Readers' Submissions

Back in Jakarta

  • Written by Harry
  • October 30th, 2015
  • 6 min read




After more than 2 years away from Southeast Asia, I finally made it back to my old haunt, Jakarta. Where in the older days the place always fit me like a glove (I always instantly felt back at home), this time I had (and still have) a very hard time to adapt and get settled again. I have been here for 2 weeks now and am still struggling with basically everything.

I reckon it must be age. As we get older we (at least me) tend to become less flexible and are less easy to adapt ourselves to different environments. Or maybe it's just me this time.

The rainy season should have started already (early October) but up to now there has not been a drop of rain. The city is as dry as the Central Sahara Desert and dusty as hell. After a 2 year absence I cannot help but notice the traffic has gotten even worse! There is talk about a project being undertaken in Jakarta right as we speak to set up an MRT system (modeled after the Bangkok system) but there seems to be many problems going on related to this project, so knowing how it works here, the MRT might take an awful long time to be completed or might never get into operation. Probably very far in the future when I will be very old and very grey the Jakartans will not suffer from the traffic jams as much anymore as today.

I'm again staying in my old area (Kuningan Karet), but I don't like it as much as I did during my previous visits. I stayed in this area from 2010 up to 2013. In those years lots of posh cafes, clubs, hotels and malls opened in this area which is one of the most important business and office areas in the city. I notice the locals (especially the women) have gotten a lot snobbier compared to the last time I was here (or maybe it's because I have gotten older). Not many smiles, flirts and greetings in the malls anymore. But I still see a lot of Western guys (bule) walking around with high-class, pretty girlfriends, so it is not that they don't like us bule guys anymore.

Prices have gone up a lot too. Everything has gotten 30% more expensive compared to 2013. The local currency (Rupiah) has also nosedived some 20% since then so the pain is relatively bearable. I like to cook so I always go to the local Carrefour (situated at the Ambassador Mall) to get my groceries and my tab now always exceeds 100,000 rupiah whereas previously I often managed to keep it below 100,000 rupiah quite easily. Prices of tuna, beef, and imported stuff have gone through the roof, and probably increased by 50%.

Right now I am checking out another to stay. Only after having been back 2 weeks I intend to move as soon as my monthly rent comes due. Kemang seems promising. Kemang is an area in the South of Jakarta where a lot of expats, pensioners and other westerners stay. I had a look there this Sunday and the people seem not as arrogant and stuck up compared to Kuningan. There are also a lot of cafes and low key bars in that area where one can get a drink on the cheap and maybe meet some nice people. If you want to get a drink in a cafe in Kuningan you better bring a big load of cash because the places are posh and high class and so is the clientele. So Kemang is probably where I will be heading.

On to the girls (yeah, that's what we have been waiting for you boring twat). Up to now, after 2 weeks I had precious little interaction and intercourse with the local lasses. I cannot really remember a time in Jakarta where I had so little love with local girls during a 2 week time period. I have set up accounts on Indonesian Cupid (totally sucks these days), DateInAsia, Okcupid and so on.

I also downloaded Tinder on my Samsung because I heard that when you are a bule staying in Jakarta and you use Tinder the matches will line up so fast your phone might explode!!!

Nothing of the sort happened to me related to Tinder. I do notice there are lots of super hot girls on Tinder in my area (I set the radius to 8 miles and put age preference from 21 to 35). Most of the girls are incredibly hot, much hotter then the DateInAsia and Okcupid girls (not even to mention Indonesiancupid that now seems to be used only by old overweight housewives).

Anyway I did a lot of right sweeping the first day I got on to Tinder, you can imagine until I got a sore thumb and then sat back happily anticipating the matches flowing in like a tidal wave. Because I am a bule so that will happen. But nothing of the sort happened. I got about 3 matches was all, and these 3 matches were not even the girls I was hoping to match with (when there is so much talent you sometimes sweep the wrong girl to the right by mistake, and one you like to the left).

Anyway there are either too many western guys in my area or I am too old and ugly now for the girls on Tinder. Probably a combination of both.

Anyway, after having been on Tinder for about 2 weeks now and got a trickle of matches coming in, I have managed to set up a meeting with 2 Tinder girls. I did not get further then a kiss from both of them yet, which is weird considering guys always tell Tinder girls will make out on the first date, NO EXCEPTIONS.

So that is all about my love life so far in 2 weeks Jakarta. I must have set a new record. At least I never heard of a straight bule not getting sex in Jakarta in two full weeks. I might phone the Jakarta Post, maybe the want to run an interview with me, who knows I might get lucky after that interview.

I hope I will get in to the flow. I am nowhere near there now, feel like an outsider where before I always felt like it was my second home. The plan is to stay here for at least a year. I can do all my work almost without any problems and I have some capable and trustworthy guys in my country whom I delegated the things I cannot manage while I am here, so that part is pretty much settled. And it is the most important part actually because the work comes in like it always does. In the past this was always a problem when I was in Jakarta, so much so that I decided to take up local employment to compensate for the money I was losing from my own business because I was in Jakarta.

Anyway, watch this space, I will try to report again when interesting things happen. I was also planning to set up a YouTube channel and make some video's but haven't gotten into it yet and things have been quite boring and uneventful so far, maybe I will get into that also.

See you around…

Harry




Stickman’s thoughts:

Interesting to hear how things have changed in Jakarta. I have a theory – and I wrote a column about it a year or two back – about how the “value” of Westerners in South-East Asia is not what it was. That’s not to say that Westerners cannot have a good time, be treated well and have alot of fun with the local ladies, more that the super easy days are over…and this report would tend to reinforce that. I only visited Jakarta once but I always had the feeling there were tremendous opportunities there…