Green Spaces #6 – Jakarta’s Historic Taman Lapangan Banteng

When my family arrived in Jakarta in late 2013 one of my most immediate priorities was to find a park near our new neighbourhood of Kemang in South Jakarta. Coming from an area in Melbourne known as ‘the green wedge’, we were accustomed to having easy access to green spaces such as parks and good ol’ Aussie bushland. Hence identifying a nearby open space where we could stretch our legs, ride a bike and throw a ball was high on my list.

In hindsight, we took space for outdoor play for granted when we lived in Melbourne, Victoria
The bushland in our old neighbourhood was an extension of our backyard. Here our kids would regularly explore and play

A quick google search of ‘green spaces’ in Jakarta didn’t reveal too much, so I ran with the first couple of recommendations: Taman Langsat and nearby Taman Ayodya in South Jakarta. The images looked pleasing enough and there certainly appeared plenty of room to play.
I recall the day was heating up by the second so we quickly packed the car with various balls, a scooter, a skateboard and lots of water and off we went.

Upon arrival we noticed two things: the park didn’t look much like the online photos, and due to it being a delayed wet season, the pond and other nearby water features had become stagnant giving off a rather unpleasant odour. 

Not to be perturbed, I instructed the kids to ‘give it a go!’. The sun continued to beat down and after about an hour, with one ball lost (to a stagnant drain), and multiple unsuccessful attempts at riding aforementioned sets of wheels (due to uneven paving), I declared we had had enough fun for one day. We packed up the car and headed for the closest gelato shop (which happened to be in Darmawagnsa Square).

Almost six years later and we have since discovered many green spaces in Jakarta (and beyond) worthy of a visit (see end of post for our top recommendations).
Moreover, since this fateful day both Taman Ayodya and Taman Langsat have received a very thorough makeover and definitely deserve a visit come rain, hail or beating sunshine 🙂

There’s always a cool drink available when you visit the green spaces of Jakarta

In today’s AJB post we head to Taman Lapangan Banteng. Located in the subdistrict of Sawah Besar in Central Jakarta, Taman Lapangan Banteng is a park brimming with history. This park also happens to be extremely well maintained and is perfect for riding all sorts of wheels and playing loads of ball sports!

Come with us as we explore Taman Lapangan Banteng

Structure of Taman Lapangan Banteng and surrounds

Taman Lapangan Banten is divided in two by the West Irian Liberation monument, ‘Monumen Patung Pembebasan Irian Jaya’. 

On the north side of this centrepiece is a simple football pitch surrounded by a running track.  

Taman Lapangan Banteng’s football pitch and running track
Play equipment for the littlies

However, it’s in the southern section of the park that you are likely to spend most of your time. Here you will find a large pond with an illuminated fountain, all enclosed by an amphitheatre (added during a renovation in 2018). Nearby are grassed and garden areas as well as vast spaces perfect for skateboarding, bike riding etc.

Each night an illuminated water fountain show takes place at Taman Lapangan Banteng
This is definitely a park where you can ride your bike and enjoy lots of open space – a wonderful rare find in Jakarta

Taman Lapangan Banteng is surrounded by many historic and important structures including Merdeka Square (site of national monument, MONAS), Jakarta’s Catholic Cathedral, Jakarta’s Grand Mosque Istiqlal, the historic Borobudur Hotel, the Jakarta Central Post Office, the AA Maramis building (which is currently home to the Indonesian Ministry of Finance) and the 1820- established Pasar Baru. 

Take a look in the background of our selfie. What significant structures can you spot?

History of Taman Lapangan Banteng

Early in the 19th Century the area which is now known as Taman Lapangan Banteng began taking shape. Under Dutch rule, it was used for military purposes and at that time, the square was divided into two areas:  ‘Paradeplaats’ (Parade Ground) and ‘Buffelsveld’ (Buffalo Field).

In 1828, the square was renamed ‘Waterlooplein’ (Waterloo Square) to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. It remained as such until the Revolution and Independence of Indonesia (1945-1949) after which the square was renamed ‘Lapangan Banteng’ (which translates as ‘Buffalo’s field’), by first President Sukarno.
Sukarno chose the name ‘banteng’ (or bull/buffalo) as it symbolised the newly independent Republic, the people and the Revolution of Indonesia.

Around the same time Sukarno envisioned a national mosque (Masjid Istiqlal) as well as a new grand National Hotel (Hotel Borobudur). Both were constructed in due course.

The significance of “Monumen Patung Pembebasan Irian Jaya

The most striking aspect of Taman Lapangan Banteng is the West Irian Liberation Monument in the centre of the park. The statue on top is visible from far due to its height of approximately 50 metres. 

The monument was commissioned by Sukarno in 1963 following the West New Guinea dispute in which Indonesia received the territory of Western New Guinea from the Netherlands. This outcome resulted in the region (now known as Papua) becoming the 26th province of Indonesia.

“West Irian Jaya must be free from colonial Netherlands before the cock crows on 1st January, 1963” – President Sukarno, 1962

The bronze statue atop the 36 metre high pedestal represents a bare chested man breaking free from the shackles of colonialism. His arms are raised to the sky. His face expresses fierce emotion; he appears to be screaming out. Rebellion and independence are strong themes.

“Monumen Patung Pembebasan Irian Jaya”
The centrepiece of Taman Lapangan Banteng is a monument commemorating Indonesia’s acquisition of West New Guinea from Dutch colonial rule

This postwar modernist monument was sculpted by Team Pematung Keluarga Area Yogyakarta, led by Edhi Sunarso (who was also responsible for Jakarta’s famous, ‘Selamat Datang’ monument).

Activities and events in Taman Lapangan Banteng

Each August, Taman Lapangan Banteng hosts, ‘Flona Jakarta’, a flora and fauna exhibition. Featuring flowers, plants and pets, this event is gaining popularity each year. 

From mid June to mid July the annual ‘Jakarta Fair’ is held at Taman Lapangan Banteng. Although largely a trade fair, this month-long event also features arts and entertainment including performances by local musicians 

A unique garden at Taman Lapangan Banteng

We hope you have found today’s AJB post interesting and useful. Be sure to plan a trip to Taman Lapangan Banteng (and the surrounding areas), as there is so much to see and do in Sawah Besar.

Keen to see more of Jakarta’s best green spaces? Here are our top picks:

If you’re looking for another green space with historic relevance, head to Taman Proklamasi. This green area is the sight of the Proclamation of Indonesia’s Independence by President Sukarno in August 1945. Taman Proklamasi is close to Jl. Surabaya, Jakarta’s famous antiques and flea market, so why not make a day of exploring this part of Jakarta (drop in to Giyanti Coffee Roasters which also happens to be on Jl. Surabaya). 

In the Menteng area enjoy the established gardens of Taman Suropati, and at nearby Taman Menteng experience manicured green spaces as well as recreational facilities (be sure to bring a basketball as there are courts available).

About 60km south of Jakarta’s city centre you will find Kebun Raya Bogor. The botanical gardens adjoin the presidential palace compound, Istana Bogor. Featuring in excess of 13,000 varieties of trees and plants of various origin, this 87 hectare green space will keep you busy for as long as you wish to stay. If you’re a runner or enjoy cycling, plan for that too as Kebun Raya Bogor is a favourite destination for recreational athletes keen to exercise in the great outdoors.

Wishing you happy adventures always,

Words: Jo Stevens     Photography: a journey bespoke

This is us, Liz & Jo 🙂 Thanks for joining us on today’s blogging adventure!

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