Taman Festival Bali

My second morning in Sanur began with a run in with a local card shark come magician come money thief AKA money changer. So I made the mistake of going into one of the small places on the street cos his rates were good. He counted out the money, card style, on the table once. And then a second time in his hands, like he was shuffling a deck of cards. Unbeknownst to him, my experience of living in Indo means that I always, always count the money myself. Sure enough it was 300 000 short.  He took the money back off me and counted it out of sight, obviously replacing the stolen notes, and pretending I couldnt count. He gives me the money back but it is still short, he mumbles something about tax. I give it back to him, take my Aussie dollars and leave the shop, telling him he is gila, crazy.

I head to my favourite coffee joint and after two stiff picollos am ready to start the day again. I have a plan to be adventurous so I go and hire myself a bicycle for the day. I am heading for a derelict, run down and apparently haunted theme park about 6k’s up the coast. I am feeling very brave and I head off into the unknown. The ride there is uneventful, an easy ride along the coast, leaving the touristy hustle and bustle that is Sanur behind.

This is a description of the park from Travel fish website – The eight-hectare park opened in 1997 as a Disney-style extravaganza: The world’s first inverted roller coaster, Bali’s biggest swimming pool, 3-D theatres, volcanos, laser shows, crocodiles. All was going swimmingly (especially the crocs), until spooky Friday the 13th of March 1998 (cue dramatic music) when the five-million dollar laser equipment was struck by lightning.

Due to the Asian economic crisis, and dwindling tourist numbers in Bali, the insurance wasn’t forthcoming and generally the place was an economic loss. Taman Festival Bali closed its doors in 2000. 

And the crocs? Well they have become a thing of urban legend. We heard stories locals would feed them chickens and later that the crocs resorted to cannibalism. Cannibal crocodiles. But what happened to that last one? The one really big fat one that ate all the others? (cue dramatic music).

As soon as I enter the park I make the aquaintance of Kevin, a local kid of about 7. We joke with each other about the ghosts. When a friend of his joins us, I tell him I have seen a ghost in the building and show him where. I pantomime ghosts and dead people and he thinks I am mad! But he goes and looks anyway and he is obviously scared, but then it is a spooky place and I end up scaring myself. We laugh nervously, all of us trying to be tough and I apologise for my silliness. The boys kind of show me around, they lay claim to all the graffiti, they don’t speak much English and we have lots of fun. We are eventually joined by a whole gang of kids. Some of them ask for money, I plead ignorance and just say, “Apa?” What? 

When we leave the main entry buildings, the kids are obviously not keen to venture further and they leave me to my own devices. I follow the abandoned paths further into the midst of the complex, it is huge, and I miss their presence, there is a particular safety that comes from being with others. It is indeed a spooky place. I had to reach into the depth of my bravery to continue. 

As I leave the park I bang into Kevin and his mate again, they have waited for me, I like to think they were making sure I survived the ghosts and the crocodiles, and I reward their perseverence with Rp5000 each. They are very happy and excited (I’m sure I glimpsed Kevin later back in Sanur with a newly puchased plastic kite).

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