinds of people to visit. Once I stepped into the area, those spray can arts are everywhere. Utilising all the aging brick and plaster walls as a free-for-all non-curated canvas, proves that it still attracts certain crowd. It almost look like an urban gallery here – one that blends urban culture and the elements of forsaking. There’s also the photographers, both for this raw and chaotic aesthetic as well as those exploiting the disarrayed backdrop with a model or two. You can’t deny that Taman Festival, in all its pandemonium charms is truly enticing for snapshot hunters – professional or not. The locals also mention about groups of military aficionados playing combat simulations regularly here, a very much proper activity for this ambience. And then there’s another group of people that takes it to the next level, those who come exactly because it’s unbrokenly ghoulish. They come once its dark, explore further and deeper than the rest of us, even to as far as setting camp and spend overnight. I’d hate to find out what are the stories they share afterwards.

I left with tons of pictures and maybe a thin on-the-surface stories. I wouldn’t mind coming back one day, though. There’s still roughly five-six hectares more for me to walkthrough – but maybe with a bunch of friends.

Taman Festival Bali
Pantai Padang Galak, Kesiman, Sanur

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