Beautiful Bali – the home of ancient temples, rice terraces and friendly, smiley people. After you’ve attempted your best down dog in Ubud, hopped over to the Gilis and hung out with the surfers in Canggu… what’s next?
Welp, how about a creepy abandoned theme park that feels like a cross between Jurassic Park II and The Blair Witch Project? Where it’s falsely rumoured (you hope) that escaped crocodiles roam the undergrowth? A place so scattered with broken glass, twisted metal and crumbling buildings that your tetanus booster might finally come into its own?
Welcome to Taman Festival, the ruins of a 9-hectare park north of Sanur. The site was open for just 3 years before it was forced to close in 2000 thanks to a string of bad luck and funding problems.
Today, it’s a marginally dangerous adventure playground slowly being reclaimed by the jungle.
And it’s excellent fun to explore.
Particularly if you’re interested in a spot of street art hunting…
As you’d expect from an abandoned site, it has its fair share straight-up vandalism. But for the tenacious urban explorer (cue Indiana Jones theme) there are some outstanding pieces of artwork waiting to be discovered amongst the overgrown trees and crumbling buildings.
The most famous, perhaps, is this huge owl by WildDrawing. It absolutely dominates the space, peering down at visitors and looking ominous.
Most of the buildings have been stripped bare, which makes it even more creepy when you stumble across something recognisable – like this bathroom. Now, I’m not usually one to hang around in abandoned theme park bathrooms (contrary to popular belief), but I couldn’t tear myself away. I kept trying to picture what it looked like when the park was open; how normal it used to be.
This was a 3D cinema once. There are ribbons of old film reel scattered about inside.
The weirdness isn’t so bad near the entrance where there are people hanging out – skaters, tourists, some enterprising guys trying to charge for entry. But as you push deeper into the park, you see fewer people and more dark hiding places.
It was tempting to turn around, but I’d been in touch with TraX – the guy behind the excellent Bali street art site Eat Spray Love (and from whom I totally stole the title for this series) – and he’d hinted that some of the best artwork at Taman might be a challenge to find.
And who doesn’t love a challenge?
These pieces are by Seth Globepainter. His faceless characters are unsettling at the best of times but in this setting they just make me want to scream and run away – especially the one with the devil mask.
I don’t even want to think about how unsafe some of the buildings were. But this ragged corridor made a nice frame for a piece by Aussie artist, Quint.
His stencils crop up all over the park, sometimes in the most remote places.
Pushing through the undergrowth to reach one building, we disturbed dozens and dozens of huge stripey mosquitos who were thrilled by their unexpected food delivery – I can still picture Lewis walking in front of me with his back and trousers absolutely covered in them.
Luckily, we had 50% DEET to hand so the damage was kept to a minimum, but those buggers are persistent. Even after constantly spraying I was left with bites on my face and neck. I’m amazed my camera (or my skin) didn’t melt with all the DEET it came into contact with.
Between the mosquitos, the spiders, the non-existent human-munching crocodiles and the fact this could easily be the set of a horror film – this is a seriously odd place to spend a few hours. But l loved it.
I have no idea if we discovered all the hidden gems. I guess we’ll just have to go back to see what else we can find.
But who knows what’s going to happen to this place in future. It’s already become a twisted sort of theme park again, so maybe someone will make it official, slap a coffee shop in there and make some real money out of this thing.
I can just see it now: Taman Festival Street Art Theme Park – complimentary mosquito obstacle course and free game of ‘spot of the crocodile’ with every ticket.
Would you go?
Getting to Taman Festival
The park is still listed on Google Maps, so just search for Taman Festival Park or follow this map.
If you try to access the park from the main entrance, you may get intimidated into paying a bogus entry fee. Instead, ride straight past the entrance and park up next to the seafront. Walk left along the front, hugging the inner wall. A few metres along you’ll see a stepping stone strategically placed where you can hop across the moat and into the park.
Take plenty of water, sunscreen and mosquito repellent, stay safe – and let me know how you get on!