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The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (3)

One of the visitors, braver than me, took the path further away and even opened the closed stubby door. I felt heavier back then, so I told her (we didn’t know each other), “Let’s go, this is the furthest we could go, come on!” But she obeyed me after succeeding in the attempt of opening the door. I asked what was inside, she said that it was nothing.

Coming out from the so-not-rabbit hole, we were asked by the tour leader, “Are you guys feeling alright?” Nodding was our answer. Although that bravest candidate looked a bit disappointed expecting to find more or at least there was something in there.

We became friends then, this was the conversation leading our connection to it, “How do you get all the bravery?” I asked. She merrily answered, “I was exorcized once, I could see ghosts in the past, but now I can’t see them.”

I shook my head in awe. I spoke to myself, no wonder she assigned herself for a trip like this.

The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (3)
The front yard where Soekarno had his speech/Putriyana Asmarani

Bella Vista, The Crisis of Meaning

As this trip was arranged and paid as the assigned members wish, I didn’t know whether entering Bella Vista was free. It should be free. Like many other abandoned houses, Bella Vista is totally wounded, what makes it different from many others is that it is visitable. Before entering the place, we all stood solemnly in the front yard, there we witnessed remnants of the splendor. We were told that where we stood was where Soekarno delivered his speech after he administered Tugu square. Bella Vista served him as the guest house.

A group of teenage boys sat on their modified motorcycles, they made a fuss there just near the building where the part was entirely ruined. A middle-aged vendor, a man shares a space with Bella Vista, he sells something there, he promotes snacks. A little commotion in the front yard didn’t make Bella Vista merrier. Or, being surrounded by human beings doesn’t make this place cleaner. Like that lonely swing in Splendid Inn that doesn’t add value whatsoever for the site. Both look deserted and melancholy. Places that bear history with them are somehow melancholy, I believe all noble sites are touched with that.

  • The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (3)
  • The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (3)

But Bella Vista’s appearance is smaller compared to the massive Splendid Inn. This house has a large living room which leads to a dining area. The dining area, in the past, must be very awe-inspiring as it faces directly to the garden like how you imagine the grandeur of Victorian dining and gardens. But do not imagine it as the fine one, because in the present, the garden is ruined, it is now just a rectangular space full of weeds.

I do admit that Europeans are brilliant when it comes to architecture. Bella Vista is ruined now, but the downpours of sun rays wake this place, even some remote areas get a bit of share from the light. With the rays, I come to a profound realization that the past is always wakeful, since then I consider the past as the wisest time signal. I am not so prominent in interior designs and housing morphology but Bella Vista, I think is built like the letter U. Or maybe because the backyard is closed or demolished, so the area was not accessible, the thing is we entered the front and got out from another door in the front area.

Toilet, whether it was built in the past or not, stood horrendously next to the building, not far from where the teenage boys were hanging out. The area was filthy and the boys had no worries in the world whatsoever, I was being skeptical about how they messed around littering here and there.

There isn’t much to tell here except the disturbing vandalism, the collapsed wall, the ruptured windows, and the deformed balcony. The only meaning it could be derived is just the fact that the first president was here once. But would it be all? If, Soekarno didn’t visit Bella Vista, I believe it yields no story at all and soon would be demolished. Who knows?

The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (3)
The toilet/Putriyana Asmarani

The Commercialization of Terror

In the absence of life and color, Bella Vista and Splendid Inn conform to the most appalling thing of mankind; the visible world is formed with compassion, however the invisible spheres are formed in fright. H. P. Lovecraft warned us all with this common and indulging mistake, a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude.

It is affirmed that darkness manifests itself from something remote, full of anger, resentful and revengeful. In fact, over time, darkness is man-made. From the moment Splendid Inn and Bella Vista were abandoned and left in ruins, that would be the first stage where darkness approached. The places look inviting for the ghost. Believe it or not, the abandonment is an act decided by the stakeholder itself that invites the devils. But ghosts, today, do not concern us, don’t they?

Ghost hunting or anything ghostly is a commodity. Therefore, people are mostly attracted to visit the sites due to the haunting narrative; a group of school boys and girls went there to take photoshoots, they wanted to get the Danur vibe. They are not the only ones. I believe people receive accumulated hysteria about the horror and therefore decide to visit the place. The more the place receives visitors, the more successful is the marketing campaign.

Hence, no renovation for Bella Vista and Splendid Inn, let alone renovations, the places are not swept or mopped, no staff assigned to clean the place. If an accident happens, let’s say the rotten plywood falls on the visitor’s head leading to serious injury, the first agent to blame is that the demon wants the soul. If not serious injury, the mild one, one gleam of injury is said to be our own mistake not to behave in the site. This judgment is hereditary. Thus, to start with a critical point of view about this market-driven man-made terror is like beating against the solid metal. 

I do believe in ghosts, I also believe in the residual spirits which stay in the sites for the places are parts of their being and identity. I am a devout follower of Kisah Tanah Jawa and a seasonal lover for Jurnal Risa. I am fully aware that certain actions might lead to the anger of those spirits, for instance, if the stakeholder decides to clean the site or renovate, the invisible dwellers might revolt against it. But mankind isn’t a servant for the spirits. To balance the world a pact with the spirits should be made, otherwise there would be the possibility that they encircle the area, create an empire there. Then, the dark spirits do harm to the visitors. Like the visible world we live in, there should be politics too in the underworld, right?

There is also another factor wallowing in the fate of Splendid Inn and Bella Vista. Renovations mean changing, although the efforts also include preserving the place the way it looked in the past, renovations mean replacing materials anew. Then, this concern; renovations mean a threat to genuineness.

The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (3)
Another side of the corridor in Splendid Inn/Putriyana Asmarani

Now, this is fun, this notion of genuineness is fun. Let’s imagine Splendid Inn and Bella Vista’s ruin as a person suffering from cancer. The person is famous for cancer, people are impressed with the story of the person’s battle and survival. But cancer isn’t worshiped, the admiration is rooted from the cure process. Just because a person is famous for the disease, does it mean that the person is less genuine when she or he is cured? All the ruins, the collapsed attic, the tattered balcony, the blasted windows and doors, aren’t these all but a disease in once a perfect body of building in the past?

I know, I know Bella Vista and Splendid Inn were built by the country’s arch enemy, by the colony. I know they are physically less precious than the crystal goblets of Persian sherbet. But, heritage deserves preservation, if not renovation at least cleanliness, like a soul deserves a nourished body to live in. Couldn’t all of us stop this commercialization of terror? In fact, in the end I couldn’t help much. Disney must really hate to hear this but, some lives are messily ever after.


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Putriyana Asmarani adalah penulis konten kreatif di salah satu perusahaan pemasaran digital di Malang. Salah satu risetnya Identitas Politik Raja-raja Melayu mendapatkan beasiswa riset di National University of Singapore. Cerpen dan resensi bukunya pernah terbit di The Jakarta Post, Indian Periodical, Djavatimes, SuaraNet.id dan lain-lain.

Putriyana Asmarani adalah penulis konten kreatif di salah satu perusahaan pemasaran digital di Malang. Salah satu risetnya Identitas Politik Raja-raja Melayu mendapatkan beasiswa riset di National University of Singapore. Cerpen dan resensi bukunya pernah terbit di The Jakarta Post, Indian Periodical, Djavatimes, SuaraNet.id dan lain-lain.

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