As Jakarta is one of the world's larger capital cities (eleven million or so in the metropolitan area), certainly one would expect to be plenty of entertainment available. Jakarta has two major entertainment areas of great significance -- one of them, the Taman Mini II, having been covered in a previous chapter. This chapter covers the other, Ancol (AHN-chawl), located on the Batavian coastline.
While the Taman Mini was constructed to celebrate the national cultural heritage of Indonesia's 3,000 islands, Ancol is more of an American-style (dare I say it) amusement complex, perhaps like a coastal Six Flags. Stretching out for several miles along the coastline, Ancol offers everything -- water sports, amusement parks, golf, outdoor concerts, resorts and hotels, nightclubs, and a huge strand. Apart from the fact that I was the only "bule" (BOO-lay, localspeak for "white guy") present, I could easily have fooled myself into thinking I was at the Lake Compounce amusement park back in my home town.
As amusement parks go, Ancol is inexpensive but not cheap. The entrance fee to the complex is about $3 US (based on May 2003 exchange rates) a vehicle, then once inside each facility incurs its own entrance fee. My visit centered around the Sea World, primary an aquarium without some of the extravagant shows included in the American editions. Of course, Indonesia's Sea World focused heavily on indigenous marine life, which was a joy to watch. The second photo shows one of the sea turtles in a huge petting pool, that also included a shark tank, a horseshoe crab tank, and a crocodile tank. The sharks were babies and of the non-human-eating variety, so the other visitors didn't feel at all frightened about trying to pet them. I, frankly, thought they were nuts.
The highlight was the huge tank that had the largest sharks, rays, and fish in them -- typical of such aquariums, this too had an enclosed corridor through it with a moving walkway. Some of the rays in that tank were the largest I'd ever seen, a good three yards in diameter that blocked the light as it sailed across. Yikes!
Some of the other popular spots were: The Duna Fantasi, Ancol's amusement park. I did not have time to visit it, but my travel companion described it to me as a very big park with rides and games -- carousels, roller coasters, you name it. Ancol also had a big water park, with a huge water slide, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and lots of fountains. From the roadway, I could tell that the park was completely packed -- not surprising given that it was a Sunday afternoon on an unusually clear, dry day. Ancol has two golf courses, one eighteen-hole and one nine-hole, and golf stores were plentiful in the surrounding area. Golf stores, by the way, were common among many of Jakarta's larger shopping centers.
My companion and I spent most of our time exploring the waterfront. Ancol's shorefront seemed to be divided into three major parts. The first part, shown in the third photo, was a quiet inlet most surrounded by cottages. The first photo was also taken from this area, showing a monument in the middle of a swimming area that also offered paddle boats.
Moving eastward along the sidewalk, we reached the main beach which was quite crowded with people. But, no bikini babes (Indonesians are much more modest than those found at, say, the Cote Azur of France?). The fourth photo shows the many ocean swimmers enjoying the water underneath a hazy sunset. The waters were very calm due to a massive breakwater (barely visible through the reflected sunlight). Beyond that were a large number of fishing boats sailing along. Some of them were traditional Javanese, but not all.
The third area on the shorefront was further east -- the outdoor concert area. A concert was underway, and loud rock music filled the air. We joked about how rock music sounded about the same when sung in Bahasa or English -- loud and often incomprehensible. (Don't take that the wrong way, I like rock music, but as one ages, one's tastes mellow out). Indeed, Ancol has a lot of nightlife, and many of Jakarta's youth will go clubbing there. A couple of the largest and most popular local nightclubs were pointed out to me, and they were reminiscent of the large, wild discotheques I remembered from back home. So, while other amusement complexes slow down or even close at sunset, Ancol is just warming up. Only downside is that the clubs are not recommended for westerners, I was led to understand that these places can be a bit rough.
Ancol is also loaded with eats, and the available menus include both Asian and western fast foods. In the latter case, the usual burger and fried chicken chains are available. And of course, souvenir stands are everywhere as well.
I enjoyed my trip to Ancol as it was an important part of Jakarta that I previously missed, and it was nice to see the huge throngs of people enjoying a moderately sunny and unusually dry day. As we were only able to spend a half-day, there was plenty enough to go back and see if a future opportunity is available.
Trip taken 21-29 May 2003 -- Page last updated 28 October 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin