This post is going to be a big one with lots of photos, as Independence Park really touched something in me and I found it fascinating for a number of reasons.

Entrance, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

In 2011 redevelopment finished on a former swamp and holiday park, which converted the land into a public area to commemorate Malaysia’s road to independence. There are nine areas situated around a lake, which each have their own character. The first is the Malay garden, which includes a number of tourist information buildings, and is designed to welcome you.

Pond, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Lake, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

The next is the Sultan Abu Bakar memorial garden. This former ruler of Johor is famous for bringing in Chinese entrepreneurs in the 19th century to drive the Johorian economy, and Johor is still more advanced than many Malaysian states.

Pagoda, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Tea room, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Unknown strange building, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

Next to this garden is a quirky little tea room which also sells souvenirs.

Paintings, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
I didn’t try them, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

The third area is to remember the time of the Japanese occupation during World War Two. There is almost a maze of panels of shaped concrete detailing the occupation and the suffering which ensued. More strangely, there is a war themed paddling pool for kids.

Shower, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Paddling pool, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Bombers in the pool, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Wooden rifle, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Japanese bike panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Tunnel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Bombers panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Battleship panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Farming panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Plant panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Suffering panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Working panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Starvation panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Money panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Occupation panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Bombing panel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

The next area recalls the communist resistance and armed insurgency which had its genesis during the occupation, and continued until after independence. It’s meant to be reminiscent of the communist guerrilla hideouts, and includes a pair of observation towers, as well as a climbing wall and a pretty dilapidated obstacle course.

Tower, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Resistance, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Guerillas, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Resistance tunnel, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Ambush, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Camp, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Climbing wall, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Towers, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
View, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Fountain from tower, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Probably pretty safe, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Lower tower, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Zip wire, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Assault course, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Some blocks, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Vaulting wall, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Former shop, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

From here you move on to the garden of the Malay Rulers, which includes an amphitheatre for public performances. Apparently there are occasional plays and political speeches given here, but it was almost empty when I was there.

Amphitheatre, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Seats, , Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Amphitheatre view, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Reverse shot, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Water, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

The sixth is to celebrate the independence spirit, with panels to show racial harmony and a fountain in the lake. The fountain apparently has a light show at night, but I wasn’t there for that.

Racial harmony, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Union, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Fountain show, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Working together, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Parliament, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Announcement, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Removed face, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Standing together, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Rock states, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Water show, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Melaka rock, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
More water, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

Malaysia garden is next, and like the Malay garden it has a number of shops in an interesting architectural design. However unlike the latter, these seem mostly to just be small businesses rather than aimed at tourists. Local designer wedding dresses on your afternoon stroll, anyone?! The two coolest features to me were the tower which evoked Johor Bahru town and the relief map of Malaysia in concrete. There is also a remarkably intact children’s playground and adult exercise area here.

Clock tower clone, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Malaysia in concrete, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Exercise area, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Shopping area, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Concrete Malaysian Borneo, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Playground, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

The penultimate area is to remember independence, and it consists of a semi circular plinth overlooking the lake, with panels which show the declaration of independence and the raising of the Malaysian flag. There is also a musical recording on a loop playing patriotic songs. Oddly, and the only photo I have of this is through the playground (above), the flag flying on the main flagpole isn’t the Malaysian one, but the Johor state flag. I’m not sure what that signifies!

Merdeka! Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Flags, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Flag swapping, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

Finally, the last area is the promenade back along the lake to the entrance and car park. There’s a slightly dodgy bridge to cross the lake partway in the middle, and that allows a last couple of photos of the lake in either direction.

Half a lake, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
The other half, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

Taman Merdeka has a lot going for it, but it is also in need of some remedial work. Some of the memorials are covered in mould; there are broken panels and some slightly dangerous walkways (including broken hand rails on the observation towers); and there are monkeys living on a pile of rubbish. If some of the damage can be repaired early before the park fades away, then maybe Taman Merdeka can be rescued. Otherwise I fear it will end up the same way as many outdoor areas here: abandoned and rotting. That would be undeserved.

Dodgy bridge, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Broken obstacle, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Another broken obstacle, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Broken hand rail, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru
Monkeys, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru

Address: Jalan Datin Halimah, 80200 Johor Bahru

Fake rocks, Taman Merdeka, Johor Bahru