“This is it!”
We exclaimed with excitement as we entered the premises of Garuda Wisnu Kencana. Marble pillars lined the curvy road leading to the site, which is a cultural park of around 60 hectares. Occasionally, we would see statues of animals unique to Indonesia, such as the komodo dragon, by the side of the road, surprising from between the pillars and in front the shrubs.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana is a cultural park located in Badung, Bali. The park was intended for the construction of a 120-metre statue of the Hindu God, Wisnu, riding his mount, Garuda. For the moment, the statue has only reached 23 metres of height and construction was stopped at one point due to lack of financing. However, following a deal signed between Nyoman Nuarta, the sculptor, and a big realtor company, construction has resumed with more ambitious plans: move the overall statue to a new site, with the statue located on top of a building.
It sounded very much unbelievable and impossible for us when we first googled the history of this park. However, the plans are ongoing and it seems that it’ll come true.
We gasped in awe and wonder as we entered the parking lot. Cliffs of around 10 metres high were, literally, cut into blocks and thus shaped what would become parking spaces. Buses were parked nearer to the corners, while the spaces for cars were almost filled up as, little by little, tourists started to gather and fill up the place.
A seemingly abandoned white building stood in front of us. Stray cats played around and bus drivers smoked in the hollow spaces as we made our way to the visitor reception.
In a short, yet long, open building, ticket boxes were spread out evenly. Only two or three were open when we arrived, and we queued with a short line of tourists. The ticket cost Rp 70.000 (around 5.20 USD). While we were checking our tickets, we noticed a couple of gamelan players playing traditional Balinese music for the visitors. We listened for a while, before making our way to the park.
We hiked to the park, through a series of white staircase with souvenir shops and food stalls lining on our right. A shuttle bus was available for those who choose not to walk. The hike was not long, and we arrived at a gate where they check for our tickets. A couple of tourists queued not long after the gate to take a photo with person in traditional Balinese attire. As Fi and I (and my brother) all had our share of having to wear traditional Indonesian costume from different regions when we were in middle school, we chose to skip the photos and went ahead towards the amphitheater.
As we stepped into the outdoor amphitheater, we heard music playing. The dance performance had already started and it was already halfway. The whole area, covered under a white canopy, was not full of tourists; we even saw some walk out in the middle of the performance. They performed several dances, highlighting the most popular traditional Balinese dances. In the end, we were able to take photos with the dancers.
We continued our park-exploration by heading towards the bust of Wisnu. We passed by a pond surrounded by lush greenery, with several statues located in the middle of the pond. Here, we were given sarongs to be worn as we were about to enter Plaza Wisnu, where the statue of Wisnu is located. As Wisnu is a highly revered God in the religion, we were obliged to dress modestly by wearing a sarong.
The statue itself stands at approximately 10 metres or so. It is very much grand and majestic that it can be seen from the staircase from the pond.
From the statue of Wisnu, we descended towards the Garuda statue, which left us even more speechless.
The statue of Garuda seemed as big as the statue of Wisnu, yet it spans a larger width. It overlooks a whole valley that was built by cutting the cliffs (as mentioned in the above paragraph about the parking lot). This statue does not include the wings, which are still being constructed. The wings are expected to have a span of 64 metres across, making it a more gigantic statue altogether.
As technically there are no more attractions or monuments left to be seen, we crossed the valley thinking that it could be an exit. But it wasn’t. However, it was not useless, as we found a much smaller statue depicting how the Garuda Wisnu Kencana monument will look like.
And, honestly, we do think it will look out of the world.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana
Jl. Raya Uluwatu, Ungasan, Kuta Selatan
Bali 80364, Indonesia
Opening hours: 8am – 10pm local time