Ancol: Dreaming of Blue Skies

Asia, Indonesia, Southeast

Ancol Dreamland’s Art Market

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!

Big smiles to welcome everyone

A male ondel-ondel (traditional Jakartan puppet); colorful totems

A band practicing for the night

From the imagination to the canvas

One of the alleys at the Art Market

Follow the squirrel

Sunday means time to play…

… or take a nap

The Ancol Monument seemingly floating on the placid lagoon

Cables for wakeboarding

Looking out to the open sea

An afternoon stroll in North Jakarta

Love yourself, protect your eyes (and make yourself look good too)

Some boats take visitors around the coastline

Swim tubes for rent

Safety first

An art installation depicting women pounding rice in a traditional way

Ancol’s Dutch cemetery

A version of the coat of arms of the Netherlands

Posted by

Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

16 thoughts on “Ancol: Dreaming of Blue Skies”

    • Kelly! Happy holidays to you. After Bhutan, I was thinking of following your footsteps to Oman. But I ended up going to Lebanon and Jordan — at least they’re still in the same region. 😊


  1. Ancol was a lovely little surprise. I wouldn’t necessarily take out-of-towners there but as you said, it made for a refreshing change from the traffic-clogged streets of the city center. I’ve heard good things about the seafood restaurant there (from my coworkers) so it might be worth going back one of these weekends.

    As for the music videos, what amazes me most is the song by Ahmad Abdul. If it was played without any visuals, one could easily assume he was American given his vocal style and ease with the English language. Hope your remaining weeks of 2019 are merry and not so stressful at work, and best wishes for the year ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, that seafood restaurant is among the most famous in Jakarta. Despite having been living for 11 years in the Indonesian capital, I’ve never eaten there. There was one time when I was so close to having a dinner there, but my friends and I couldn’t find a parking space so we decided to go somewhere else.

      Ahmad Abdul deserves more attention, really. Since his audition in Indonesian Idol, I knew he would go far in the singing competition. Thanks James! The same wishes go to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It was, despite the heat and humidity. I was so sweaty by the time we left this place. Happy holidays to you too, Alison! Wishing you more memorable travel experiences in 2020!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Had never heard of Ancol. Seems like quite an interesting weekend getaway.

    Happy holidays Bama! Here’s wishing 2020 has many satisfying adventures in store for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s quite far from where I live, but when the weather is nice I wouldn’t mind driving all the way there to get some fresh air and a change of view.

      Happy holidays too, Madhu! Wishing you a year of fulfilling travel experiences ahead!


  3. What a treasure to have so close to the giant city! We both have rainy seasons happening now, though while you’re sweating, I’m freezing—necessary evils to keep (or restore) the greenery.
    All the best to you in 2020 Bama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Year, Caroline! The past few days have been quite hectic for me, although today luckily I managed to write my next post which is about Petra. Unfortunately, it’s been raining since last night here in Jakarta, and some parts of the city are flooded. The area where I live is safe though. But it must have been really hard for those who have to evacuate their houses on the very first day of 2020. Anyway, I hope the new year brings you more opportunities to travel!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.