Friendly expat guesthouse in a classic Batavia-style neighborhood adjacent to the Jakarta business district
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!
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
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.
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.