My first memory of GWK is, watching its blurry back at the time we were landing at the Ngurah Rai International Airport. My eyes were glued, to this enormous Balinese structure while the plane descended from the sky, speeding wildly on the runway. Then the Balinese architectural theme of the airport drew away my attention. Later that day, I asked the local driver about the gigantic statue I had spotted. He told me it was GWK. I was intrigued, yet it was only towards the end of my 10-day trip is when I finally visited this iconic cultural park.
The GWK cultural park is located on the hills of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula. It’s for this reason that the towering statue of Garuda Wisnu Kencana gets that extra altitude. Hence, this statue is visible from a large part of Bali. The parking lot of GWK is marked, by a heap of giant eggs. Each synthetic, white-egg, is intricately carved with beautiful designs and laced with golden borders. These eggs enjoy a rock cropped backdrop on one side, while GWK’s entrance on the other. GWK’s ticket counter is a series of queues, under a decorative ceiling. The hanging pendant lamps brighten up the aesthetics of the worktop. I meandered around, as the local guide queued up to buy the entry ticket.
As an unintended part of a course, I stumbled upon a colossal white statue depicting Lord Kashyap and his two wives. Below the statue, you will find inscriptions that tell you about these deities. The wooden boards read, “Bhagwan Kashyap is one of the 7 sage (Sapta Rishi) often mentioned in Hindu manuscript. He is also known as the father of all beings, and the father of the mighty Garuda.” The other two read, “Bhagwan Kashyap’s wife, mother of mighty Garuda” and “Bhagwan Kashyap’s wife, the mother of 1000 dragons.” Just as I finished clicking pictures, my local guide, Suta, arrived with the tickets. Finally, it was time to discover Bali’s most iconic landmark – up and close! There are two ways to reach the main Garuda statue. Either, you walk it up, or you hire a Segway or a golf cart to drive you up there.
I chose to walk it up as I was keen on seeing what was on the way to the statue. The uphill walk was a cakewalk as the series of roadside stores kept my attention. It takes 25-minutes to reach the exact venue. This place is guarded, by an independent checkpoint. It’s here that you will need to produce your ticket. As I stepped across the security bounds, a spectacular sight showed itself. The towering statue was peeping through the gorge between stoned walls. This fascinating structure portrays the Hindu God Vishnu (Wisnu), atop his mythological eagle, Garuda. Here I found out why this – Indonesia’s tallest statue, steals the spotlight at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. GWK takes after Hindu mythology. It’s a tale about the search for the elixir of life. As stated in this story, Garuda allowed being ridden by Lord Wisnu in return for the elixir to release his incarcerated mother. The total height of the GWK statue is nearly 400 feet.
Designed by Nyoman Nuarta, this 75-metre tall and 65-meter broad statue rests atop, a plinth to bring it to a height, that’s almost 100 ft taller than the Statue of Liberty. It measures 4000 tonnes, making it Indonesia’s heaviest statue. It’s a copper and brass framework with a touch of concrete and steel. Wisnu’s crown and neckpiece are decorated in gold. In the evening, staunch lighting graces the statue with an inkling of illumination.
As you walk towards the exit, you will notice a giant Garuda wall on your right. On my way back, I stopped by to watch Balinese men playing music, on traditional instruments. These men were seated, near the dancing fountains, that lead to the main road. To get a beguiling flash, into Bali’s captivating heritage – you must follow its mythology, cultural shows, giant statues, folklore anecdotes and climactic performances. GWK was recently inaugurated in July 2018.
Thus, it was all the more exciting to visit this 60-hectare cultural park in 2019. To get around the GWK area, you need to pay an entrance fee of $9 (IDR 125,000). To access Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue: the entrance fee is $15 (IDR 200,000), per person. My tour concluded with me getting a Guinness (stout beer) from the general store near the entrance. Next time around, I would like to watch Kecak Dance in the premises. The environment makes a perfect setting to get closer to Indonesia’s most-cherished dance form. At GWK, Kecak is performed almost every other evening.
P.S. I visited GWK as a guest of Indonesia Tourism Board, however, the views are my own.