During a walk along the beach of Kuta, where we live at the moment, we observed, in the distance, a huge black shape, similar to a cloud of smoke rising from a hill, while being absolutely still. Bali being located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and having 3 volcanoes, could it be one of them despite the stillness of the smoke? We cannot find any other explanation and the waitress of a beach restaurant will confirm, in very rough English which makes us doubt her understanding, that this is it. Finally, life will give us our answer a few days later when a visit to a school will bring us to Ungasan, Badung, the city where this “cloud” is located. We will discover that it is a huge statue visible from almost everywhere on the island of Bali! Still little known since its construction was completed in August 2018 only, the park where it is located now boasts of being the most visited tourist attraction on the island. Today, we invite you to visit GWK Cultural Park and immerse yourself in Balinese culture with us!
Wisnu & Garunda
First, a little cultural history that will allow you to better understand the importance of these statues for the people of Bali and Indonesia in general. In Bali, the vast majority of the population is of Hindu faith. In this religion, Wisnu is considered the protector of the Universe. It therefore has a very important role for them. Garunda, a huge creature resembling an eagle, is his mount and his faithful companion. It represents loyalty and self-giving. It is also the national emblem of Indonesia, symbolizing freedom for this country which has experienced many periods of colonization during its history. Their roles and their symbolism are at the heart of the beliefs of Indonesians. This is what led to the creation of this huge project.
The visit of the place
Located in an old quarry, the gigantic park contains three main statues in honor of Wisnu and Garunda. Upon entering the premises, you will discover Plaza Garuda, where there is a very large representation of the bird. To give you an idea of its size, look at David next to it…
A few meters away is access to the second most important statue in the park, that of Wisnu, which is in the plaza of the same name. Considered sacred, you will need to be dressed properly to access it. That is, wear pants or a skirt that covers your knees to a minimum. But, very well organized, the park has planned. If your clothes are not suitable, you will be loaned free of charge to cover you during the visit, so there is no reason to do without. Magnificent and extremely detailed, it is one of the most beautiful statues I have ever seen. And it is all the more impressive because it is several meters high. During your visit to the plateau where it is located, don’t forget to take advantage of the splendid view that you will have of the two other main monuments of the park!
Once down from the hill, we find ourselves on the Kura-Kura plaza where there is also an army of Instagrammers who are patiently waiting (or not), in line to obtain the same photo as all the others. And we are not even in tourist season! I dare not imagine the line during that time. I think I will never understand this phenomenon LoL! But hey, I admit, the place is superb and as we do not have this need to be in the photo, I will quickly take a picture of the place between two people trying to take the perfect pose!
Next destination, the central piece of the site, the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (Kencana means gold in reference to their crowns), a huge statue 120.9 meters high made of copper and bronze and weighing 900 tonnes. It is, in turn, placed on a base that weighs alone, 1300 tonnes. It is possible to go up there using an elevator for an additional cost, which we chose not to do. The statue is the work of Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta. To give you a point of comparison, we have placed the Statue of Liberty next to the GWK. It is really huge!
The entrance ticket to the site gives free access to several shows that take place throughout the day. For our part, we have chosen to attend a traditional musical theater performance lasting approximately 30 minutes. The number of artists on stage was truly impressive and it included dance, theater, traditional music (rather cacophonous in our opinion LoL!) And flamboyant costumes and sets inspired by China. And what makes their theater special is the fact that the voice of all the actors is interpreted, live, by one and the same man, the storyteller. Even if everything is in Bahasa, the local language, it’s really impressive and definitely worth a visit. It’s a great way to experience the local culture and the amphitheater is beautiful and comfortable.
When we arrived, we had the choice between several packages. We opted for the one that also included a visit to the museum on Bali and Jawa and we were not disappointed. This package includes a private guided tour of the museum and our Jawanese guide, living in Bali for a few years, knew his subject very well and had lots of stories and information to share. It was one of the highlights of our visit. Bali and Jawa are two neighboring Indonesian islands, but the culture and art are very different. While Balinese art is very much inspired by China so it is very loaded, colorful, full of characters and symbols, Java art is much darker, even if the woodwork is extremely detailed. We favor wood and neutral and natural colors. We learned a lot about their way of life, their stories and their daily lives. Really, we recommend that you add this tour to your admission ticket.
The royal doors of Bali (here, the red parasols are reserved for the royal family):
And the architecture of Jawa:
Some information :
Entrance fee: It starts at 125,000 Indonesian rupees or just over $ 12 Canadian per person which includes access to the site and shows. To add the museum, it costs 50,000 rupees more, a total of nearly $ 17 per person. Other more expensive options including souvenirs or the ascent of the statue are also available.
Web site : https://www.gwkbali.com/
Good to know: There are, on the site, some international chains like Starbucks where the prices are really very high, but you can eat in one of the local kiosks for a very low price. Between $ 3 and $ 5 per person for a full meal.
A free shuttle will take you from the parking lot to the park entrance. As it is still quite far away, do not hesitate to take it. However, the shuttle bus from the site entrance to the statue is not free and the path is very easy on foot. Unless you have mobility issues or young children, it’s not worth it.
If you want to buy souvenirs on the site, don’t hesitate. They are no more expensive than any other store on the island.