Vacancies in old, quiet Menteng

Jakarta Post just did two stories that are right up my alley — one about old, quiet Mentecik-ditiro4ng and another about Menteng houses being turned into businesses.  And they also published a photo of a house I drive past every day.  Passersby invariably gawk because it’s picture perfect, especially the flowers.

Built by the Dutch in the 20’s “there were seven different types of houses … class 1 to 7 … and several different styles including Art Nouveau, Amsterdam, De’ Stijl, traditional Indonesian and Dutch Bungalow,” the Post says.

Menteng was originally the suburb of Weltevreden — or well satisfied. Nothing lasts forever.  The hungry tax man seems to be instigating the conversion of old Dutch villas into day spas, boutique consulting firms and non-profit headquarters. Some houses are spared because they’re used as embassies or rented by companies for expat workers. (Email sterling.larson@gmail.com for information. Prices generally start at USD 3000/ month.)

However, some parts of Menteng are eerily still on a Saturday evening. Start at the Grand Cemara Hotel (on Jl. Cemara, just off Jl. Wahid Hashim) and head into the trees toward Jl. Cendana, the Suharto family’s base of operations.

Where the ubiquitous perimeter fencing is low, you may walk around a corner and find yourself nearly inside an old-fashioned, fragile looker like the one above, minus a century of meticulous upkeep, shadowy and overgrown.  And sometimes you’ll find there’s still a light on in there. It’s eerie, especially if the the organization of the outbuildings is still somewhat intact. You have a sense of being on the rural outskirts; and yet at Jl. Cendana, you couldn’t be nearer the urban center.

At 8:30 pm renovation was still apace at one or two homes on every block.

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