… but you might not want to.
Would you rather be a dog romping and sniffing out scents or a rat in a maze. That’s the difference between parks and shopping malls which ex-Governor Sutiyoso thought were important because “the existing ones are always packed with people.…”.
What choice do they have, bodoh?
Having lived on the East-West divide, I’m now more used to crossing over to the North. I’ve parked myself in Jakarta which you have to leave if you want to get back to nature. We may live in tropical climes where nature has a strong hand, but here it’s strictly controlled. It would seem that the only parks are for cars.
When I arrived in Jakarta all those years ago, I went in search of somewhere to play badminton. I used to be quite good at it, playing at county level which is equivalent to provincial level here. This country is one of the sport’s powerhouses after all, so I figured that finding somewhere close to home would be easy to find. Well, it is if you like playing in the street amongst the passing traffic.
Where can you fling a frisbee or go for a morning jog, undisturbed by the traffic?
Google ‘Jakarta Parks’ and all you’ll find are links to Ancol ‘recreational’ area, with its golf course, art market, water world and polluted beach and Ragunan Zoo. Otherwise you’re stuck with Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII), with its theme of little regional enclaves, Taman Safari (Safari Park), a drive through zoo, and the Cibodas Botanical Garden, all of which are worth a visit, yet aren’t that affordable or reachable for those on low incomes.
In the city itself, the major free public park facility is Monas in central Jakarta. Governor Sutiyoso found the funds to erect a high fence, ostensibly to keep ‘his’ deer within, but in practice it has obstructed free access to the people who are, after all, the prime users of a park. The Busway has a stop called Monumen Nasional. Unfortunately, or probably by design, it’s far from the entrance, which is on the other side of the area.
If you live in a cramped kampung or, as I do, on a regular back street in need of a layer of asphalt, then you’re stuck at home or have to spend an inordinate amount of time battling Jakarta’s traffic to get to an exclusive enclave.
But if you do make it to a fenced off slice of greenery, you probably would not be allowed access to it.
However, there are a few municipal parks around.
As the sun rises on a small suburb in Jakarta’s south, the street vendors, children and dog-walkers make their way, along with the birds and lizards, to the local park. But this is where the romantic image ends.
Guntur’s park, Taman Tangkuban Perahu, is piled high with polystyrene containers, plastic cups, straws, paper and indiscriminate objects, along with copious amounts of dog faeces.
Then there’s the city’s renowned Taman Situ Lembang. Located on Jl. Lembang in Menteng, Central Jakarta, the park was recently crowned the “most beautiful” park in the country.“Many people visiting this park bring food and drink but throw away the packaging, despite there being a number of bins available,” said Burhan, a cleaner at the park.
Or there’s Ayodya Park which doesn’t have mature trees or flowers but was apparently designed with expats in mind.
So, what are Jakarta’s alternatives?
Some suggest cemeteries.
“Other countries have been using their cemeteries as recreational areas. I don’t see why Jakarta can’t turn some of its graveyards as public areas where people can enjoy a nice view and a (dead?) calm atmosphere,” Jakarta Green Map coordinator Nirwono Joga said recently.
Nirwono said several cemeteries had the potential to become recreational as well as educational areas, due to their picturesqueness and rich histories: the Menteng Pulo war memorial cemeteries, the Karet Bivak Cemetery and the Petamburan Cemetery.
Well, not quite.
Last year, Jakarta’s Parks Agency proposed converting 29 gas stations public parks this year. It hasn’t happened yet and I doubt that it will. Moreover, as few can take their ease next to a road – where gas stations are obviously sited – breathing in exhaust fumes and the residue of spilled petroleum, what value will they have as public space?
A new-ish blog, Indonesia for Kids, is sadly necessary but highlights what does exist by way of facilities for, erm, kids. Most playgrounds are out of the financial reach of Jakarta’s families because private entrepreneurs have spotted the market gap.
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