I like to say that I go to Kemang as often as I go to Bali — because it has a similar vibe and it takes the same time to get there. But everybody in the world is apparently deciding to go to Bali. And it’s a bit of a concern because — I take it — that’s what happened to Kemang.
Bali is an hour’s flight. Kemang can infamously take two or more (technically it’s in S. Jak, like the Sharehouse.) Not can, does. And when you forget this and leave the office heading South-East for a Friday night birthday party in the former lovely-bohemian-village-in-the-rice-fields, it will live on in infamy.
True enough it can be “macet,” the Indonesian adjective for congested, on the way to the airport. But just hang in there and you’ll be in Bali. In Kemang, on the other hand, you’ve got inexpensive outdoor cafes and cool-io boutiques lining the quaint lanes. And no shortage of bule (“whitey”). But there’s also no trees and no beach. So there it is Bali Bajakan, or counterfeit Bali. And then you have to drive home.
So where to go? For USD 50 why not load yourself and your board, cargo style onto Susi Air and head to Cimaja or Batu Karas down on the south coast? Same time as fighting your way North to Cafe Batavia, and good waves. Or Makassar. It’s the third or fourth largest city in Indonesia. No one knows, one cares. Perfectly laid back place where the main drag parallels the sea, just like it should and does in the West Indies, but rarely in the East. Or Madura for that matter. No one thinks of it as Bali’s little sister but it’s hyper-green and famous for it’s sensuous women, potent herbals and macho bull racing men. Both islands spent were isolated from the mainland long enough to give them a trippy Java echo effect.
If you insist on going to Bali and Kemang — hell anywhere in Indonesia — be careful. You might just fall in love and spend the rest of your life stuck in traffic.