Rainy season has officially arrived in Jakarta, after a prolonged dry season which rendered a lot of parks and gardens in the city brown and barren. Those which received a regular watering schedule, either from the city government or from local community associations, fared slightly better than the rest. So when rain started to pour over the megalopolis, I couldn’t help but feel relieved. It’s been raining around two to three times a week now, and by January through February – supposedly the peak of rainy season – it should rain every day, or even multiple times a day. However, rainy season also means days with thick, dark clouds and higher humidity, making outdoor explorations of the city uncomfortable at times.
As I was going through the photos in my hard drive that I haven’t posted on my blog, I came across a collection of images from a spontaneous weekend excursion to Ancol Dreamland (Taman Impian Jaya Ancol in Indonesian) in North Jakarta in early January this year. I remember I was sweating profusely at the beach in this part of town, which began to be developed as an entertainment hub in the 1960s with a theme park, a water park, a giant aquarium and a 3D cinema, among other things. But at least the weather was nice, with glorious blue skies throughout the afternoon despite it supposedly being the peak of rainy season. Ancol Dreamland itself is actually a familiar place for me as I have visited the 552-hectare recreation complex seven or eight times in total – including twice to the amusement park (instead of Mickey and Minnie, it has two proboscis monkeys as the mascots), twice to the aquarium and the 3D cinema, and once to a seaside café. However, since moving to Jakarta eleven years ago, I had only been to this part of the city another three times. So for the fourth visit, I made sure to explore parts of the complex which I had never been before.
Taking James along – he had never gone anywhere near the city’s beach after moving here in 2016 – we drove on a Sunday afternoon through light traffic and found the skies over Ancol Dreamland even lovelier than those above the city center. The Art Market (Pasar Seni) was our first stop. I had known about this place since I was in primary school, when I found a hand-drawn map of the complex as an insertion of one edition of a teen magazine, but it was only this year that I finally got the chance to see it. Inaugurated in 1977, this art and handicraft center was commissioned by Ali Sadikin, Jakarta’s governor at that time who was known for transforming the Indonesian capital into a modern city. Nowadays, the Art Market is a relatively quiet part of Ancol Dreamland, although the fact that we came on a hot day might have contributed to this impression. However, its tranquility, abundance of trees, interesting art workshops, cats and squirrels were in fact the very reasons I enjoyed strolling around this area with the gentle ocean breeze as a fresh alternative to the polluted air of the city.
After half an hour, we then ambled on a boardwalk meandering along a white triple-monolithic monument, a seaside restaurant, and a high-rise residential complex before eventually reaching the beach promenade. This was nothing like what I remembered of Jakarta’s beach from a previous trip taken years ago with my fellow university students. This time it looked reasonably clean and modern but not excessively sterile like Singapore’s beaches. Traditional boats were moored on the shoreline, street vendors sold sunglasses and hats, and parents frolicked with their kids inside a designated area for swimming. It always takes a spontaneous getaway like this to remind me that despite its gritty appearance, cold skyscrapers and terrible traffic, Jakarta does have other sides that never fail to make me fall in love with the city again. I’ll leave you here with the photos I took from Ancol Dreamland to brighten up your day (it’s cloudy again in Jakarta as I publish this post) and a few music videos of Indonesian artists singing in English to serenade you toward the end of this year. See you again in 2020 and happy holidays!