Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.
EP was still pretty lively when we arrived, but it was starting to peter out before we finished our drinks. It was only a Wednesday night, but my new flatmate and I were kind of celebrating our future cohabitation and in no mood to call time on our drinking, so we decided to venture out to see what else Kemang had to offer. I had only been in the district once before when I came with Claire and I didn’t really know where anything was, but I did remember that we had walked from Bremer to EP in only a few minutes so it couldn’t be that hard to find – in theory.
When Simon and I left EP we headed in the general direction of where I believed Bremer to be. Whether we were going in the right direction or not, I didn’t really know. However, the whole of Kemang looked like a place that had plenty going on and it wasn’t long before we stumbled along the battered pavement toward a road that was lit up with nightime neon and a place that seemed worth checking out.
It was the sound of old school house classics coming out of Umbra that attracted me to it. The entrance was at the top of some external stairs that looked like a fire escape where a group of people were stood outside by a table. It appeared to be a late night bar or club so we walked to the top where the young man and woman at the entrance ushered us in with a smile and without any charge.
As we walked in we entered an area that looked like an outdoor terrace bar. It was a stylish, brightly lit, airy space with plants growing up the glass walls and a long bar to the right. The main club where the music was coming from was directly opposite in a larger, darkened room that you entered via open patio doors. There was an area with high tables and stools as you walked into the main room and a floating bar almost in the middle of the club that sat in front of the dance floor. A long DJ booth overlooked the dance floor at the far end of the room and there were coffee tables surrounded by sofas and low-level seating on either side. It was a nice space. Not completely full, but more than busy enough to have an atmosphere. Simon and I were the only Bulays in there, but the Indonesian crowd were a Kemang crowd so we weren’t out of place. We plotted up at the bar and bought a jug of Long Island ice tea; the night had now begun in earnest.
The first jug of Long Island iced tea didn’t last long and it soon got my mojo motoring. I had the perma-grin of a happy drinker as Simon and I rambled on about our past adventures and future exploits as expat partners in crime; and of course the many beautiful women in our host city.
Simon’s preoccupation with the women in Jakarta was one that I could understand and I found myself comfortably leaning toward the single man’s agenda; it was just too difficult not to. It had been a long time since I had been near my Latin lover and it would be a long time before I would get anywhere near her again. I always knew I would need to exert a massive force of will to stay faithful for the entire time I was away, but there I was, after only a few drinks, and already my imagination was leering toward the lascivious possibilities in my mind. I needed a distraction, so I decided to send her a Whatsapp message.
The reply came quickly. She asked what I was doing, how things were going, what Jakarta was like, etcetera. I gave her a little rundown on the city and told her about my new flatmate Simon. I even took a photo of us together; Simon’s toothy smile and comb over alongside my drunken perma-grin was a quirky coupling. She sent a ‘Jajaja’ (a Spanish ‘Hahaha’) and asked me if I was drunk. Of course I was, but I was in high spirits. So much so that I decided to try and call her using Whatsapp. I went into the terrace area where I thought it was quiet enough to talk, but the connection was weak, there was an annoying delay and the music was still intrusive enough to make hearing difficult. So after a brief and illegible exchange of words, I ended the call and sent her a message to tell her I missed her before rejoining Simon and our second jug of Long Island iced tea.
Temptation is a cunning little bitch and, like a good salesman, she always seems to have the answer to all your objections. So whilst I had hoped contact with my Latin lover would have been enough to stop my eyes from roving, it only made me long for female company even more. It didn’t help that when I returned to the main room, a beautiful young Indonesian woman and her friends had come to stand by Simon and I at the bar. She smiled, I smiled back, she then asked me to take a picture of her and her friends at the bar, to which I courteously obliged, and then that was it; the butterfly dance of flirtation began…
“What’s your name…?
“What’s your name…?
“Where are you from?”
“No, I’m from Manchester, England.”
“What are you doing in Jakarta?”
“I’m an English teacher. I work for EF in Taman Anggrek”
“Do you like Indonesia…?” – etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Everywhere in the world it’s more or less the same trivial exchange in the mating game. But I didn’t care; braces or not, she was lovely and I was merry and unashamedly aquiescent. ‘If it happens it happens’, I told myself as I kicked guilt and fidelity to the curb.
The girl was called Andida and her English wasn’t perfect but perfectly understandable. She was much better looking than her two friends, although I don’t think that was the reason Simon seemed disinterested in any of them. He had already made it pretty obvious that he didn’t like the work involved in the mating game. He much preferred an easy, compliant catch in his net rather than the challenge of charm and seduction. Nevertheless, I made sure I involved him in the conversation. For his part he remained polite and sociable and was happy to pose with me and the girls when they asked to take photos of us all together. After all, it wasn’t as if I was simply abandoning him for someone I had just met, which was pretty much what he had done to me the previous week. No, as far as I was concerned, as attractive as the young woman with the braces was, I am flirtatious by nature and I was simply being sociable rather than predatorial – or so I told myself. The truth was, if something came of it I wasn’t going to say no, which of course makes me a bastard. But aren’t all men bastards? If yours isn’t, he just hasn’t had the right exposure to temptation, he’s a very good liar, or you’re fortunate enough to be very much content and in love.
Bastard or not, I have my own code, and I hadn’t yet done anything to break that code, so I continued to be sociable with Andida and her friends. Meanwhile, Simon and I continued to enjoy our second… third jug of Long Island ice tea and the rest of our night out. I even almost got him onto the dancefloor.
Time flies when your having fun and you’ve drunk three jugs of strong liquor. The music in Umbra had nosedived into the intolerable, noisy, audio assault of Jakarta style house… techno… whatever the fuck they called that racket – and it was time to move on. However, it was almost three o’clock and both Simon and I had work the next day. Not starting work until one in the afternoon has its benefits, but it was the middle of the week and sometimes it’s good to call it quits whilst your still on a high. Andida and her friends had remained with us, but the conversation had petered out a little. She had told me she worked as a secretary and that she also had to go to work later that day. However, before she left with her friends, she actually asked my permission if she could go! This was very sweet, but clearly a cultural thing, unless what she meant was lost in translation. I laughed and said, “Of course you can go”, to which she gave a coy smile (smiles seem to be a permanent feature of Indonesians). However, I now felt obliged… well, not just obliged, it was probably as much a habitual reflex, but I felt I should ask for her number. So I did and she dutifully gave it to me – not exactly faithful behaviour. But fuck it, I didn’t care. I’d had a damn good night out and just the whiff of female company was satisfying enough; for now at least. I just couldn’t see this fidelity thing lasting very long.