66: Fable? Unbelievable.

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

Fable Interior-Outdoor

Not too far away from Equinox on the other side of Jalan Jenderal Sudirman, the big road that runs through the Sudirman district, is Fable nightclub. You can walk there from Senayan Plaza, but rather than suffer Jakarta’s treacherous paving we took a short ride in a cab.

Fable is located in Fairgrounds in SCBD (Sudirman Central Business District), the same building as the popular rooftop bar Lucy in the Sky and Jakarta’s lavish Potato Head venue. However, despite the high-end Mercedes’, BMWs and Lambourghinis parked out front, Fable isn’t quite as upmarket as the setting would imply. Nevertheless, it is actually a beautiful looking venue.

Entering at ground level you go up a sweeping staircase that takes you to the front desk at the entrance of the club. There was no entrance fee that Friday night, so we walked through the futuristic passageway into the main club and into an audio barrage of Jakarta techno. This vicious, horrible sound betrayed the undeniably stylish design of the venue.

fable_background2

A room with a view. Fable set up for dinner and cocktails in the evenings.

As you enter Fable, there’s a beautiful bar, the surface of which is made of a softly lit translucent, marbled amber resin material. There are no beer taps to spoil the finish, just two sections filled with bottled spirits and mixers – Johnny Walker whisky was on offer that night.

Across the narrow wooden, panelled floor space, a barrier topped with a narrow shelf for drinks separates the bar from the small dancefloor. A dancefloor that was heaving with drunken, young Jakarta locals doing some kind of uncoordinated, techno moshing to some seriously hardcore Jak-tech beats the DJ was quite literally slamming down. The DJ booth itself was lit from behind with a video screen and there was an MC, hip-hopped out to the max with baseball cap, fat trainers and baggy clothes, whipping up the already frenzied crowd with his mic magic as the DJ played the music – if you can really call it music.

fable behind the decks

As we waited to order drinks, I tried to take in the impressive venue, but it was difficult to concentrate with all the people and the racket coming out of the soundsystem. What I could see was that the whole place had a glass ceiling framed by girders that looked up and out into the SCBD skyline and its impressive display of modern skyscrapers. To the right of the dancefloor, there were sofas and low tables, and the back wall was a continuation of the glass ceiling, sloping down to the floor. This angular, slanted glass wall was also framed by iron girders and through the steamy windows I could see that there was also a terrace outside.

When our drinks came, Simon, Kas and I must have all been thinking the same thing because as I leant over to suggest we go out onto the terrace, they both nodded as if to say ‘That’s exactly what I was thinking’.

fable-outdoor-area

Out on the terrace, away from the sonic maelstrom inside, my concentration returned. There are a row of wooden benches leading down to the end of the large outdoor deck where there is an open space with more tables and a fountain in its centre. The whole space is secured by a row of high bushes and . trees, so there’s no chance of anyone falling over the edge, which is just as well because I could now see just how young the crowd in there were. Simon and Kas were canoodling in a corner and, feeling a little bit of a gooseberry, I looked around at the people sat on the benches outside and on the sofas through the windows and they were really young. I mean barely sixteen and seventeen. And a lot of them were really drunk. And I mean really drunk, which was hardly surprising as downing massive gulps of Johnny Walker whisky straight from the bottle seemed to be the thing to do, and it must have been a pretty expensive thing to do too, because a bottle cost around 2,000,000 IDR! These had to be the rich kids.

As classy looking as the venue was, the music in Fable was too noisy and the crowd was just way too young for me to feel comfortable. The drinks weren’t cheap and I wasn’t really enjoying being the spare part in Simon’s love tryst, so after I had finished my beer I told the pair of them that I was going to head home. Luckily they were thinking the same thing and we all decided to leave together.

On the way out of the club, right by the beautiful bar where we walked in, there was a young Indonesian boy lay flat on his back in drunken unconsciousness. His friends didn’t seem too concerned as they feebly tried to get him up. I told Simon to wait for me outside before stepping over the body to head toward the toilets. When I returned, the kid was still there, flat on his back, absolutely gone. His friends were nowhere to be seen and he looked for all the world like an abandoned corpse. But, I couldn’t help but laugh. Especially when I took one last look at the dancefloor before leaving and saw a crowd of pissed up young revellers in a circle with their arms around each other, drunk and disorderly jumping up and down to the insane acoustic violence pounding out of the speakers. One of them was clutching a bottle of whiskey whilst another was pouring the contents of another bottle down his throat. ‘This place is bonkers’, I thought, as I stepped over the body again and walked down the entranceway to leave. But the best was yet to come.

As I got to the top of the steps to walk down to the front of the building to meet Simon outside, there was time for one last Jackass-type laugh before bedtime. There were three youngsters coming out of the club, one being flanked by the other two who were holding him up. As they got to the top of the stairs, they let him go so that he could walk down by himself – big mistake. The poor drunken fool went cascading down to the bottom like a sack of potatoes. He hit the marble floor hard when he got to the end, but I couldn’t help laughing – I’m laughing now just thinking about it. But the funniest part was, despite the heaviness of his fall, he simply popped back up like a zombie that someone failed to shoot in the head. His friends rushed down the stairs to help him, but he waved them away and staggered out the door as if nothing had happened. He will have felt it the next day, that’s for sure. Never mind fable, that fall was epic.

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65: Can I Interest You In A Shirt Sir?

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

jakarta equinox

I hadn’t really seen much of Simon during that first week in the flat. Then, when the weekend came, instead of the two of us hitting the Jakarta bar scene as had been the expectation, he had already made plans to go out with this new woman he had met. However, he was keen for me to meet her so he asked me to come along and join them for a drink in Kemang. I suspected that he partly wanted me to help him carry him through the night with this voluble new woman and her opinions. I think he might have been a bit nervous, like a teenager going on a first date. It’s easy when you’ve had a few drinks and you’re going with the flow on the night of meeting, but that first follow up date can be a bit of a nervy one. I think it reduces most grown men and women to being teenagers again. But I like that feeling. There’s a meme that says: ‘Don’t grow up – it’s a trap!’ It’s true. There are a lot of advantages to being a grown up, but you’ve already lost many of the joys of discovery by the time you’re thirty, so going on a date and feeling like your sixteen again is very nervy yes, but a lot of fun too.

I arrived at Murphy’s at about ten o’clock and found Simon and his date sat at a table in the quiet side of the bar away from the noisy cover band. Simon greeted me in his usual cordial manner and introduced me to his date, Kas.

“Hi, nice to meet you”, she said as she stood up to shake my hand. Very professional.

She was a diminutive little thing, although ‘little’ is probably not the right adjective. Simon had described her as being curvy, but, for want of a better word, she was more dumpy than voluptuous. Short and fully padded out but well-proportioned let’s say; not that she was unattractive, certainly not. She was probably in her late twenties but looked younger. She had a very typical Indonesian look: moon-shaped face, big almond-shaped eyes, full red lips, pure black hair with a natural lustre and a little bit of a wavy kink; she was a good-looking woman. And she spoke very good English – albeit American English – and she spoke it with confidence. As Simon had said, she wasn’t the typical type of woman I would have imagined him with. She was very easy to get along with though, and Simon seemed very relaxed in her company – he was even wearing jeans!

Soon after I had arrived at Murphy’s Kas suggested that we move on to a place called Equinox, which is one of Jakarta’s main nightclubs. She had a job at a commercial estate agent and was obviously part of the upper class, hip Jakarta crowd, which is what Equinox caters for, as well as the well-paid expats of course. Let’s face it, in developing countries like Indonesia, only the better off can afford to go to places like Equinox. The average lower wage scale in Jakarta is about 3,000,000 IDR per month, which is about £200 (those who don’t have a proper salary can be on as little as a dollar a day). My wage was only around the average of 15,000,000 a month, so with a beer costing about £4 or £5, night clubbing isn’t a luxury the lower classes can afford.

Equinox is located in the plush upmarket Senayan Plaza with the entrance via a lift located at the car park entrance. Guests are greeted by valet parking and the usual “exclusive” nightclub pantomime of suited doormen and host – or door picker as they’re sometimes called – carrying a clipboard with the guest list attached. Fortunately, Jakarta isn’t like the UK where they take this pantomime all too seriously. Like many things in this city, it is just for show. However, they did have a dress code of sorts, and that dress code meant that all male patrons entering the club had to wear a shirt.

I wasn’t wearing a shirt. But I could hire one for the night. No, really, there was a man at the door who was renting shirts for 150,000 IDR – about seven or eight quid.

Fuck that.

Was it Groucho Marx who said that he wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have him as a member? Well, call me a pretentious twat, but I don’t want to go into any club that rents shirts to punters at the door so that they are in line with its spurious dress code. Watching some middle-aged fat guy with big hair, a tango tan, a bright pink polo shirt and fluorescent orange trainers walk into the lift to go up to the place didn’t really sell it to me either. So I declined the gentleman’s kind offer of temporary apparel rental and suggested we find somewhere else to go that wasn’t so fucking ludicrous.

55: Shame and Suffering

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

The ideal fiction for what happened next would be for me to recount the menage et trois fantasy of every grown man; to tell you that those two young Dutch women couldn’t wait to get me back to their place so we could all get naked and have a lick-nasty, sordid three-way. Well, whilst the truth is often stranger than fiction, in this case it’s just plain ordinary. We simply listened to some music, talked for a while and then I fell asleep. Although, I don’t actually remember when I fell asleep. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t long after we got there. I don’t even think I managed to finish any of the beers we bought from the mini-market. It was a little embarrassing for me to be honest. They lived in a kost, which is the Indonesian name for a homestay. In their case, it was basically a hotel room with a bed in the middle and an en-suite bathroom. When I woke up I was sprawled across the bed so they wouldn’t have had anywhere to put themselves; awkward!

“Hey, come on party boy. Your taxi’s outside” I heard one of them say as I unpeeled my eyelids.

Disorientated and a little embarrassed, I mumbled an apology for my lame showing, slowly got up off their bed and shuffled out of the room through a pleasant indoor garden and into a waiting Bluebird taxi outside. The daylight was harsh, but the stark realisation that I still had to go to work that day was harsher.

Mercifully, my timetable of classes that day was relatively light, but it was still hard going. My morning swim had been replaced by a cold shower and the excesses of the night before had been converted into dehydration, a headache and a lack of appetite. Grimacing inside, I got through the day with an artificial smile, minimal conversation and an exemplary level of professionalism. When it came to an end, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Grand Prix Inn (this was a first) and just lie down.

The people in the room next door were noisy bastards. They seemed to enjoy a good sing-song before bedtime at around midnight. Then, a couple of hours after the five o’clock call to prayer, they’d have the television on full blast. I hadn’t complained about them, only because I couldn’t be bothered making the effort; I wasn’t going to be staying there permanently so it hardly seemed worth it. Yet that evening, the one evening I was happy to just stay in, rest up and listen to music, I get disturbed by a knock on the door. When I open it, there are two security staff stood there with grave looks on their faces. I can’t really relay what they said to me because their English wasn’t very good, but para-linguistic communication and the odd English word here and there translated into a complaint from the neighbours about the noise I was making. Not the noise from my music, but the noise of my door closing when I come in late at night. Of course, I tried to counter their complaint with my own, but I don’t think the security guys had any idea what I was trying to say. So, I smiled and nodded and apologised and they returned to their important standing duties. I turned down my music a touch and lay back on my bed thinking; ‘Three more days and I’ll be out of this shit fucking place’.

That night, as I lay in my room going through the final stages of my hangover recovery, I thought about the last month I had spent in Jakarta. It had consisted of frustration, swimming, teaching and excessive drinking. Already a corrupt little pattern was emerging: Get through the frustrations and mundanity of each day and then totally abuse myself with alcohol at the weekends; I might as well have been in England. I wasn’t exactly embracing a new culture and this certainly wasn’t a wise way to structure my week. But for the time being it was all I had to work with. I had spent most of my life making lemonade out of the lemons I’d been lumped with, and the lemonade usually had a healthy dash of something alcoholic in it. Does that mean I have a problem with alcohol? Well I certainly overdo my recommended weekly intake, but that doesn’t mean I have a problem with addiction. I don’t think I’m the addiction type; I get bored too easily. I enjoy drinking up to a point, but I wasn’t going to descend into the binge and depression state of an emerging alcoholic that’s for sure. No, this had simply become my way of dealing with the boredom and the feeling of isolation that had so far been representative of my life in this city. Nonetheless, I also knew that it wasn’t a healthy pursuit and if I didn’t reign it in it could potentially be destructive.

54: Beery-eyed & Leery-eyed

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

When we got into Bremer there was no DJ playing house music, there weren’t even any decks. In fact, there was hardly anybody in there at all. But there was a bar and the floor was flat so it beat going back out onto the streets of Kemang to stumble around looking for somewhere else to go. Besides, good fun is more about the company you’re with than the venue you’re in. I had good company and I was in good spirits. I was tipsy enough to be the witty and charming me I can be, but still sober enough to want to drink some more.

I volunteered the next round of drinks; the tab I owed Simon wasn’t quite yet paid, not that I was counting. As I was at the bar negotiating a good price for a jug of Jack Daniels and coke and ensuring that the jug was fully loaded, I asked the barman where the DJ was from the previous week. He told me that they only had a DJ on special nights. I had been quite into DJ-ing when I was back in Manchester. I had fancied myself as a promoter and even put on a few nights of my own. I love music and I enjoyed playing out in a bar or a club. I would have liked to have done more of it, but it’s competitive and involves the kind of social ‘networking’ – brown-nosing and obsequious fawning around other DJ’s and venue owners – that I have never been any good at, nor wanted to be. Nevertheless, I had brought my collection of music with me should the opportunity of getting a gig somewhere arise. In a city where there seemed to be nothing to do but wait for the next holiday break, moonlighting at the weekends doing something I enjoy would be the ideal way to meet people and save money that would seemingly be otherwise spent on drinking away my boredom. I liked Bremer as a venue and this was a good opportunity to try and get a spot there, so I left Simon talking with the two Naomis whilst I did some impromptu ‘networking’ with the barman.

The barman’s name was Rahman and it just so happened that his brother was the owner of the venue. So far I had found Indonesians to be generally congenial and friendly people so it wasn’t too difficult to get the conversation going. The place was dead so he was hardly rushed off his feet. I pitched him my slightly embellished DJ-ing history and he appeared to be quite enthusiastic about the prospect of me coming to spin some tunes there. Only the decision was not his to make, it was his brother Peter’s, but Peter wasn’t around.

“No problem”, said Rahman, “I give him a call and you can speak”.

Peter’s English wasn’t quite as good as his brother’s and I couldn’t entirely understand what he was saying, but I understood enough to arrange a meeting the following week. Apparently, he owned a few bars in Jakarta, including one directly across the road from Bremer called Route 86. I think he was suggesting that this is the bar where he has DJ’s from “outside” come and play. By “outside” I think he meant foreign, or perhaps he had a resident DJ who played regularly and the outside DJ’s were the ones who came to do guest spots. Either way, it all seemed very promising and I thought to myself, this night is going pretty good. I might have just been thrown a bone to chew on to make life in this city bearable, and who knows, with the vibes this little Dutch chick was giving off I might even get laid tonight. With the right amount of alcohol and positive encouragement, anything seems possible; unfortunately, it’s just a shame that devil-may-care optimism doesn’t last.

We spent the rest of the night in Bremer until it was close to closing time, my enthusiasm dragging Simon and his dour mood through the night. I wanted to carry things on and so did the Dutch girls, but none of us really knew enough about Jakarta to suggest a good nightclub that we could go to. This was probably a blessing as I wasn’t really in the mood for clubbing. Particularly if it meant risking further audio assault by that horrible Jakarta house sound. Then little Naomi suggested that we get some beers from the mini-market and go back to their place, which sounded like an excellent plan to me. Simon on the other hand was not so keen; there was just no lifting his flat mood. Although I’m pretty sure a late-night trip to Blok M would have cheered him up. But this wasn’t Simon’s night. All the energy was coming from me and little Naomi. We were the instigators, alcohol and Friday night were the catalysts, but Simon just wasn’t being the willing participant I wanted him to be. When we left Bremer and got onto the main road, he jumped into the first taxi that came along and left without so much as a ‘goodbye’. This man was proving to be a somewhat odd and unpredictable individual. And his off-mood hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Dutch girls.

“What was his problem man?”, said the little one.

“Oh I’m glad he’s gone”, said the other one, “He was so boring”

I was inclined to agree with her, but at that point, full of alcohol and lurid high hopes, I would have agreed with anything either of them said. I felt like there was a little more adventure left in this night and I was happy to follow them into it even if Simon wasn’t going to join in.

“Come on, there’s an Indomaret on the way to our Kost”, said little Naomi. “We’ll get a taxi, stop on the way for some beer and go back to our place”.

“Yeah, ok” I said, “sound’s good to me.” Of course it did.

 

53.Finding Treehouse

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

After walking up Kemang Raya for a short while, I didn’t get a geographical epiphany and suddenly remember where the elusive Treehouse venue was, but the girls spotted a place they had been to before.

We walked up the steps into a noisy little cocktail bar called Attics. It didn’t look much from the street, but inside it was a chic modern space, very dark, lit only by glowing purple and red panels around the bar. We sat at the glowing bar and I ordered some drinks. I shouldn’t really have bothered as the music was horrible. A shrill, caustic sound that was tantamount to a forced electronic ear-fuck. As we sat at the bar trying to talk, every word was assaulted by this hideous, aggressive, techno sound that seemed to be the theme tune to Jakarta’s nightlife. It smashed into the tight dark space and ricocheted off the walls, battering the life out of us until we could take no more. We endured about fifteen minutes before drinking up and escaping.

attics-kemang

As we stepped out of Attics and turned to go back up Kemang Raya, I suddenly got that geographical epiphany I was waiting for and remembered where Treehouse was. It was the big McDonalds on the corner that jogged my memory. I remembered walking past it when I had gone there the first time. As I had suspected, it was just a stone’s throw away from Murphy’s, which was only a short walk from Attics.

Once inside, I remembered just how small Treehouse was. There were about fifteen people in the downstairs bar, but that was enough to make it crowded, so we walked up the roped spiral staircase to the little terrace.

It was either a coincidence or Treehouse must be a popular spot for parties. I don’t know whose birthday it was, but there was still a lot of cake left and whoever it was didn’t mind us being there. Besides that, there was a free sofa and table and I was in no mood for doing any more walking around Kemang. Like everywhere else in Jakarta, any unnecessary walking around Kemang increases the risk of an ankle injury.

The DJ in Treehouse was playing some respectable old school funk and hip hop at a respectable bar room volume. A simple equation but one that was clearly lost on the proprietor of Attics and all those bars around Tribeca Gardens. Being able to hear ourselves think, the two Naomis, Simon and I finally settled into our drinks and the rest of the night.

The two Naomi’s were similar but different. They had been best friends since school and had come to Jakarta to work for a film production company. It wasn’t too clear what their roles were, but they were both working in some kind of capacity as production assistants for an advertising or media company of some sort. They were both from Amsterdam, which is a pretty cool city, so understandably they were far from impressed with Jakarta.

“We have only been here for a couple of weeks, but oh my God it’s so fucking boring!” said the smaller Naomi, suddenly animated now the niceties of introductions were out of the way.

Little Naomi was arguably the prettier of the two. She was a lively, petit little thing; no more than five-five, long brown hair with big wide eyes. She had a stud in her pierced tongue and a voice like an excited teenager at her first concert. She wore white Adidas shell-toes with her little mini skirt and tight little backless tube top. She had that kinetic energy that winds down to a standstill before most people get to their late thirties.

The other Naomi also sported a pair of retro-Adidas, but she wore them with a pair of trousers and a patterned blouse. She wasn’t small and petit or as energetic as her little friend, nor did she look like a typical northern European. Her black hair and olive-skin betrayed her Mediterranean origins. “My parents are from Cyprus”, she said when I asked her “but I was born in Holland”. I had worked as a holiday rep in Cyprus many years ago, which was a most memorable summer. However, I never learnt much Greek apart from ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘cheers’, all of which I pronounced badly.

I found the Dutch girls to be good company, particularly the little one. She just had so much energy, practically bouncing up off her chair when she spoke. It was a very low chair and she was wearing a very short skirt so she couldn’t help inadvertently flashing her little black and white polkadot knickers at me every couple of minutes; a running theme of a Kemang night out perhaps? Hmm, could be worse.

Time flew as we each finished a couple of Jack Daniels and cokes. I was enjoying sharing the company of a couple of lively young women who spoke English, but I had noticed that Simon was a little subdued. I thought that his early drinking may have caught up with him, or maybe he wanted to go somewhere a bit bigger, a bit more lively. Perhaps somewhere less young and trendy. Me and the two Naomis were dressed pretty casually – smart, but casual. Simon on the other hand was in his suit and may have felt a little out of place. Whatever it was, he wasn’t being his cordial and congenial self so after we finished our drinks I suggested that we go to Bremer. This was the big lively outdoor venue next door that I had been to that first night I came to Kemang with Claire. They had a dj playing cool music and we had a good night in there.

 

52. Double Dutch

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

Kemang is probably the most popular district for expats and Friday nights are very busy. When you come off the main highway and enter the district at the start of Kemang Raya, the main road that runs through it, the traffic grinds to a halt. I had found it impossible to time my journeys from Taman Anggrek to Kemang. The busway is the quickest way to get out of Grogol in the evening so I took route 9 and stopped at Semanggi where the traffic eases of a little. I took one of the taxis that were waiting at the bottom of the steps of the overpass up to Kemang, but it’s just impossible to predict how bad Jakarta’s traffic is going to be so it’s hard to make solid meeting arrangements.

I had arranged to meet Adam at Eastern Promise – EP as it’s known – at 9.30 and I was already a little late by the time my taxi rolled up to the back of the Kemang Raya tailback, so I got out of the taxi and started to walk. I knew EP was close, but I didn’t know where it was exactly. However, I did know that Murphy’s was on Kemang Raya so I decided to call Simon to tell him to meet me there. But just as I was about to dial his number I saw him walking toward me.

“Hey, how are you doing?” he said as he greeted me with his toothy grin and firm handshake.

“I was just about to call you”, I said to him. “It’s a good job I bumped into you because I can’t remember where EP is. I was going to tell you to meet me in Murphy’s; it’s the only place I know how to get to.”

My sense of direction is as bad as my memory for names, and to be honest, I wasn’t even too sure where Murphy’s was. It was now about ten o’clock and Simon had just come from an evening of drinking with one of his clients so he was already a little drunk and in pretty high spirits. “So where should we go?” I asked.

I wanted to try and find Treehouse again, but Simon wasn’t too bothered where we went, he just wanted another drink.

As we were stood by the side of the road considering where to go next, two young white women came walking by. As white women are few and far between around Jakarta, I assumed that they were expats. As they approached I said, “Excuse me, do you know a place called EP? Eastern promise; it’s a… popular… expat bar… near here…”

For an awkward moment I thought they were going to completely ignore me and walk on by. But then they stopped.

“You speak English!? Where are you from?” one of them asked. Perhaps they just needed a moment to adjust to the sound of an English voice.

“I’m from Manchester” I said, “What about you? Are you Dutch?”

There is something about the Dutch English accent that sounds like the German English accent, yet with a specific tone that, if you have the ear for both, makes it easy to tell them apart.

“Yes, how can you tell?” said the other young woman.

“Oh, my brother lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years and I know the Dutch accent”, I replied.

They didn’t actually look Dutch, if the Dutch even have a particular look other than being tall, which neither of them were. They were actually both quite short. The smaller of the two, whose name was Naomi, was a slim, pale young woman with long brown hair and wide eyes. Her friend, who was also called Naomi, was a little taller and more solid in her build. She had black hair, pale olive skin and looked Mediterranean.

“So you’ve never heard of EP?” I asked them. “I believe it’s the local spot for expats in Kemang.” It turned out that they had also only been in Jakarta for a couple of weeks and hadn’t really been anywhere – hence their pale complexions. They said they had just come from a nearby rooftop bar where they were the only white women. It hadn’t been very busy and the host at the door had been pestering them so they had left. The littler of the Naomi’s said that they thought I was Indonesian at first, which is why they were ignoring me; nice.

“When you said hello, I was like, ‘what’, then I realised you were speaking English. I thought you were going to start hitting on us like the weirdo in the bar”, said the taller Naomi. I guessed that meant that Simon and I had passed the obligatory man-scan that women silently give strange men before committing to engaging in further conversation. This is an involuntary and informal ‘Not a Total Dick’ or ‘Complete Weirdo’ test that, in fairness, any sensible young woman should do. However, it seems like the assumption is always that the man wants to get into their knickers, which more often than not is probably true. However, on this occasion, although neither of them were particularly unattractive, I didn’t have any lurid intentions. And I don’t really think Europeans were Simon’s taste. But they were young, lively and spoke English with no effort at all. All of those things were bonuses for me. Plus, we were all new to Jakarta and shared a common geographic dyslexia with regard to Kemang, so I decided to invite them to join us for a drink; only perhaps not in EP. I didn’t ask, but I guessed that they were both in their mid-twenties. I didn’t think that a bar full of middle-aged expats and Indonesian Bule-prey would have really been their scene so I suggested that we go look for Treehouse. I knew it was close and I was determined to find the place. If we couldn’t find it this time we could always ask someone.

48: The Best of a Bad Situation

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

After a couple of days, I calmed down. Simon had been in Malaysia on business during that time and we had arranged to meet when he got back. I wanted to see him face-to-face, hear his side of the story about the incident at Jeff’s apartment and just feel him out a bit more as a person.

We met at a coffee shop in FX mall in Surdiman where the big EF school was located. It was central and the only place I really knew outside of Taman Angrekk. He arrived a little later then me looking a little bit sheepish. Nonetheless, he greeted me with his customary firm hand shake and big toothy smile before sitting down and filling me in on the details of what had happened at Jeff’s apartment.

There really wasn’t much more to add. It was pretty much as Jeff had told me. The only other pertinent detail was that Jeff had threatened to expose some porn that he had found on Simon’s phone to the Indonesian authorities. Simon assured me that it wasn’t anything creepy and I didn’t see any reason not to believe him. Despite being quite nervy, the effusive confidence that I had seen in him somewhat dampened, this was mainly down to his concern about how any pornographic material might be perceived in such a devoutly Muslim country. However, considering the blatant prostitution on display at Blok M and the far less than modest dress of some of the women to be seen around the nightlife in Jakarta, I convinced him that he was unlikely to be publicly stoned for looking at some naughty pictures and a few porn clips. Despite its strong Islamic influence, Indonesia was not Saudi Arabia. However, his arrogance concerned me a little.

Simon showed no remorse for the personal loss he had caused Jeff; the poor man had lost all those personal photos of his wedding and his only child, but Simon didn’t seem to care. He actually believed that Jeff was the one who owed him an apology for his overreaction! Losing his temper, shouting and calling up security – how dare he!? From Simon’s pragmatic viewpoint, what had happened at Jeff’s apartment was simply an unfortunate accident. A misjudgement. He had apologised and had agreed to pay Jeff back for any of his financial losses, so in Simon’s mind there was no need for the ranting and raving – the nerve of the man was incredible! As a father myself, I explained to him how angry I would have been. I told him that had it been me, I would probably have beaten the shit out of him. Nevertheless, he was unrepentant, something that I kept in mind as we eventually agreed to a flat share.

I felt that I could manage Simon. He had already cocked up so he wasn’t likely to do it again. I think he also knew that I wasn’t of the same placable temperament as Jeff. Furthermore, he was still paranoid about the potential repercussions of Jeff going to the authorities and telling the story of how he let a Bule stay in his home with his Indonesian wife and child, not knowing that this dirty man who indulged in porn would expose his family to thieving prostitutes. Simon may have known as little about Jakarta as I did, but he knew more about Asian culture and I guess it was in his best interests to avoid any problems that could jeopardise his life and work situation here. Besides, I had agreed to broker the payment of the 16,000,000 IDR that he had told Jeff he would give him as consolation for his financial loses. This was around a £1000.

His cheap lay had proved to be pretty damn expensive!

On the whole, the situation had put me in a vantage point because Simon really couldn’t afford to piss me off. It was with this in mind that I agreed to go ahead with the flat share. We would take Vivi’s apartment and I would pay him on a monthly basis as long as I wanted to stay. He had seen pictures of the place, all that was needed was to meet Vivi, sort out the paperwork, pay the deposit and make arrangements for moving in at the beginning of the following month, which was less than a week away. He even agreed to let me have the bigger room at no extra cost, so on the whole I was getting a very good deal. Perhaps some bad things do happen for good reasons. In the meantime, he would be staying in a hotel in the north of the city. It was quite a way away from Taman Anggrek, so there was little chance of him bumping into Jeff.

After our chat, we cordially shook hands on our agreement and Simon shuffled off to a meeting with one of his clients. I headed off to look around the mall for a sports shop that sold swimming goggles. I just couldn’t cope with the stinging feeling in my eyes from the pool, and I had been missing my morning swims. They were like my period of meditation within the chaos of my current Jakarta life.

I was now within touching distance of finally having a permanent place to live, albeit sharing with an imperfect stranger. I had never flat-shared before, so despite my relief at sorting out my housing issue, I was starkly aware of the possibility that there was plenty that could still go wrong. But for the time being, I really didn’t want to think about it.