It is ordinarily not like me to devote an entire travelogue or subchapter to what is essentially a single attraction in a city. But the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is not an ordinary attraction. It is, in fact, an attraction designed to show off the incredible diversity of culture and architecture available amongst Indonesia's 1,700 or so islands.
It was an attraction perfectly suited for such a capital city. After all, most visitors to Indonesia tend to concentrate on the single island of Bali, beyond that the quantity of foreign tourists drop significantly. Since island hopping is difficult to do, this is a great alternative.
I found that the best way to start a visit to the Taman Mini was to start with the skylift, a cable car that crosses over most of the park. From above, I found that there were about thirty or so different (and I mean completely different) cultures represented. Each culture (island or part of island) was given its own little block which contained one or two structures and gardens in the represented architecture. For example, the first photo shows the exhibit for Central Java (region containing the popular city of Bandung, for example). I learned that the island of Java was very diverse, with the Western, Central, and Eastern Java exhibits being very different.
The eastern Javanese city of Yogyakarta, a major Javanese attraction with Buddhist and Hindu temples alongside old Muslim mosques, earned its very own exhibit. Part of it is the Borobudur exhibit, shown in the second photo. Borobudur is a famous Buddhist temple from the 8th Century that is popular due its interesting octogonal shape and its elaborate artwork. The exhibit is a very simplistic version compared to the real thing. Yogyakarta (called "Joeg-jah" by the locals) is high on my list of places to hit in future trips, the pages I've encountered on the web describe other ruins and sites to visit, plus it is described as Java's cultural center.
The exhibits representing sites further from Java were even more interesting and ornate. For example, take a look at the flambouyant style of the West Sumatra exhibit in the third photo. Sumatera is Indonesia's largest island, adjacent to Java to the northwest, and itself a multicultural experience (North Sumatera, West Sumatera, South Sumatera, and the remote province of Aceh were represented). Much of their architecture made elaborate use of straw and ornate, colorful patterns. Other major islands, like Sulawesi (also known as Celebes) and Irian Jaya (also known as Papua), showed examples of even more flambouyant architecure and brighter colors (gold was particularly common, but also bright blood reds and royal blues). Of course, the Balinese exhibit (with its signature orange stone Hindu architecture) was the easiest for me to spot. The Museum Indonesia, the national history museum, also used Balinese architecture.
The third photo was taken on the drive after the skylift ride, time unfortunately did not permit the opportunity to visit each exhibit, but believe me I would have loved to.
There were three other sights from the skylift definitely worth mentioning. The first is shown in the fourth photo, a kilometer-long pool that contains a reproduction of the major islands. I have annotated this photograph to help you get your bearings (perhaps reviewing the Indonesia map will help, too?). This is the western half. Second was the Children's Castle, located at the distant end of the park. This is a huge red-brick castle with playgrounds and activities. While impressive, I couldn't grasp what architecture if any it was designed to replicate. Third were religious structures, which used a very odd shade of olive green -- these were a mosque, a Catholic church, and a Protestant church side by side. These were not monuments, they were still very much in use, and represented the country's religious tolerance.
The Taman Mini was much, much more than just the miniature Indonesia exhibit. I already mentioned the skylift and the Museum Indonesia. The fifth photo shows the "snail", which is an IMAX theater. There were other museums, and a miniature version of the Monas (see the Golden Triangle subchapter).
My only complaint about the Taman Mini would be that it did seem to be falling into a state of disrepair. The exhibits themselves were fabulous, however much of the infrastructure looked the worse for wear after some twenty or twenty-five years. In a way, this was surprising, given the popularity of the park -- especially among the children who congregated at the children's castle and the IMAX theater, and this was on a weekday.
Aside from that, the Taman Mini was absolutely worth the visit. If you are going to Jakarta and want a quickie-tour of the whole country without the pain of added travel, I highly recommend it.
Trip taken 29 December 2002 through 03 January 2003 -- Page last updated 28 October 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin