Kebayoran Baru — What’s in it for you?

So here’s a relevant post. A whole series of them actually. And the first is about finding a place to live in South Jakarta. Central South Jakarta, to be precise, near Blok M.  (Not north South Jakarta, where the Sharehouse is located. )

I did this recently. I moved to this part of Jakarta to be closer to client’s location. Of course, with Jakarta the way it is (unplanned) people do this kind of thing all the time. The key word is generally “kost,” which is a type of Indonesian boarding house. Kosts come in all shapes and sizes. On the plus side, there’s less cookie-cutter conformity, more personality than an apartment. Minus –wise . . .well, kosts are quirky. There’s a lot of due diligence involved. But month-to-month is the name of the game. So if you got a bad deal, try your hand again next month.

So why would anyone want to live near Blok M? First, because this is one of the city’s classic centers. Even though there are no new malls – apparenlty not even any room to build them — here, people still converge. For one, this is where all (many) of the busses end up. Including the TransJakarta (AKA “Busway”).  Next, there’s an endless diversity of eateries. Nowhere on earth – I bet – can you find diversity, prices and convenience like this.

And South Jak is just laid back. The trees and shadiness, the massive houses belonging to easy-come-and-go government officials,  and all the boutiques — even galleries – do help. Almost no office buildings in this part of town. (Not counting government offices, which are everywhere. But they’re also low key and you don’t get the sense that people are all stressed out inside). And the fact that South Jakarta is the opposite direction from the business district(s) and the port, and precisely the way you’d go if you were headed out to Java (as people refer to the non-city) to get away from it all – all that helps, too.

Of course, if you’re living in Kemang or Pondok Indah, then you may know Senopati, Kebayoran Baru, Wijaya, Prapanca, etc, like the back of your hand. After cumulative years of being stuck there at the ten -minute red lights. So that’s another reason. Living in Kebayoran Baru would put you just that much closer to the office. And traffic doesn’t hurt as bad if it’s “your” traffic.

Kebayoran Baru was laid out in the 1950’s along the lines of Menteng,  Indonesia’s “first garden city.”   There’s plenty of green and a lovely sprawl to it all.  The houses have been built more recently and remodeled more frequently than Menteng, and it’s all very interesting. Perhaps as a result of unsettled zoning laws (or none at all), you sense that there’s a lot of really flash houses plus some intriguing, low profile offices – since you can’t really tell the difference.

The Senopati area was to die for even before South Central Business District (SCBD) – the stock exchange, Pacific Place etc.  — happened. There, you’ll see healthy mix of ambassadors, generals and other conspicuous types living in neat Beaver Cleaver city blocks under massive trees.  Wijaya, meanwhile, is a study in superb-anism. There you can build it and do it your own way. No one has to know, but if you want them to, that’s OK, too. There are spots in there that feel just like Newton in Singapore.  And if you’d like to purchase a piano or enroll you kids in the newest career-coaching-for pre-schoolers fad, this is where you’ll have to go. I actually saw a four-person upper/middle class Indonesian family – dad, mom and two kids walking down the street one evening; and dad was wearing Bermudas. It may be difficult (for me) to explain why, but  that’s just not something you’re going to see a lot in Jakarta.

Santa and Barrito, which lie just beyond Kebayoran Baru’s most blocked and beautiful areas (and aren’t Mexican after all), provide a slightly funkier mix. Perhaps they can be compared to Halimun/Guntur, just on the “wrong” side of the tracks from Menteng.

And then there’s Blok S, AKA Little Korea. I don’t know the history of the area, but it’s still going on today, so rock on up. It’s got this clutter-chic thing going on. Like no one wants to bother to clean up the front yard because in a few months it will be covered with snow anyway. This area may have once been trapped between a flood spot and a standing traffic jam (Tendean). But now it’s just around the corner from SBCD and destined to become another happening part-a-Jakarta.

— Next in this series– Kosts & Kosts: Kebayoran Baru.

4 responses »

  1. Nice blog about living in Jakarta.. Well told 😀
    By the way, I just know how the background of “bloks” calling:
    – Blok S: Blok Senopati (Senopati Cluster)
    – Blok M: Blok Melawai (Melawai Cluster)
    – Blok A: Blok Antasari (Antasari Cluster)

    Thanks for keep posting and writing about this amazing J-Town!

  2. I’ve lived in South Jakarta most of my life.. moving from Dharmawangsa, Mendawai (bulungan) to Pattimura (J.I.S).. it really is the best area to live in Jakarta, greener and in a lot of ways, more ‘sane’! Yoga studios, gyms, cool cafes, restaurants, and easy access to other parts of the city. Can’t say the same with Blok A (a bit seedy/dirty?) or Kemang though (traffic!).. but still, South Jakarta, the way to go 🙂

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