SHOULD YOU VISIT THE NATIONAL MONUMENT WHEN YOU GO TO JAKARTA?
Jakarta has a lot to offer to travellers, from unique street food to stunning architecture. But it’s also known for having the worst traffic in the world and is not the safest city to visit as a foreigner. The National Monument of Jakarta or MONAS is a popular tourist spot in the city centre since it’s easy to reach and a great spot for pictures. It’s definitely worth the visit when you’re in Jakarta.
HOW TO GET THERE
Gambir Railway Station is located right next to the National Monument so if you’re planning to arrive by public transport this will be the easiest option. You’ll also find multiple bus stations scattered around the National Monument Park.
Taxis and Grab cars are very cheap in Jakarta. If you are okay with being stuck in traffic for a while this is probably the most comfortable way to reach the National Monument. Choose a drop-off location at one of the entrances to the park since there are no cars allowed inside.
HISTORY OF THE MONUMENT AND WHY IT’S SIGNIFICANT
Construction for the 132m tall National Monument of Indonesia began in 1961. It has been open to the public since 1975.
The Monument was built to represent the struggle for independence that Indonesia had to go through in the 1940s until the Netherlands finally recognised it as an independent country in 1949.
Former Indonesian president Sukarno decided that Indonesia needed a symbol of Independence and national pride. He wanted a monument that the nation could be proud of, taller than both Borobudur Temple and the Eiffel Tower.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE NATIONAL MONUMENT IN JAKARTA
To come up with a design for the monument, the government held two design competitions open to the public. Unfortunately, none of the close to 200 entries submitted were to the liking of President Sukarno.
Briefly, the design of Indonesian architect Frederich Silaban was considered, however it was far too large and expensive for the economic situation in Indonesia at the time. Silaban refused to design a smaller monument and tried to convince the president to delay the construction to obtain a larger budget.
In the end, Silaban’s plans were rejected and the responsibility of designing the monument was passed on to the Indonesian artist R.M. Soedarsono. He refined sketches made by the President himself to design the monument as it is today.
He incorporated the numbers 17, 8 and 45 into his design to represent the date 17th of August 1945, the date of the proclamation of independence.
The monument represents the sacred Lingga and Yoni which was President Sukarno’s wish. The balance of male and female is a key element of the monument. In addition to that, the shape of the MONAS is distinctly similar to the titan arum flower which grows in Indonesia.
50kg of gold foil covers the 14 metre-tall flame at the top of the monument.
The surrounding park and square are named after Merdeka, the Indonesian word for independence. The many statues and wall art scattered around the park depict scenes of colonisation, civil war and life in Indonesia after it gained independence.
Merdeka Square measures around 1 square kilometre, which supposedly makes it one of the largest squares in the world. This is, however, falsified by the fact that much of the square is actually a park.
The park includes a large water fountain as well a deer enclosure. During the Indonesian Independence Day in August, it is the location of many festivities as well as military parades and events. During the Dutch colonial era, the square was named Koningsplein (King’s Square).
Since 2002 the square is completely fenced in with armed guards stationed at all entries. This was a measure implemented by the government to increase safety.
THE SURROUNDING AREA
Many buildings were demolished to make way for the enormous Merdeka Square. Many criticised this since living space in Jakarta is so hard to come by, especially in the city centre.
The area surrounding the National Monument and Merdeka Square houses various government building and embassies. This includes the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Museum, the Bank of Indonesia and the National Library.
The architecture in this area is very impressive. If the heat isn’t putting you off it’s worth strolling around and exploring.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
Now that you’re ready to visit the National Monument it’s useful to know a few things before you go. It will really impact your visit if you go early in the morning so that you can avoid the crowds.
If you’re not a fan of getting up early you should visit the monument on a weekday. If you go before 10:00 am you will not have to stand in line for a very long time.
On the weekends, however, many Indonesia families visit the monument so it’s best to avoid it if you’re a tourist. Try to get there at 8:00 am to get the best experience.
Alternatively, you can visit in the evening to see the skyline by night. As mentioned before it is usually less crowded if you avoid weekends.
WHAT ARE THE OPENING TIMES OF THE NATIONAL MONUMENT IN JAKARTA?
The monument is open from 8:00 am to 16:00 pm every day except for Mondays. It reopens in the evening from 19:00 pm to 22:00 pm Tuesday to Fridays and 19:00 pm to midnight on the weekend.
HOW MUCH ARE THE TICKETS?
It costs IDR 15,000 to go to the observation platform of the monument. There is no price difference for tourists and Indonesians.
JAKCARD AND HOW IT WORKS
To buy tickets for the monument you first need to purchase a Jakcard. This is a cashless system used for some tourists attractions and public transport in Jakarta.
A card costs IDR35,000 (IDR 15,000 for the card and IDR20,000 as an opening balance). Multiple people can use the same card so there is no need to buy more than one.
You can purchase a Jakcard and top it up on arrival at the monument.
FINDING THE ENTRANCE
The entrance to the monument is slightly tricky to find. To go to the top you enter the monument through a tunnel. You’ll find the entrance north of the monument. The map shows exactly where to go.
THE NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM AT THE JAKARTA MONUMENT
Once inside the monument, you’ll first enter a large hall that houses the National History Museum. This includes 51 unique dioramas that tell the story of Indonesia. It’s definitely worth strolling through and reading about the country’s colonial history and how it gained independence.
THE VIEWING PLATFORM
After visiting the museum you can go to the top of the monument. This is usually where the lines get very long if you’re there during peak times.
The elevator can only hold eleven people at a time and there can be no more than fifty at the top. The platform is open-air, however, there is a fence which dulls the view slightly. Still, this is one of the best views of Jakarta you will find.
THE LOWER PLATFORM
After you visit the observation deck you will take the elevator down to the lower platform of the monument. From here the view is not as spectacular as it is from the top, it’s still nice though.
I almost enjoyed this platform more because it is so spacious and great for pictures. Even at 11:00 am there was no one else there.
JAKARTA’S NATIONAL MONUMENT: A VERDICT
If you are visiting Jakarta as a tourist I would highly recommend going to the top of the monument. It’s a great way to see the city from above and experience a part of Jakarta’s history.
If the sun is not too bad you can take some time to wander around Merdeka Square and the park and enjoy some nature in this city full of traffic and smog. It’s a great way to get some peace and quiet before you delve back into the busy streets of Jakarta.
Are you going to Yogyakarta next? Click here for a complete guide on how to take the train between Jakarta and Yogyakarta.
Find out more about seeing the sunrise at Borobudur here.