Monas sits at the heart of both Jakarta and the Indonesian nation state.
I’ll leave the monument’s intriguing history aside for now and speak briefly about my thoughts on visiting this site.
Firstly, along with the suitably monumental scale of the construction a visit to Monas is very much like stepping back in history. Not only is the infrastructure and building condition largely unchanged in the decades since it was built, but the dioramas and accompanying descriptive text in the huge basement reflect the politics of an increasingly distant era. The text is bilingual, although it is notable that what is written in English and Indonesian doesn’t always align. I’m not referring to translation difficulties, I’m hinting at the Southeast Asian trait of one historical interpretation for locals and a different one for outsiders. I may revisit that in a future post.
Secondly, the site is poorly equipped for visitors, let alone tourists. Even accessing the monument is via a poorly signposted tunnel in the midst of a vast open space. While that is part of its appeal, there is simply no way that large numbers of people could enjoy the experience simultaneously. Getting to the open air platform at the top requires a long journey in a lift better described as a metallic old broom cupboard, including the operator whose sole job appears to be sitting on a stool all day watching the wall and pressing the ˄ or ˅ buttons as required. But….
Thirdly, emerging at the top makes it all worthwhile. The platform is a small size, but the views are stupendous. With sea views north, a breeze, fresh air, relative silence…oh, how I wish I could live on top of Monas. I would also pay a fortune to be able to visit at night and look out over the city lights, but the huge, inward facing spotlights ringing the platform would be problematic.
Visiting Monas is, with the exception of being stuck in traffic, perhaps the most Indonesian of experiences I could imagine in Jakarta, and I’d do anything to be able to go there again for the first time.