Category Archives: Menteng Jakarta

Blog to website : Jakarta bed & breakfast success story

It was a humble blog and it’s a humble business. But still — it’s kind of a fun adventure to look back on.

Halimun House Index

Why and how? Well, without the blog it’s hard to see how the guesthouse would have come about. And without the blogging skills, it’s hard to imagine I would have gone ahead and made a website

I did, however, using BaseKit, the free web editor that came packaged with the HostGator hosting package. I’d recommend HG for being responsive, easy to use and because they accept PayPal. What really blows me away, looking back on it, is how easy BaseKit was. I did a lot of stuff the hard way because I was scared I’d “lose everything” otherwise, but that worked out fine. And when I got up the guts to do it right (well, slightly better, let’s say) that was do-able also.

Tell you one thing, nothing surprises me more than to hear how good WordPress supposedly is for websites. Would you have guessed that based on the free version of WordPress? Not me.

Spacious sublease for expats avail. in Kuningan/Menteng (house)

Yes, we have vacancies.

Monthly lease rates range from Rp 5 – 6 million with minimum 9-12 month lease including unbeatable location near Four Seasons, wifi broadband, newspapers and coffee on breakfast table, clean laundry in your wardrobe, hot showers, good pressure, cold AC, full kitchen, CCTV and on-premises security, and a microbrewery!


THR Appreciation Dinner With Kel. Guntur RW 02 Sanitation Team (4 Aug. 2012)

The pics below are from the second benefit/appreciation event the Sharehouse has done for the Guntur sanitation team. In truth, the idea was inspired by the BBC video feature: Jakarta, toughest place to be a bin man.

Aside from being one of the few houses in this area that puts rubbish in bins (true innovators, huh),  I don’t think our efforts to make the team’s work easier have succeeded. However, we communicate better with them now and continue to learn about Jakarta garbage challenges through this channel. If you’re like to compare notes, please contact us.

One benefit of our feeble garbage activism, for us, has been the opportunity to connect with like-minded Jakarta greenies and other stakeholders including the local level of the Jakarta administration, our neighborhood  Garbage Bank and Hidden Park.

Historic Guntur Theater — then and now

I snapped the “now” shot a few months ago, a few blocks from the Sharehouse.

It’s the historic Guntur theater (same link but in Indonesian).  The Indies Art Deco building designed by Ir. FJL. Chijsels  (of AIA Bureau) was built from 1923-27. The flood canal (from the waterworks in Manggarai) had just been completed. So this would have been a prominent country crossroads (Jl. JP Coenweg and Jl. Goentoer) .

Meanwhile, the black-and-white “then” photo is an old postcard belonging to Tokek Belanda on Flickr.  The structure has deteriorated  rapidly.  I did a double take after seeing it on Flickr. I could access my own “geo-stamped” memories of it after more than five years transiting Jl Guntur.  But I couldn’t find it — or see it, rather — when I rocked up to where it was supposed to be. Turns out that, as it crumbles, less and less is visible from the street. Photos of Batavia Jakarta

Long before this was the movies, it housed the Jan Pieterszoon Foundation (Stitchting) — and a boarding school.  We don’t hear much about JP these days, but he’d be shocked by the photo of women  (below) in full multicultural mingle mode.

Thanks to original poster (unknown)

During WWII the Dutch used the property for military purposes, as does the police or “MP” branch of the Indonesian armed forces today.

But there’s a couple mysteries.   So please COMMENT BELOW if you  know: Was the theater famous or just the old building? Was it in fact a rowdy place where drinking was allowed?  Also, scarier then or now?

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Expate, outsource, automate and disappear: how to spend less and live more in Indonesia

Here’s what we’ve heard over the years about why single expats find that sharing a house near the business district with other expats makes sense in a city like Jakarta.

“I like the fact they’ve got a micro-brewery on board. It’s social, but in a focused way. The Jakarta serviced apartment thing was convenient, but ultimately alienating and boring. There’s just not that much going on in Jakarta on the 26th floor.”

– Development consultant, Madrid

“The kost thing was fun for a while. Sure you meet a lot of people, including Indonesians. It’s almost like a family experience. But then if your boyfriend comes to Indonesia or something . . . or you want to throw a Halloween  party, you may as well be in a hotel . ”

– Tech journalist, Palo Alto 


“My company offered me a big kontrakan [rental house]. But there were a lot of questions about who was going to look  after it. I’d just as soon not have a pool if I have to clean it.”

– Expatriate GM, Melbourne 

“I’m having enough trouble with my driver so I wasn’t really keen on having more people [maid] to manage.”

– Hydro engineer, Montreal

“Once I got the gym membership and located a few good swimming pools, there was really no reason to stay in the apartment.”

– Intern, Helsinki 

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Sharehouse Garbage Team Featured in BBC’s “Toughest Place to be a Bin Man” Docu

Remarkable: a UK journalist moves into a rubbish heap on the corner (the exact spot where I shot a few pictures of the tukang sampa or garbage guys couple months ago) and we don’t notice.  We didn’t notice him. We notice the garbage at the end of Guntur. That’s why we never go there. It’s a massive civilizational failure. (Technically he’s not a journalist, but a London bin man. No matter, he’s doing research in Jakarta — comparative garbology in fact.)
The report is well researched and well timed — coming just now as the Bakrie’s and Rothschilds’s team up to mine coal,  Indo prospers generally and Jak grows filthy rich.
We’ve got super high-quality poverty here and it makes life so easy — the garbage gondoliers unclogging the river, petrol vendors that bring subsidized fuel into the ‘hood so we don’t ever have to queue at the pump, fishmongers at the filthy market where the maid shops , and cheaper than Carrefour . . . . what would we do without them?

Guntur Halimun Jakarta photo update

Pictured, are houses with characters located on the border between South and Central Jakarta in the Guntur/Pasar Manggis residential area. Dig the greens. They come with the territory. Buy the cheapest paint and you’re guaranteed a funky color.

According to a neighbor, if it hadn’t been for cris-mon (the 1998 Asian economic crisis), the Guntur area would be just a footnote to Kuningan. The pace of change in Jakarta is dizzying.   He said that some of the first houses in Menteng (the part near Taman Suropati which is newer than the part closer to Monas) were actually over here in “New Menteng” — and they were the ones built for the builders of the other (old?) Menteng over by Taman Suropati.

What were the streets in this area called in Dutch times. That’s an important question for anyone doing Jakarta history work and I got a special request for a reader which I’m following up on. “What were the names of Jakarta streets when it was Batavia?” No easy answer, Mr Bart would be a good guy to ask. He sent me a text from Japan but said I could catch him at Bartele Gallery (in Kemang) in a week or so.

He’s the guy who wrote Bugils, Eastern Promise and several other expat bars. I don’t think he grew up in Indonesia. But he knows his way very well (pictured  below at one of the houses where Obama lived (O. said his favorite was Meester Cornelius (now we’d call it Jatinegara). That’s one or two train stations down from Manggarai (not the one in E. Indonesia) where the Sharehouse is supposedly located.

Barele Santema and lieutenant at Obama's old white house

The streets were the same as now — named after mountains he said. Pasar Manggis has obviously been around along time. The street (a narrow one for sure) to the east of the pasar is an older one. And then going past Pasar Manggis and coming out — for example — where they sell all the toilets near Pasar Raya Manggarai. That’s and older part of town. Keyword is Westerslokkan (Saluran Minangkabau). But the original bridge, he says, was at the intersection of Guntur and Sultan Agung (where it is now).

Jakarta Guesthouse Update (July 2011)

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Get meds in Jakarta 24/7 — pharmacy user’s guide

Viruses and their friends are happening all around us. Give them some credit for that, then ruthlessly purge.

Time is of the essence, friend. So here’s a top-9 list for longer life and better performance in the heart of Jakarta:

1. Consult an Indonesian pharmacist and then Google after prescription/ before purchase. It’s OK to ask pharmacist to break down Rx estimate per-item price. If you know the generic name, maybe you’ll get it. (Generics are new here and and pharmacies use that against you.)

2. Instead of buying everything the doc orders from him or her directly, try paying Rp 100,000 to 200,000 for the office visit and take then take the Rx to the pharmacy for further evaluation

3. Buy what you need, consume what you buy. In Indonesia, you don’t have to fill whole entire scrip — not even close

4. Call the pharmacy/apotik ahead of time. Pick a shopping area (of Jakarta) that has lots of pharmacies, like the Salemba medical complex near the University of Indonesia medical faculty. Note that Bali has very few hospitals and thus poor selection of meds.

5. Go to the pharmacy/apotek after midnight so you can get fixed up pelan-pelan (in an unhurried manner). Or, train the maid/ driver to fill prescriptions

6. Here’s is a list of 24 hour Jakarta pharmacies. In addition, almost any big hospital sells drugs 24 hours.

7. Here’s OK info about obtaining medications in Indonesia from

8.  Don’t overuse or under use antibiotics

9. Century delivers, Melawai has good service, Guardian doesn’t always ask for a prescription, Titimurni has the best selection (for Central Jakarta) and newcomer K-24 seems to be pretty good, too.  

Sharing house in WWII Jakarta — Dutch prisoners of war in Menteng

Tirta remembered

The streets running parallel to Mampangweg, such as Jl. Tegal, Jl. Cirebon and Jl. Lembang, were closed off during the Japanese occupation due to the fact that the houses on them were used as internment camps for Dutch women and children. Tall bamboo fences and barbed wire marked the enclosures.

As I walked to my school on Jl. Cikini, I would hear screams of women being beaten, probably because they did not bow low enough to their wardens. I can still remember the horror of them to this day.

All of the following are crayon drawings by F. George Erfmann, a Djakarta-based World War II observer about whom I know very little.  All drawings, as far as I know, depict the Japanese prisoner of war center (ie “camp” or “kamp” )  known as Kampong Makasar, which I believe was located in East Jakarta.

Some of the drawings are reminiscent of American World War II-era painter and illustrator  Norman Rockwell.

Cikini’s cheap eats favorites among Jakarta street food

Here’s a list of 5 items:

  • KFC’s “Deluxe Burger” — Rp 5,000 each, while promotion lasts. It’s chicken and nicely spiced. As usual they deliver. The number there is 314 –1045.  To pick ‘em up yourself, it’s approximately across the street from Cikini Station. Which means it’s near Jl. Surabaya (antiques and fake antiques) and Executive Menteng apartments.
  • Small-time bubur ayam ( rice/ chicken porridge) guy at night on the street in front of KFC (walking against the traffic a couple steps; in front of a court office). I think the “original” bubur people must be the highly evolved ones across the street from KFC (toward the train station). But what they’ve got that I’ve seen is expensive and a bit weird. There’s also bubur down at TIM.
  • If you’re going to the movies at Megaria — it’s an old Art Deco building and not the worst place in town  — there’s a green-painted nasi goreng joint right there that’s cheap and good. It’s got 4 or 5 tables. And, um, it’s green. Food is good and place seems like its been there forever. Though I can’t imagine how they could have survived the epic construction on that corner. Need to check the name.
  • Go food shopping at the Hero located at Menteng Huis (at the Tugu Tani/ Monas end of Cikini Avenue across the street from the old Dutch post office). Joint is refreshing because it’s such a thin sliver of  shopping plaza compared to the usual way we get malled around here. Hero isn’t an exciting place to shop and the produce and meat is flat out disappointing. But you can get in and out fast, so who cares. There’s a little Dutch cafe downstairs and — just now — a mini bizarre with some truly cool Bandung-esque, made-for-bule handicrafts.
  • Go to Loro Jonggrang but don’t eat. It’s all about the antiques anyway. Tell them it’s your birthday. Or you were conceived there. Something so they’ll let you in to take some pictures.

Cikini area in Menteng, Central Jakarta includes Jl Cik Ditiro which runs parallel to Jl Cikini in the opposite direction.  There is plenty of 1930’s Batavia architecture and even some new stuff going up that looks OK.  A bicycle or motor scooter is a great way to see this part of town because some of it happens in the interstices between these two streets.

What else is in Cikini? TIM arts center, Formule One (hotel) and Black Canyon Coffee (F1 Cikini, not F1 Menteng).  There are more Black Canyon shops in Bali (and Thailand) than Jakarta. So it’s a bit refreshing on that count. And there’s a huge swimming pool. There’s really no connection between the coffee shop and the pool except for the occasional fresh breeze when you’re sitting at an outside table in the evening. You can pay to use the pool in the daytime or siang as the Indonesians have it.

Jakarta’s beautiful girl weather — the calm before the storm

In like lion, out like a lamb. That’s what they say about the month of March back home.

Here in Menteng, the angle of the sun, kamikaze flower petals and soft sounds of mourning doves and falling water contribute to the illusion this a sleepy suburb. People who work on the street are napping in the pre-rush hour rays.

Tomorrow’s forecast for Jakarta is “passing clouds” and “more sun than clouds.” Today is the most beautiful day of the year since March 2010 — I’m willing to bet. The Jakarta weather right now is 26 degrees, berawan just a bit — and totally beautiful.

It’s also officially the strangest weather since I parachuted into Indo as an instant expat 12 years ago. According to Soeroso Hadiyanto — climatology boss at the Badan Meterologi Klimatologi & Geofisikia – the official Indo climate control body (BMKG) – this year resembles 1998, except that it’s much more extreme. In that regard, he says he’s not really sure what to say.

Except this: all of Indonesia is on a weather warning for extremely extreme weather coming our way for Christmas and New Years. In other words watch out just about the time that 2011 hits the floor and 2010 heads for door. Because La Nina’s back in Jak and this puts a bit of an extreme hippy-twist in the geo-choreography.

If you’re planning a New Year’s Eve party in Bali, remember that the beach areas around Kuta/Legian/Seminyak have also been getting hammered about that same time every year.

Next year, 2011, the weather in Indonesia will be hotter.

High rise fitness in Jakarta — gyms, gems, gyps

Month to month sucks. If you share a house you can go almost a year without paying bills. But what about the gym/fitness?

This is a classic hassle. In some countries you need five credit cards and a law degree to use free weights. Indo’s not there yet in terms of hassle, though you may find the monthlies steep.

However, unless you’re a golfer or religiously get out of town every weekend, you need a gym in Jakarta. The instant expat thing is fine. But IMO survival, revival and thrival in Jak depends on getting out regularly — in some way, shape or form. It’s so easy. There easily two dozen full sets of exercise equipment within easy walking distance, most of which offer new equipment, exotic scenery and yoga classes. 

Jakarta Fitness Centers Compete for Corner Office

  • Apartment fitness/gym – Pretty good idea (pictures). But where are the options for people who don’t want to live in an apartment? One is to use the facilities at your friend or boss’ apartment. You can even ask us.
  • Jakarta hotel fitness/gym – This works and here you can visualize it. Jakarta has tons of posh fitness centers (pool, sauna, steam, jacuzzi the works) and many offer semi-affordable pay-per use or monthly rates. Gran Melia used to offer non-weekend options. Mandarin and Nikko are popular. Hyatt has a great pool.
  • Jakarta fitness center chains – Ask first: Monthly membership? (assume 3 month min. but they routinely throw in an extra month)? Annual membership? (at least 13 months) Plus, how many fitness centers will I have access to? Fitness in Bali? Fitness in Singapore?

Cheapest fitness chain is Gold’s Gym. This McD approach may put independents out of business. Blogged prices at Gold’s (monthly plan) are around Rp 400,000 /month. And that’s exactly what they offered me the other day (access to two centers). Some people pay about the same even for the annual plan. However, for a “Gold’s Express” (small) gym or at a just-opened location using the right credit card (HBSC) / right package you’re closer to Rp 200,000/month for annual plan or Rp 335,000/month for monthly plan.

How does Gold’s Gym suck? In my experience at no less than four Jakarta locations (many of them no longer there), it adds up to an ass-pain chasing the fast-talkingsales reps and complex discount rates around town. On the other hand, as Tavina at Female Daily Indonesian-English blog suggests, you don’t want to be locked into anything:

For sure you can pay less if you go for a a full year. But, hey, I could lose interest anytime : )  . . . why risk it

Anyway, I highly recommend Andi (0852 6300 0556) at Fitness First (FF) in Central Jakarta.  I met him yesterday at the Grand Indonesia location, 10 minutes from the Sharehouse. It was just a complete relief to cut through the package-my-ass mumbo jumbo to the monthly plan price – Rp 500,000/month. Very different feeling from Gold’s. Facilities are also better in this case.

And that leaves only Celebrity Fitness (AKA CelFit), plus or minus, uh, the celebrity appeal which seems to appeal mostly to Indonesians. Maybe it’s a few extra bucks a month more than FF, even if you bargain hard. Any club costs more if you don’t take a good hour or more to bargain ‘em down (not including driving time because you need to do it in person).

So in a city where the gym is the main way that foreigners unwind, the Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First chains cost about 40 Euros per month while Gold’s Gym is closer to 32 Euros per month.

Instant Expat -- Get in Get out

As always, you gotta read the fine print. Tavina raises one pertinent question as regards the month-to-month fitness lifestyle:

My sis has a Celfit (Celebrity Fitness) monthly plan and she pays with her debit (not credit). There’s an upfront and then it’s monthly. GG (Gold’s Gym) wouldn’t do that for me . . . so who knows what happens when my special promo months run out.

By the way, most Jak locals get massages, not gym passes. It doesn’t occur to them to pay a one-month salary to gather for a moment of communal, high-rise perspiration. Which means that Indonesian health clubs are totally Western and exotic, an escape from escape. You’ll meet unusually toned, health-conscious Indonesians and also a lot of bule types (like me) who don’t go to the gym back home. Your Jak exercise solution should add a bit of cool, clean, scenic, orderly and convenient color to your Jakarta day.

Muslim vigilantes target Dutch films festival in South Jakarta

Vigilates with dubious religious credentials and white Muslim robes showed up at a Dutch film festival in South Jakarta today.  The same group has been threatened Jakarta’s most popular bars and massage parlors in the past. Today, violence was prevented by  the cops. Similar clashes of culture take place in Holland.

About 10 years ago the same group of vigilantes — which has taken a page from the KKK with their fright-white costumes — caught me at the Tanamur. There were no cops that night. The story was recently published in a book review review and is excerpted below.

By 1998 Suharto and the Tanamur were slipping into emeritus status. That was the year I arrived. The scene had all but moved to JJ Duit, Fahmy’s chill-out spot next door. The “why” of it all doesn’t matter so desperately anymore. But here it is, and it’s good to have. In 2005, after three decades of peaceful rebellion—Fahmy’s “flower power”—Animus closed its doors for good.

There were some counter-offensives. I remember how energy levels, normally pretty high at a Jakarta disco, soared when the DJ cut the music and turned on the lights one night at JJ’s. It was the prophet’s birthday (which I now observe more carefully). Clueless for a second, we looked outside as countless dump trucks unloaded a sea of men dressed in white. They began to chant and—rather ceremoniously—throw stones, breaking a few windows. As frightened as we were, it turned out the well-paid mercenaries had orders to visit a long list of establishments that night and soon left (after a brief eternity). However, this event contributed to the eventual demise of both of Fahmy’s clubs located in Tanah Abang Timur.

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Jakarta rains, garden gains

Central Java gets a bumper crop due to this years rain-on Indonesian weather.

Menteng Regen This picture made possible by the “hujan gila” — Jakarta’s incessantly lovely crazy rain —  and Om Klaas, the master bedroom master. Dank u, dude. Totaal intens!

Random music on the “Rain” playlist at the Sharehouse includes:

  • Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins (Pavement)
  • Another Song About the Rain (Cracker)
  • Summer Rain (U2)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Norah Jones)
  • A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan)
  • Hey Mr. Rain (The Velvet Underground)
  • Hujan Pun Menangis (Anang)
  • Rainbow Stew (Merle Haggard)
  • No Ha Parado de Llover (Maná)
  • In Rainbows (Radiohead)
  • Box of Rain (Grateful Dead)
  • I’m a Rainbow Too (Bob Marley/Fat Boy Slim)

How to Hang in the Teng — Menteng and therabouts

Share a house in Menteng












In addition to this list of malls and shopping centers near Menteng/Guntur/Kuningan, I would certainly add Ambgassador Mall and City Walk and — as a last resort or just for fun — Senen Atrium and Sarina Thambrin. Because these are key pieces of the gotta-by-stuff puzzle here on the border between Central and South Jakarta.

Menteng was “Indonesia’s first garden city.” So at the top of the list of outdoor hangouts include the Dutch colonial parks — Taman Suropati, Taman Lembang and Taman Menteng.  Lembang has a large tranquil pond but is closed at night. The others seem to rock 24/7. Here’s a Menteng walking tour (that needs to be translated and verified) and a picture of me at the park.

In Cikini/Raden Saleh area you’ve got TIM Arts Center, once a Dutch zoo and “pleasure grounds” where you could catch a polka most Sundays at 7:00. TIM has movies, artsy stuff and cafes so chill you’ll need a sweater. A lot of big and small countries still have embassies located in Menteng, which tons of cultural centers (Indian,  German forget the others), which means foreign films. Also museums and antiques in Menteng, some in private collections. Some of the antiques on Jl. Surabaya have the unique advantage of also being relatively inexpensive and brand new ; )  Good place for a photo of you posing with a seemingly ancient Javaense dagger (kris).

Restos include Lara Djonggrang — that seems like it’s one of a kind, even though it’s actually a popular restaurant theme.  And then there’s other stuff — like Barack  Obama’s grade school on Jl. Besuki near Taman Suropati — which really is.

I also wouldn’t discourage anyone from having a hot beer and a popped eardrum at the warm, intimate speakeasies at Pasar Manggis.  But you’ll need a small penlight to keep up with the roach scene, since it’s dark .  There’s something inexplicable about the Manggis scene — and some of the others street-type scenes nearby, including the electrified but unlit hobo raves out on the tracks next to Latuharhari.

Until 1934 this far edge of  the ‘Teng was where Dutch civilization (such that it was ; ) ended — or was swallowed up by the kampung. The Dutch cavalry once parked here and now the lady-boys do. Up and down the Bandjir Kanaal you’ve got legal and illegal honky tonks, including Blora. Maybe it historically acted as some type of buffer zone, protecting the decadent from themselves. There are countless other thangs in the Teng, a place which — in all laissez faireness — ought to remind anyone of Mos-Eisley Cantina from Star Wars.

Just north of Menteng there are tons of popular restos and cafes in Wahid Hashim/Sabang/Jaksa area. Many offer late hours and radical racial, ethnic and religious diversity. Ya Udah Bistro offers all that plus all-you-eat German food and great prices.

History of the Dutch builders in Menteng

If you’re interested in Dutch East Indies architecture this is your wide-ranging, comprehensive website. Or, to purchase a copy of either Menteng: Indonesia’s Original “Garden City or  Historical Sites of Jakarta then here’s your link to author Adoph Heuken.


Jakarta wasn’t designed for modern traffic.  And much of it wasn’t designed at all. So it’s a shame that visitors’  first impression — depending on arrival time since night driving rocks  — is that the city’s somehow ill or damaged.

By contrast, visitors to colonial Batavia often gave “baby Jakarta” fairly high marks for design and layout, especially for gardens.   Most Dangerous Places’ travelogger Captain James Cook in October 1770 ‘logged that:

The environs of Batavia [now Jakarta] have a very pleasing appearance, and would in almost any other country be an enviable situation. Gardens and houses occupy the country for several miles. (Jakarta, Jayakarta, Batavia aka The Jakarta Book).

My coming to Jakarta experience was right along the lines of veteran Asia correspondent John McBeth:

Coming from a country where buildings had barely risen above the second floor, I was in thrall of [the] size and the air-conditioning [at then ultra-cool Hotel Indonesia]. But more startling was the contrast between the modern, luxury hotel and the slum that sprawled out under its shadow. That and the canopy of trees lining the then-quiet streets of neighboring Menteng were to become enduring fixtures of my mind.

Much of the Jakarta, however, was laid out in line by regionally and internationally known urban planners in line with the avante-garde “city science” of the day.  Moreover, there’s evidence that some of the most successful planning incorporated local forms /ideas extensively,  blending them with foreign ones (Dutch, Spanish, English and Islamic).

Among the success stories — as far as the central part of Jakarta is concerned — you will find Menteng and New Menteng (where the Sharehouse is located). Menteng, was laid out by PAJ Mooijen a Dutch architect whose interests in Indonesian form ranged from Balinese dance to painting. He was the president of the Jakarta Art Circle whose headquarters now houses Jakarta’s Buddha Bar.

Christropher Silver in his invaluable book, Planning the Megacity: Jakarta in the Twentieth Century (2008), says that Mooijen’s original plan “bore a striking resemblance to the garden city model of the English reformer Ebenezer Howard, in that it combined wide cross- cutting boulevards with concentric rings of streets and a central public square.”

Silver says (p. 60):

Whereas many emblems of the the colonial past were shunned, Menteng as a neighborhood of prestige persisted. It provided a residential anchor for the central core of

the city that remarkably withstood the pressures of commercial encroachment in later years. This should be attributed, in good measure, to the quality of the community’s original plan, which effectively incorporated elements of interconnectedness with adjacent areas while preserving the area’s spatial integrity through an ingenious system of streets and boulevards and contiguous structures that conformed to the system.

Sadly, precisely as in Tom Hanks’ Ember, the Builders took the source code for the city back to Belanda with them after WW II, leaving the colonists and colonized in the dark : )

nd much of it wasn’t designed at all. That part is, has been and may forever be the “as is” product of happenstance and history. Howev

er, vast swaths of a city that is massive in terms of geography and population were constructed as per the meticulous plans of the leading East

Indies’ architects and planners of the day. Most but not not all of them were Dutch.

Expat housing in lost center of Jakarta

The Dutch builders disappeared — almost without a trace — some 70 years ago. It reminds me of City of Ember.

You can’t help but notice how straight Jl. Teuku Umar (originally Van Heutsz Boulevard) is. But where does it go? Well, at one end you’ve got the Buddha Bar (originally the colonial immigration office), and on the other end the Sharehouse (don’t forget to cross the tracks, the Ciliwung River and flip around one more circle park). In 1925 this was Weltevreden, an elite, world class neighborhood with lovely gardened roundabouts, fountains, and fancy streetlights — like Amsterdam.  Little  of that has changed. But it is like a mystery wrapped in an enigma. The further you go from this part of town, the more it seems to fall apart. That’s because this was once the center and now there is no center.

As adjectives, Indisch and Indo parallel mestizo — a reference to mixed people or culture, including architecture.  Nas and Grijns describe the “open look” of the roomy priyayi mansions (another fusionistic term) in this part of town (Weltevreden, a vast tract 12 kilometers south of Batavia).  The look has something to do with verandas and spacious gardens.  Pictures aren’t that easy to find.

Is it really the verandas or is it broad eves and is it Javanese, Japanese, Dutch or what. Developing. There is a fractal sprawl about it all.  It seems that as the city grew inland, and into the kampoeng (Dutch spelling), the kampong (British) grew into the city.

Meanwhile, there’s an open-ish look about the Sharehouse just now. Seems the lower front bedroom is spoken for. But that leaves an entire upstairs, October-ish.

with three lovely sunny rooms — available either now or within a month. Add an Image

Serviced Apartments in Central Jakarta

So today I took the trip down memory lane/gang to check out current prices and services at Take’s Mansion and Menteng Prada,  both popular with people in town on business for a few months at a time.

Both serviced apartments are located in Central Jakarta. Menteng Prada, which is hideous from the outside and a hassle going in and out, is located across from the street from the Cikini train station in a bad corner of a decent part of town. I still like the area. If  you’re careful about how you tell the story, everything will think you were at Executive Menteng (technically “Eksekutif Menteng“), and wouldn’t that have been lovely.  Anyway, Prada has plenty of space, sunlight and marble and always something bizarre going on — a movie shoot, church, etc.  Once, a few weeks after becoming moving in I became an unintentional extra for a soap opera shoot (“Kisah Kasih di Sekolah”); and later watched myself on television at Menteng Prada at Menteng Prada.

I lived at the Prada more or less happily for many months until my flatmate took off to surf Eastern Indonesia and I couldn’t afford the rent. Sharing the same exact un-modern but otherwise OK two-bedroom today would cost you around Rp 15 mil/month each. Gnarly views of Monas at night and even the port and the mountains on a clear day. However, I do remember my flatmate (after I kicked him out) commenting that it was better being broke in Kupang or suffering dengue in Sanur than “fighting like caged animals in Menteng.” (In fairness, he said he missed Tiga Kuda and “the blame game.”)  So despite OK views from the pool, the Hero supermarket downstairs, and friendly security, I suppose there really was something missing. Probably privacy, independence and trees. The pool and weights area is too small to be relaxing although the wide angle lens does help. (If you don’t live in the apartment the pool is kind of fun and relaxing. It costs 25 thou and there’s a cafe.)

Meanwhile, Take’s looks a lot better on the outside than it is. It’s next to a marginally OK-looking old Dutch canal sandwiched between Tanah Abang and Monas. Not a boring area and the building is unique and funky with the only parking garage in Jakarta that I know of painted white with floral details. So, I imagine some people are quite happy there for relatively short periods. A studio with a tiny window and balcony will cost you Rp 6 mil/month. For comparison, that’s nearly a 50% savings on paying the daily rate at Marco Polo hotel for 30 days, but pool is easily 4 times as big and Menteng Huis area is right there.  (From Take’s you can walk to Sarina Thambrin shopping center, but you’ll still be on the wrong side of the street. ) Just depends on what you want. If it’s just a solid two-room base camp for a week, then walk your 6 mil back to Menteng Prada and that’s what you’ll get — 7 days.

How solid is solid? Well, at Marco Polo you can have a small refrigerator and cook noodles in the coffee pot.  At Take’s you’ll have a decent frig, a sink, and someone assigned to do your dishes every couple of days. But the studio is so small that you don’t want to live with those dishes for very long. Also, dishes not included. At Menteng Prada you’ve plenty of crockery; someone to wash them every once in a while; and bedroom so you can get away from the whole thing.

And that’s it. Wash, ironing, Internet, breakfast? They’re not included at any of these places. Take’s, sure enough, does has Wifi. And it will cost you just under Rp 300,000 each month you wish to use it.  I would assume that Prada (which is still under the same management) is still charging a premium for attempts to connect with the world outside the pink witch’s with the Disneyland ripoff logo. We used to get hit with luxury hotel-type dial-out rates for unsuccessful attempts to connect to the Internet. (This was a few years ago before Indonesia had affordable DSL).

And what about laundry? Well, the very friendly front deskman at Take’s shook his head vigorously and smiled wide at the thought of that service. “You’d have to talk to housekeeping,” he said in excellent English. “I wouldn’t have any idea.”  Once encouraged, he found himself able to spell out the metrics, but stopped short of hazarding a guess at prices. They have weekly, monthly, per item and per kilo prices, he said.

Flashback to checking off the tiny boxes on the Chinese take-out laundry list at Prada. Now — you see — is the time to find, smell, pair and count your socks. And now is the time to call housekeeping and report to them your dirty laundry. Now is the waiting time, the public recounting time, and the tipping/ refusing-to-tip time. When you suspect your stuff is clean, it will be time for more calling, waiting, public inspection, recounting and reconciliation of formerly dirty laundry. In order to reach the paying time and final tipping/denial once again of time to tip. No hiding in your bedroom.

Sunday Afternoon in Menteng, “Indonesia’s First Garden City”

We offer walking tours of historic Menteng in Central Jakarta every afternoon at 4:00 PM. Cost: Rp 100,000 per person.

Please Email for more information.

Christopher Silver wrote:

The prestige of Menteng within the context of colonial Batavia would eventually be transferred to the indigenous urban elite of Jakarta in the post-colonial period. Whereas many emblems of the colonial past were shunned, Menteng as a neighbourhood of prestige persisted. It provided a residential anchor for the central core of the city that remarkably withstood the pressures of commercial encroachment in later years. This should be attributed, in good measure, to the quality of the community’s original plan, which effectively incorporated elements of interconnectedness with adjacent areas while preserving the area’s spatial integrity through an ingenious system of streets and boulevards and contiguous structures that conformed to the system. [p.60]

The initial development of Menteng took place between 1910 and 1918, based on a plan by Dutch architect, P.A. Mooijen . . . . Mooijen’s original plan bore a striking resemblance to the [utopian] garden city model of the English reformer Ebenezer Howard, in that it combined wide cross- cutting boulevards with concentric rings of streets and a central public square. . . . Although Menteng was originally intended to be an exclusive community, there were, in fact, many modest houses built along its edges, perhaps to serve as a buffer, but also ensuring occupancy by a cross section of the European community of Batavia. [p. 57]

Not only in size but also in style, Menteng was the most important neighborhood in the city and introduced into the urban landscape a diversity of traditional and modern structures that changed and enhanced the look of the  city. Traditional Indisch style one-storey villas were intermingled with two-storey structures. There were three types of small villas, the Tosari, the Sumenep, and the Madura, all of which were designed with facilities to accommodate automobiles and hosue servants but were kept under 500 square metres. There was a sprinking of Art Deco style houses and also innovative roof designs, including widespread use of the mansard roof. [p. 59]

Although escalating city centre land values exerted pressures on the edges of Menteng to convert to more convert to more intensive non-residential uses in later years, the core of the community became the focus of preservationists and re-greening advocates in the 1990s. The community plan of Menteng, and the lifestyle that it was intended to provide, endured as the city around it changed drastically. [p.60]

The promised Obama returns to Indonesia November 2010 — maybe

*This is perhaps the first last in a series of four 1 article related to Barack Obama’s long-awaited return failure to return to Indonesia. The thing is he’s canceled so many times. [Developing.]

This is was [will be] a very exciting time for Indonesia-US relations. Despite a marked drop in Indonesians studying in the US, the number of Americans who regularly connect with Indonesia has never been higher.

In a recent survey, the only leader in whom a majority of Indonesians express confidence is Barack Obama – who was schooled in my part of Jakarta and still remembered fondly by the neighbors. Meanwhile, President Yudhoyono — educated in Missouri –was just re-elected, by a landslide, primarily on strength of character.

When I first came to Indonesia, people didn’t talk about the government because they were afraid. Last month in the national elections, however, the average turnout was as high as 70 percent. While the price of necessities is among Indonesians’ chief concerns, the vast majority (66 percent) believe their country is on track. Americans who live in Indonesia enjoy the vast island nation because it is vibrant. A youthful optimism prevails almost everywhere. Here in Jakarta people don’t generally talk about being in the middle of a crisis.

Indonesia continues to surprise. Roots reggae is bigger than in Jamaica. Facebook and Twitter have so many Indonesian users that even slight gestures – like flashes of digital solidarity following the hotel bombing last month – tend to rock the boat. After all, Indonesian is three times bigger than Iran and eight times the size of Afghanistan. And it has vast territory.

In a USAID-funded study (.pdf) aiming to show a cross-section of Indonesian society, the average respondent was a woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s. She was married, lived in a rural area and likely hadn’t finished high school. She made between 40 and 100 dollars a month. She placed a great deal less importance on politicians’ professional experience than on their being honest and “close to the people.”

Indonesia is easily 80% Muslim and everything from management and motivational services to health retreats comes in an “Islamic” flavor. But that isn’t necessarily good or bad — as I see it. And if it is, Indonesians will have to decide which.

Indonesian are a deeply tolerant people, due both to indigenous influences and the impact of 300 years of Dutch colonialism. Many would be surprised to know that the Indonesian best seller list is consistently populated by female writers in their 20’s and 30’s whose fiction reflects a rejection of inequality and sexual hypocrisy.

The Indonesian media and public discourse has grown exponentially over the last decade and the role of religion in the life of the nation is just one topic of debate. Consumer trends, from sharia investment products to sounds-of-fasting-month compilation CDs, are judged by some people as a meaning-added; and roundly rejected by others as regrettable commercialization.

Finally, in the complex place that is Indonesia, the best-loved folk singer — Iwan Fals — continues to receive, withstand, and perhaps even welcome comparisons to Bob Dylan.