Readers' Submissions

The Jakarta Scene

  • Written by Anonymous
  • September 12th, 2005
  • 5 min read


Naughty Nightlife in Jakarta is as interesting as in BKK, and the end result is ultimately the same, but there are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the environment and the people.

To begin with, one would assume the overt availability of sex would be muted in a largely Muslim society, and of course it is. But the nature of the city layout is as much to blame as the religion. Jakarta is quite a bit different than Bangkok with respect to the pedestrian street scene, or lack thereof. There is simply no such street as Sukumvit or any of the Sois, for example. Nobody walks on the street because there is nothing to walk by (and often no sidewalk either). This is from the perspective of a visitor. Locals of course live and wander along the streets around their homes and local businesses, but there is no such thing as a touristy storefront, no such thing as a 24-hr convenience store, no such thing as a street vendor selling assorted knockoffs. Aside from food carts intended to serve locals, the businesses are things like auto repair shops and the like.

The places the upper classes congregate are large indoor shopping malls. The malls represent the sum total of entertainment. They are quite modern and very nice, but no different then any mall one would find in any other western country, with the similar types of stores along with the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Visitors with at least a basic knowledge of the language have reported success in chatting up people in the mall looking for a good time with a foreigner, either for the fun of it, or to make a little cash on the side. Girls here are not usually ‘pros’ in the sense that they don’t make their primary living from a fling here and there.

Although the usual massage parlors are available, the typical Bule (Farang) only visiting will experience the bar scene instead. Almost every major hotel houses a club of some sort. Although the most well-known names, such as Hyatt, tend to have ‘legitimate’ wine or jazz bars, many of the lesser known 5-stars take a different tack. The setup is usually the same…fairly decent-sized club, live band 6 nights per week, a cover charge of $3-$7 and a room stocked with freelance women in their 20’s. The bars do not attempt any sort of barfine or affiliation with the girls, they make their money on $6+ draft beer and $10 glasses of wine, among other things. The girls are likely encouraged by bar managers because of the obvious draw for the Bule crowd (you rarely see an Indonesian male in this type of place). There is nothing like Nana in Jakarta. The naughty nightlife is extremely active, but kept under the thin veil of cover as to avoid irritating the devout.

Given the geographic makeup of Indonesia, the facial features you see in any given bar vary more then you find in BKK. Most of the girls seem to originate from somewhere else and have moved to Jakarta to support themselves in the same way Isaan farmers' daughters do in BKK. The looks factor is quite amazing in the up-market clubs, and reduces as you progress to the lower-market clubs in the downtown ‘walking street’ (lined with faded honky-tonk places popular with the oil rig crowd). The girls in the hotel bars range from pure pro all the way to not in the game at all, so you can’t make assumptions unless the 6-inch heels and 3-inch miniskirt give it away. Most of them are very friendly and there seems to be much less of the emotional and mental issues you see written up in reader submissions.

One great example of this is the butterfly. There are many tales in this forum about dealing with enraged, jealous, and ultra-possessive bar girls. Indonesians keep their issues to themselves. If one girl joins you at the hotel room one night, then sees you chatting up another one the next, they will honor your space and maintain composure, possibly within feet of you the entire night.

I’ve never heard of a single instance where a Bule had any trouble with an enraged ‘girlfriend’. I’m sure it may happen, but I know enough ex-pats in the city who don’t have any sort of problem whatsoever, leading to the guess that the Jakarta scene is more controlled or sedate than with BKK.

As to money, girls will typically negotiate “taxi money” at a steep starting point, then quickly drop down to the level the more frequent visitors have figured out. This also depends on the venue, and of course how late in the evening it is. If the girl takes a liking to you, the “taxi fare” may even drop to zero. There isn’t a defined concept of short-time versus long-time here. Although some will leave after their ‘date’ wraps up, most seem to prefer to make a night of it. A girl taking home 40 or 50 dollars is not so inclined to go back out to drop the fishing line a second time. In addition, given the squalid living conditions common to the city, they would much rather spend as much time as they can in an air-conditioned 5-star hotel room with a proper bathtub (Indonesians don’t use showers apparently), large bed, cable TV, and room service. And who could blame them?

Most hotel clubs close at 2, so those still on the prowl will gravitate to the small number of clubs open until 5, with a corresponding drop in the starting ‘asking price’. At that point, they apparently give up and go home. They also rotate themselves among the same circle of clubs night after night. However, most tend to return to their favorite club most of the time, which means variety remains pretty good from one place to another.

I hope this gives a reasonable starting point to those considering a trip to Jakarta. There is more to the nightlife of course, and those actually living there could give a great bit more detail. Feel free to email me with comments or questions.

Stickman's thoughts:

Interesting.