Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Southeast Asia's New Nightlife Capital -- Jakarta?

JAKARTA, Dec 5 (Reuters Life!) - The chaotic capital of the 
world's most populous Muslim nation is rarely associated with 
glitzy nightlife, but new venues in Indonesia's Jakarta may soon 
see it challenging more cosmopolitan centres in the region.

The city of about 10 million, or many more if thousands of 
unregistered poor flocking in from rural provinces are included, 
has just become the first city in Southeast Asia to host a 
Buddha Bar, the hip Paris-based franchise of restaurant/lounges.

The region's biggest economy has enjoyed a period of sustained 
growth in the last few years and better stability after the 
financial crisis and political turmoil of the late 1990s.

"Jakarta is a growing city in a growing country. So we think the 
market is now sufficient," said Jean Baptiste Giradet, marketing 
manager of Buddha Bar, which is housed in a restored Dutch-era 
mansion and former immigration building in the leafy Menteng 
area of the city.

The Indonesian capital, usually more associated with loud hotel 
bars, thumping nightclubs or karaoke joints, joins the likes of 
London, New York and Dubai in hosting a Buddha Bar.

While neighbours such as Thailand have suffered a deepening 
political crisis in the last three years, Indonesia's young 
democracy has surprised many by its resilience, and the economy 
has also benefited from a period of booming commodity prices.

New wine bars and bistros such as Cork & Screw, Loewy and 
Birdcage have also sprung up to serve a growing middle class and 
expatriates. Wine appreciation classes are also popular.

Harvey Nichols, the luxury U.K.-based retailer, opened its debut 
store in the Indonesian capital in October with a floor housing 
a trendy restaurant, bar and wine shop.


In a country where around half the 226 million people live on 
less than $2 a day, most of these places are clearly out of 
reach for the majority of Indonesians.

But Giradet said Buddha Bar's target market was the local elite 
and expatriates, and it also wants to attract business 
travellers from places such as Singapore who might otherwise 
just leave "because they think there is nothing to do in 

The bar, which has a dining room with a capacity of up to 200, 
overlooked by a giant gold Buddha, has also not changed its 
targets because of the global financial crisis.

"We have reasonable targets. We know that perhaps we will have 
less business travellers," Giradet said, adding the bar was 
ordering slightly less of the most expensive vintages that cost 
more than 10 million rupiah ($816) a bottle.

The menu will also bow to local tastes by including the odd 
Indonesian favourite such as nasi goreng, a fried rice dish.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

JALANAN - A Musical Documentary

Nice piece of real life from Jakarta. Looking forward to the release of the documentary

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holy cow....

A few months ago in Bali, an elderly (albeit doubtfully wise) man got caught in the act of expressing his love for his cow in a way that is universally deemed a little too physical for morals: he raped the poor beast - without the aid of any type of blue pill, which is very surprising for a 70 year-old stallion. Now the village has to deal with his sin, that is unanimously frowned upon here like anywhere else. Their method is quite surprising though: they decided to drown the poor cow into the sea in order to cleanse the village from the sin; the rapist only had to throw away his clothes (as well as, I assume, his pride) in order to symbolically cleanse himself. More detail on a Jakarta Post article below.

What is especially weird, is to think that Bali is the only place with a hindu majority. Obviously the crow is not as sacred as in India... but this episode created big controversy and critics.

Cow drowned into the sea for being impregnated by human

Villagers from Julah in Tejakula, Buleleng, tow a pregnant cow behind a boat into open sea as part of a local traditional ritual.

The cow, which is five months pregnant, was thrown out to the sea about 3 kilometers from land Monday. The villagers believe the animal was impregnated by a village elder.

During the ritual the man, who was caught red-handed having sexual intercourse with the cow two months ago, joined the boat trip in order to throw away his clothes to to symbolize him discarding his sins.

Julah customary village head Ketut Sidemen said the ritual, called gamya gamana, or freak weeding, and had been conducted there for generations. The decision to perform the ritual was made a local residents meeting.

In line with customary regulations, the perpetrator, identified only as PS, 70, was sanctioned to fund the expensive ceremony, which aimed to cleanse him of any bad influences.

Luh Ketut Suryani, a professor and activist, deplored the sancation against PS.

She said drowning a cow was baseless because sexual intercourse between a human being and am animal could not cause pregnancy due to the different chromosomes and genes of the two.

"The cow is not guilty, why shoud it be drowned? Why don't just use a symbol like what was done by the perpetrator?" she said.

Suryani's said she was concerned dealt with the financial situation of the owner, who lives below the poverty line.

"The cow, which has a high price, had to be thrown away. It will be a pity for the owner, who is already poor and is now forced to lose his priceless belonging."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rain check

Below is a funny article published yesterday in the Jakarta Post by a Muslim author. Enjoy.


In heaven and on earth: Breasts and thighs 

Julia Suryakusuma, Jakarta 

Surfing the net last week, I stumbled across the reason why so many Muslim terrorists are not afraid to die, long to be syahid and are willing to end it all in a homicidal suicide-bombing: Turns out they may just be sexually repressed lads desperate for a bit of nookie! 

At least this was the only conclusion I could reach after watching a kooky video by Saudi cleric Omar Al-Sweilem. In the clip, he passionately extolled the breasts and thighs of the 72 black-eyed virgins promised to martyrs who make it to paradise (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1741.htm/). "Praised be He who created night and day. What hair! What a chest! What a mouth! What cheeks! What a figure! What breasts! What thighs! What legs! What whiteness! Wha softness!" 

It seems good ol' Omar has got postmortem sex worked out in detail, right down to the last grope and squeeze. 

"When they see you, they will push you onto your back, on (the) musk cushion ... place her mouth on yours. Do whatever you want. Another one would press her cheek against yours, yet another would press her chest against yours, and the others would await their turn ... one black-eyed virgin would give you a glass of wine as a reward for your good deeds. The wine of this world is destructive, but not the wine of the world to come." 

Yes, Omar's message to the faithful is clear: It's perfectly all right to enjoy sensuous joys and erotic sexual pleasures -- 
including group sex and drunken orgies -- just so long as you're dead. 

Omar's ravings also led me to realize that for his paradise to be appealing to naive, young, would-be terrorists wanting to get it on in the afterlife, there naturally has to be a contrasting prudish moral culture of sexual denial here on earth. Otherwise, why bother waiting for heavenly hookers? And that must partly explain why right-wing, conservative Muslims are so keen on strict moral laws banning all the enjoyable things in life. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smell the roses

One of the perks of being perched right on the Equator, is that you can sometimes take the time to smell the wonderful flowers that grow wild everywhere. Here is a little collection of tropical beauties.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

White collar hero

Today I met a hero. Not a pumped up blond guy who spends his time saving kittens from burning trees; no. A real hero. I mean, the real deal: a clean bureaucrat.

Believe me, those are a rare breed in Indonesia - almost as rare that flashes of genius briskly crossing George W.'s brain. Our beautiful country is plagued by widespread corruption, and routinely drags to the bottom of the list for clean-handed societies.

But what was surprising in meeting Agung Kuswandono was that I realized (poor Westerner) that all corrupt people are not nasty villains who are eager to drink the latest drop of blood off of their poor countrymen. Some are, sure; the country pays a heavy price in terms of missed opportunities because of this hord of rapacious bureaucrats and businessmen (foreigners are not all that clean either). But with Mas Agung's example I realized that there is usually a huge price to pay to not being corrupt.

Mas Agung is a customs officer. In Indonesian, that could translate as one of the worst breed of greed, roughly equal to policemen, judges and tax officials. But for him at least, there is only one thing that is important: to be honest in his job. So, when he was in charge of the customs office in Jakarta's airport he once impounded a load of helicopters that were to be imported into the country without the proper documentation - and, you'd have guessed, without paying the proper taxes. Most of Agung's colleagues would have requested a proportion of the taxes due for themselves and then laugh all the way to the mall with their pocket full of money. Not him. And it did not even matter that the owner of the illegal helicopters was the brother of the vice president himself.

After this episode Mas Agung won a kind of national fame, but he had to pay the price for it: not only he did not get rich doing a job that should have transformed him into a billionnaire (in rupiahs); he was harrassed at home and at the office, was threatened by mafia-like tough guys, and several of his employees were beaten up so bad they ended up in the hospital in critical position.

Luckily, the present government in committed to fight against corruption, and Mas Agung, despite his relatively young age, has progressed quickly through the ranks of the administration (this is rare, as if you're a corrupt boss you don't want to promote a young clean guy, because he will disturb your little traffic. Another reason for not being clean). He was in charge of reforming the customs department of the port of Jakarta, Tanjung Priok. Today there are still people hanging around there with thick wads of 1000 rupiahs bills: they are here to make the change for 100 000 roupiahs (around 10 dollars) so that you can spread around a bill here, a bill there to speed up the process of importing your merchandise. But thanks to people like Mas Agung, the big corruption has ebbed away.

Long live the Agungs!

Corruption is one of the main problems in the country, and also something people are very aware of, as seen on this T-Shirt that says "my money does not come from corruption, but from my hard work".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wet feet

I'm no blonde in a Chanel outfit in front of a blue screen, but I can tell you something: the rain season has started, on Saturday August 30th at exactly 12.36 PM (if you were standing on Jalan Ciputat Raya; might be a little different in other parts of Jakarta, like 12.24 or 13.01).

How dare I make such a sweeping judgment? Because I'm just one of those normal Jakarta residents who had the unfortunate experience of being on the road at the time. What it means concretely is that Matt, who was taking a taxi to go to a friend's place 15 minutes away, was stuck for 1.5 hours. In Kemang, the roads were not only totally jammed because
you have to go slowly when visibility is reduced to a minimum; but also, there were so many vehicules stranded in the middle of the street because they over evaluated their capacity to swim, and their engine ended up drowned (Blue Bird taxis are very good: my guy was a real champ' and it did not happen to us. Had my fingers crossed the whole time). At those moments, you'll always have a bunch of bare footed and chested young men - the only appropriate attire in these occasion - who would jump to the rescue of the poor rich guy stuck there, and push the car to the side.

Here we go for another 6 months.