Mon, 25 Dec 2000

In search of excitement at night

By Joko E.H. Anwar

JAKARTA (JP): After a hectic, stressful working day, you rush home to take a hot shower before laying down on the bed for sweet dreams; sounds perfect.

No, not for the 'yummies' - young upward mobile modern independent elite singles. Despite the days hard work, they still have the energy to hang-out and stay up till late at night, especially on the weekends. In fact, many look forward to this time to enjoy themselves, relaxing and having fun with their peers.

Twenty-four-year-old Lydia, an employee at an engineering consultancy firm, beamed as she entered Champions Sports Bar Restaurant in Kemang, South Jakarta, on Friday night.

Along with her three friends, she had come early to make sure she got her favorite place: a table right in front of the stage.

"I come here at least once a week. I also go to other places, but I come here a lot to relax," Lydia told The Jakarta Post.

Lydia's idea of relaxing may not be the same as what other people have in mind. Particularly when the band starts with the live music and you can hardly hear yourself talk.

After a couple of ear-splitting songs, Lydia could not resist the urge to dance, and went on the floor to groove to the alternative rock and pop tunes played by the band.

Lydia is not the only young person who frequents such loud places after work.

Many young singles, tired of working eight hours or more a day, seek after-hours entertainment at several nightspots for a change of atmosphere.

It was different 15 years ago when it was difficult to find such places to enjoy live entertainment.

Today, cafes, pubs and discotheques have sprung up all over major cities across the country, particularly in the capital.

Jakarta seems overflowing with cafes and pubs as you can find them easily almost anywhere. Some have emerged in malls and also in office buildings.

Some of the well-known cafes in Jakarta are Fashion Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, Jamz, Batavia, Lamborghini, Retro, Zanzibar, Zona Music, Gondolla, Bugs, Underground, Salsa, Matabar, Jalan-Jalan, Hore-Hore, Bengkel Night Park, Sina Bar, Butik Cafe the and Sky Bar.

The cafes may not be as cozy as those in western countries but they have a distinctive flavor all of their own. Some are not well-maintained, and all of them face the possibility of being raided by Islamic organizations. However, the cafes seem to be never short of customers.

Some patrons admit having spent hundreds of thousands of rupiah each for a nights entertainment, but many say that they only spend around Rp 100,000 (US$10.50) or less.

While each cafe offers a different atmosphere, customers under 20 years of age or those who are in their early 30s have a common preference about places they like to visit.

Twenty-six-year-old Andri Daulay, the regional development manager of insurance company PT Asuransi Jiwa Bumiputera John Hancock, said he only goes to cafes which have a friendly atmosphere.

"I like to go to cafes and pubs where most of the patrons are young people and where you get the feeling that it is friendly and not a 'meat-market'," Andri said.

While there are many cafes and pubs which offer "clean" entertainment, there are several which have been used by some patrons to sell drugs and offer sex services.

Young executives usually do not like to go to places where most of the clientele are teenagers.

"There are some well-known cafes which I don't like to visit since most of the people who go there are teenagers. I once went to this place and hoped to have a good time. Instead, I got annoyed big time by these overdressed teenagers," Lydia said.

Music, food

Places offering live bands are usually more preferred.

The bands usually perform songs currently on the music charts or from patrons' requests.

Some of these bands turn out to be successful recording artists. Some are only good at playing other artists' songs but are not able to write their own.

Yusuf Andibachtiar Siswo, a 26-year-old copywriter, who admits to being a frequenter of cafes, said he liked to go to the Hard Rock Cafe on Jl. Thamrin, Central Jakarta, to watch good Indonesian musicians.

"I also go to Jamz (on Jl. Sudirman, South Jakarta). Where else can you find the best jazz musicians in such a cool atmosphere?" he said, adding that he also frequently visited Salsa in Kemang to dance to recorded music.

A 25-year-old executive, Fanny, prefers the Retro Cafe at Crown Plaza on Jl. Gatot Subroto, South Jakarta, for its nice atmosphere but finds the house music annoying.

"It's a great place, and the people who go there are nice, but I can't stand the music. That's why I usually sit on the cafe's terrace where it's much quieter," she said.

However, many of these young people go to cafes and pubs not for the music.

Twenty-eight-year-old Chris, who came from England about two years ago to live in the city, said he enjoys visiting several places at night only for the food and drinks.

"I don't go to cafes or pubs for the music because it's usually rubbish," Chris, who is also a journalist, said.

He said he was annoyed sometimes by the music played at cafes and pubs as it was too loud.

"I like to eat out at Tenda Semanggi," Chris said, referring to the 2.8-hectare plot behind the Jakarta Stock Exchange in South Jakarta, where 90 cafes and restaurants employ some 2,000 people.

This area, which provides a variety of local and international food and shops selling antiques and handicrafts, became popular among Jakarta's young elite after its establishment in 1998. Some of its cafes and restaurants were started by out-of-work actors and actresses during the economic recession.

It recently faced possible closure by the city government because it had violated a building code. The operators had allegedly turned their establishments into permanent structures while the original permits were for tents.

Chris also said he enjoyed going to places where he felt he did not have to dress up.

"I don't like to go to places where their guests are very rich and dressed up," Chris said adding that he preferred places such as the English pub the Stanford Arms.

The pub, which had British Ambassador Robin Christopher officiate at an event in May, is located in the Ambhara Hotel on Jl. Iskandarsyah Raya in South Jakarta. It offers British food, such as bangers and mash, fish and chips, and British pies -- apple pie and steak and kidney pies.

The pub is furnished with wooden chairs and a red carpet to accentuate its British touch.

Fanny said she liked going to Dome Restaurant at Ratu Plaza on Jl. Sudirman, South Jakarta, for its coffee.

"It's relatively more expensive compared to other similar places. A cup of coffee and a slice of bread costs about Rp 50,000. But the coffee is superb," Fanny said.

For those who love ice cream, Andri has a place to recommend: Pisa Cafe at Jl. Gereja Theresia I in Menteng.

"They have all kinds of delicious ice cream there," Andri said.

But going to cafes, pubs or discotheque is the least preference of a 29-year-old bank executive, Ahmad Adrian.

"I just do not find cafes and pubs the kind of places to relax. I prefer to go to the movies. They're much more entertaining and even educating sometimes and they give you a new experience," Ahmad said, adding that he went to theaters at least twice a week.

"And what's more the theaters are unlikely to be raided," Ahmad added, referring to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who frequently raid nightspots.