Things to do in Jakarta: A Day Out to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
If you find yourself in Jakarta, you might struggle to find enough things to do. I discovered this the hard way several years ago, when business trips to the Indonesian capital lengthened to encompass weekends. A typical Jakarta day out might involve going to the National Monument square (MONAS) and Fatahillah square, the last remnant of the old Jakarta city. But that's just one day.
I've also gone antiques browsing along Jalan Surabaya, and learned about Kamala Hayati, the world's first (and to date only) female navy admiral in the Maritime Museum (Muzium Bahari). But unless you love shopping, you'd quickly run out of options.
However, by 2018 I had met Nur Baiti in the highlands of Nepal. So this time, I had a local Jakarta resident to show me around. And Baiti decided to take me on a (half) day out to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.
- The Logistics of a Day Out in Jakarta
- Getting to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
- Jakarta Day Out: Entry Fees for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
- Jakarta Day Out: Opening Times for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
- Regional Architecture Pavilions
- Jakarta Day Out with Kids
- Cultural Shows: Calendar of Events
- What Can You See on the Cable Car?
- Other attractions in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
- Facilities inside Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
- Carbon offset information to Jakarta
The Logistics of a Day Out in Jakarta
The infamous Jakarta traffic has a significant influence on what places are doable as a day out in Jakarta. While a more extensive rail system is currently under construction, that's going to take quite a while longer to be fully up and running.
In addition to the regular traffic, the central Jakarta areas are popular locations for protests, which can add to the congestion. (While they are peaceful demonstrations typical of Indonesian democracy, of course there is always a riot potential with mass gatherings. Check with your local host or hotel on whether big protests are planned in the city area.)
Hence, you should plan enough time to travel to and back from any Jakarta excursion, including day trips to places outside of Greater Jakarta. It's not so much that you will definitely take a long time to get anywhere. It's more that the travel time could double quite easily.
For a casual visitor, your most effective solutions for sightseeing within Jakarta are app-based taxis and motorbikes.
Getting to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
'Jakarta' is actually a massive metropolitan area. Because of the density and the traffic layout, it matters to know where in Jakarta you are. Central Jakarta? West Jakarta? South Jakarta? And that's not even counting Greater Jakarta, or 'Jabodetabek', which stands for Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi in the typical Indonesian syllable-acronym system.
Assuming you are staying in Central Jakarta, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah lies to the south.
Ride sharing & taxis in Jakarta
Getting a taxi in Jakarta is generally quite easy. It is even easier these days since taxi companies have embraced e-hailing booking apps, alongside ride share services. You will find more choices for both these options at the airport itself nowadays.
In addition, there is also Gojek, which is basically an e-hailing motorcycle taxi service, Jakarta's entrepreneurial solution to its gridlock. Check out their website; it is one of the rare Indonesian sites that come with an English version.
Another reason to download one of these apps, is as a price checker. Should you decide to take an informal ride share option (in Malaysia we call these kereta sapu), it gives you an idea of the fare, and helps you negotiate.
Safety tips for taking the taxi
Like in much of Southeast Asia, it is common for the back passenger seatbelts to be buried underneath the seat cushions. The taxi drivers will dig them out if you ask them to, without being grumpy about it. But it is extra time, and you might be holding up a line.
In my experience, Blue Bird Group taxis are more likely to have the back passenger seatbelts in its normal place. Every so often I've tried other taxi groups and a ride share, and so far this trend has remained true.
Gojek motorbike taxis will offer you a helmet. Wear them properly, i.e. clip the safety strap in. You don't look any cooler with the straps dangling.
Jakarta Day Out: Entry Fees for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Entrance tickets are Rp 15,000 per person. This is all you need to pay to enter and see the architectural pavilions.
In the unlikely event that you're bringing in a vehicle, there are additional charges depending on the vehicle. A car costs an extra Rp 20,000, a motorcycle is Rp 15,000, whereas a bicycle would be charged Rp 1,000.
Museums inside the complex have their own additional entry fees, ranging from FOC (Mass Communication Museum) to Rp 16,500.
The cable car, which you probably might want to take in order to get a bird's eye view of the complex, costs Rp 50,000.
If you're coming to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah with kids, the 'Indonesian Children's Play Palace' is another Rp 15,000 per entry, with separate charges for various activities and rides (generally Rp 10,000).
The complete list of ticket prices are on the official website for Taman Mini. These are the most up-to-date prices (even compared to 2018, the prices for certain tickets have increased). Unfortunately, the website is only provided in Indonesian. Prices above are correct for 2020.
Jakarta Day Out: Opening Times for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
For convenience, I'll also give the opening times here. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is open daily between 8AM and 5PM.
However, parks and rides within the complex, such as the Children's Play Palace, cable cars, etc. are open from 9AM to 4PM.
Regional Architecture Pavilions
The portion of the complex that justifies its name 'Mini Indonesia', are the regional pavilions. Each pavilion represents an administrative region in Indonesia, and is built to the architecture that represents the culture of that region. It's a great way to get an overview of the diversity of Indonesia, without having to personally go to each region.
I've written this guide as a 'day out' activity. However, to be honest, fully exploring Taman Mini Indonesia Park will take more than a day. There are 33 regional pavilions, so just visiting these free exhibits can easily be a full weekend thing to do.
Since I only had half a day, I immediately saw the need to prioritise. So I chose the regions with ties to Malaysian sultanates, and to my own Bugis heritage.
Sumatera pavilions in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
The homeland of the Minang people, the Sumatera Barat pavilions are easily a highlight of the park. The curved, bullhorn-shaped roofs are immediately recognisable to a Malaysian, because it is the architecture of one of our own states, Negeri Sembilan.
That's no surprise, because the noble chiefs who founded Negeri Sembilan came from Minangkabau. However, the examples displayed in Taman Mini Indonesia exceed anything I've ever seen. Every plank seems to be intricately carved, stained and coloured in, yielding a very distinctive look.
It blew me away that even the rice granaries were so beautifully done!
Riau-Lingga pavilion in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
I was attracted to the limas roof of this pavilion. It turned out that this was none other than the pavilion of Riau-Lingga.
Riau-Lingga was once a vassal state of the Malacca sultanate. Following the fall of Malacca in 1511, it remained a vassal state of the heirs of the Malacca sultanate in the Johore empire. Not only that, the Johore sultanate also seeded the Selangor sultanate. As a result, you can expect a common cultural influence across all these territories.
Out of all the pavilions I visited, the Riau-Lingga pavilion felt the most 'Malay'. The style of the floral motifs, the gold accents, reddish-stained wood, would not be out of place in peninsular Malaysia, a marker of our common history.
Sulawesi pavilions: The culture of the Toraja
We were on the way to see the Bugis pavilion when I got distracted by the pavilions opposite.
These are the pavilions of a different Sulawesi region to the south, which is the homeland of the Toraja people. Perhaps the most distinctive part of the Toraja culture, is their funerary practices.
The Toraja buffalo house
We entered the show pavilion, built in the style of the house of a Toraja nobleman. It had an interesting roof, thick and vaulted high in front. A sort of totem stood beneath it, stacked with the horns of water buffalo. It was a status symbol; more horns equate to a wealthier noble.
The facade was carved in geometric designs, and coloured in earth tones. A bull's head jutted out from it, underscoring the importance of cattle in this culture.
The spaces within the pavilion felt close. A large red cylinder decorated with gold designs dominated the main entry space. Curious, we asked the culture guide what it was.
An extremely long wake
It is for the body of the dead, the guide told us. Baiti nodded; she had heard of this before.
A Toraja woman herself, the guide proceeded to explain to us the funerary customs of her people. Unlike Muslims, the Toraja do not inter their dead ASAP. Rather, there are customary expectations to be met before burial can take place, especially for nobility. The funeral feasts are expected to be grand, and commensurate with the status of the deceased. The red and gold cylinder would be used to carry the body during the funeral itself.
It's getting expensive, she commented. Her own father was still lying in state while the family saves up for his funeral. Meanwhile, the dead body is wrapped in cloths and treated with herbs, lying in wait in the family home.
Baiti and I looked at each other. Is it not scary to live with a dead body?
The guide laughed. To the Toraja, it is still just your relative. She even sleeps in the room with her father's remains when she misses him.
And how long until the funds are collected? I wondered how many months this arrangement might continue for.
Depending on the status, she said, it could take a few years.
Toraja cave burial
Out of one of the windows, a mock-up of a rocky hill could be seen. Holes were carved into it, looking like squared caves.
Baiti piped in, That is the Toraja burial caves, isn't it? The Toraja famously do not bury their dead in the ground. The dead are instead interred in cave tombs in nearby hills.
The guide nodded.
Souvenirs in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
The Toraja pavilion offered souvenirs for sale, depicting cultural motifs of Toraja. I bought two small wooden wall carvings.
The Toraja motifs are abstracts inspired by nature, used metaphorically to depict concepts like 'safe journey', or 'family'. Peninsular Malay language forms and woodcraft also has this feature. But in our case, this depth is gradually being shallowed out by modernisation and plurality.
Sulawesi pavilions: the maritime Bugis
The final pavilion I visited was the one representing Makassar, homeland of the Bugis people. Having more than half Bugis blood, this was the pavilion that was most relevant to me personally.
It is also another region related to Malaysia. The exiled Bugis nobility, following the loss of their territory to the Dutch, sailed west. There, they became the new rulers of Johore, and later founded the Selangor sultanate, ruling over the existing population of Malays.
In stark contrast to the other pavilions, the Bugis house was quite plain. But I suppose it reflects the Bugis attitude towards landlubber life! What this section is missing, is a Bugis ship!
Jakarta Day Out with Kids
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is also a suitable attraction if you're looking for things to do in Jakarta with kids. There is literally a play palace inside, called Istana Anak-Anak Indonesia.
I did not go in, but it seems from the ticket menu (see fee section above) that there are a lot of activities inside.
There is also a Water Park, but the entrance fee is more expensive at Rp 140,000 (weekdays) or Rp 180,000 (weekends & public holidays).
Cultural Shows: Calendar of Events
If all of the above were not enough things to do, there are also cultural shows in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah throughout the year. So really, this could be a repeat visit attraction.
When you buy a ticket, you will be given a Calendar of Events booklet. This booklet covers maybe, just two months of shows, and tells you what performances will take place in which theatre within the complex.
You can also look it up on the website. But it will be in Indonesian, whereas the booklet has an English translation.
What Can You See on the Cable Car?
Special mention should be made of the cable car. I was ambivalent about it when Baiti suggested it. But I found it to be a great way to get an overview, and a sense of the scale of the complex.
Additionally, there is one park that can only be appreciated from the cable car. This is the Archipelago Lake. From the cable car, you can have an aerial view of the map of Indonesia laid out along the lake.
Other attractions in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
But wait! I have not finished covering the attractions in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.
There's not one, but two mini train rides around the complex. Separately from the Water Park, there's a Water World, and a Skyworld, and a swimming pool.
There's a cactus garden and a herb garden and a jasmine garden. Not only that, there's a bird park, and a bird conservation park, not to mention three culture-themed parks, and two parks dedicated to international co-operation.
There are 19 museums, including the Indonesian Museum. The rest range all the way from practical topics such as oil & gas, science & technology, and the fire service, to patriotic topics such as heritage, military, and East Timor, to nerdy topics like insects and reptiles and stamps. Take your pick.
There are also no fewer than 7 houses of worship: a mosque, two churches, a Hindu temple, a Confucian temple, a Buddhist temple, and a spiritualist worship site.
What more do you want??
Facilities inside Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Handy facilities are scattered inside Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. The complex has one clinic, two banks, and several food places. You can rent bicycles, and there are shuttle cars as well.
I didn't have time to explore everything, but let me know below how you found the park!
Carbon offset information to Jakarta
A return flight between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta produces carbon emissions of approximately 906 lbs CO2e. It costs about $5 to offset this.
Pin this for the next time you have downtime in Jakarta. You know you wanna!