I remember being 22 and wanting to travel further in Southeast Asia. I remember being 23 and whining to my office bff that I am badly itching to travel by myself. In 2018, a few months before I turn 24, I was finally able to achieve both — I traveled to Indonesia by myself!
To say I was anxious about the whole thing was probably an understatement. I was a nervous mess and my nervous-panicky-self led me to make a few crass decisions I regretted later on but hey, there was a first time for everything. I know they were all something I could learn from and probably look back with a laugh later on (narrator voice: it wasn’t funny).
Anyway, here is the first highlight of my four-day trip!
I spent my first day roaming around Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (“Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park”) with my lovely friend Ve. It’s a huge park that encapsulates all aspects of Indonesia’s culture, from museums to replica houses to theaters — you name it. It strongly reminded me of the now-defunct Nayong Pilipino, Manila’s very own miniature park that showcased replicas of the Philippines’ most popular scenic attractions. I was hit with a strange wave of nostalgia from the get-go.
A little backstory: when I was still crafting my itinerary, I asked my Indonesian friends on where I should go in Jakarta, and this was a popular response I received. However, I kept butchering its name: I kept saying “Taman Mani” instead of Mini, and it was funny because “mani” literally translates to semen in Bahasa Indonesia. Amazing, right? The more you know.
We went to the pavilion of replica traditional houses first. To my amazement, I learned that each house design represents a specific province/region in Indonesia, which only shows how wonderfully diverse the country is.
Despite coming from different places, the houses shared several similarities: all are made of wood, built on stilts, have stairs, covered by a vernacular roof, and adorned with intricate decorations. If anything, the only difference they have is their design, but all are beautiful in their own right.
Some houses have roofs that extend really high.
Not gonna lie, I’d probably host regular dinner parties and sleepovers all the time if I had a house as beautiful as this, haha!
Our next stop was at the Komodo Indonesian Fauna Museum and Reptile Park, which pretty much speaks for itself. Pictured above are two Komodo dragons, giant lizards native to the country. (Un)fortunately, there was no real Komodo dragon in the park, but we saw real-life replicas, along with other reptiles.
I had mixed feelings for these reptiles because while they were cute and beautiful (the duality!), I also felt sorry for them for having to live in such an enclosed space instead of roaming around as they please in their natural habitat 😦
With fatigue and heat taking over us quickly, Ve and I decided to take a break for lunch first. I had Nasi Goreng and Teh Tarik. The Nasi Goreng was amazing — it’s rice stir-fried to savory perfection combined with tender chicken chunks and chilis — and the serving could be good for two, even though it was sold at such a cheap price.
Here’s a sad discovery though: Indonesian food is too spicy for my tongue. I was practically starving when I ate this meal, but sadly, I couldn’t bear to finish it. The milk in my teh tarik helped wash away the spiciness somehow, but it wasn’t enough.
One of the primary reasons why I flew all the way to Indonesia is because of their cuisine so you could imagine how disappointed I was when I found out that my taste buds are too weak for their normal chilis.
After lunch, we hopped on a cable car that took us from point-to-point of TMII. I’m no stranger to ungodly tropical weather, but the ride was a nice reprieve from the sweltering heat of Jakarta no matter how brief it was. Plus, Ve and I got the chance to take a few selfies while jamming to EXO’s Diamond and cursing every time the car ‘bumped’, haha.
Girl, I was so glad we rode that cable car because otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have caught glimpse of this beautiful building from above. This building is Museum Indonesia, an anthropology and ethnological museum that exhibits several Indonesian art forms, traditional clothing, and replicas of living spaces to name a few.
This was my favorite among all the attractions we’ve gone to. It made me learn so much about Indonesia as a whole, including similarities it has with the Philippines. This is just surface level, but both countries have sarongs, play sungka (it’s called “congkak” in Bahasa Indonesia), and even have similar (if not exactly the same) indigenous musical instruments. That’s on top of the words that our native language share.
Somehow, so much of it resonated with me and I felt at home even though I was in a country that was technically a thousand nautical miles away from home.
That aside, the building in itself was really too stunning. It’s built in Balinese architecture, which had strong Hindu influence as you can see from the few decorative elements of guardian statues carved at the entrance.
We ended our day trip by resting for a bit at the Merdeka Square replica (it was hot, okay). There were plenty of kids and their mothers just lounging around, and once again I was reminded of the open spaces of plazas back home. While walking, we passed by a huge wedding hall. A few kilometers away, there was also a rock music festival ongoing. The whole place was just so lively and full of music.
Overall, Taman Mini is a wonderful place to start at if you want to learn about Indonesia. One day wasn’t enough to visit each attraction of this 250-acre miniature park, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Just don’t forget to bring a bottle of water, a fan, and prepare yourself for lots of walking.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is located atJalan Raya Taman Mini, East Jakarta, Jakarta.
Open from Monday to Sunday, 7 AM – 10 PM.
Telephone: +62 (0)21 877 920 78
Budget (approx): RP 130,000 (roughly PHP 500).