Chapter 9. The Emerging World's Big Secret

When Ciputra was in his late twenties, he sent a letter to Walt Disney. He'd just gotten a plot of beach property from Indonesia's charismatic and debaucherous first president, Sukarno, who was hell-bent on transforming Jakarta into a modern capital city even if it bankrupted the rest of the nation in the process. Ciputra—who, like many Indonesians of his era, mostly goes by just one name—was fresh out of architecture school, and he had traveled to Disneyland once. He didn't care so much about the rides, the beloved characters walking around, or the songs and parades, but he fell in love with Disney's sense of architecture. He was writing to Disney to suggest that the two men partner on a Disney-style theme park in Jakarta.

Disney wrote back a two-sentence letter telling the young Ciputra that he was not going to open a Disneyland in Jakarta, and he strongly advised him not to use the name. Ciputra wasn't so much angry as he was confused. He saw the opportunity so clearly. How could a man like Disney not see it? Determined to prove he was right, he built an amusement park anyway on the Ancol property. Then he built out the waterfront. Then he added an artist village. Then he added restaurants, hotels, golf courses, and houses. And then he added a Sea World. Ancol is now the fourth most-attended amusement park in the world, following Disney World, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney. It's even ahead of Disneyland Paris. But Ciputra, now in his eighties, ...

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