By Aran (from the UK)
Anyone who has ever experienced the Jakarta nightlife scene will tell you that it is an eclectic mix of everything that makes for a great night out. The place is loaded with great bars, restaurants, karaoke joints, clubs, and of course, stunning women.
From Wednesday night through to Sunday morning, parts of the city come to life and shine brightly with the promise of unforgettable adventures. Although in recent years the number of foreign tourists coming to Jakarta has been steadily increasing, what makes this place such a gold mine is just how small the numbers still really are.
I have often raised a smile, when inside a club, I found myself gazing around at all the gorgeous Indonesian women, only to realize that I was one of only a handful of foreigners in the whole place. And since many of these foreigners only stick around for a few days and have no real idea of what these girls are about, the competition element in Jakarta’s nightlife is virtually non-existent. Now, how many other capital cities in the world can you say that about?
Since the expat community is pretty small in Jakarta, it doesn’t take long before you get to know most of the regular faces about town. After only a few months of fully immersing myself in the Jakarta nightlife, I had managed to get on at least taking terms with most of the regular expat hook-up artists, all of whom had a phone full to the brim with numbers of delicious local girls.
The key in Jakarta, as with anywhere, is to learn the game and figure out the best places to go. Some of these girls can be pretty wild and more than willing to have as much fun as you like, provided you press all the right buttons. It took me around 2 weeks to figure out the game here and I haven’t looked back since. Back in the day when my face (and sadly reputation) wasn’t known around the clubs, I was managing to get a different girl every time I hit a club. Nowadays, I average a new girl around 60% of the time; a statistic that here might seem a little disappointing, but is one that anywhere in the west would seem like a dream.
Though Jakarta is changing fast, the city’s reputation for being ugly and polluted still remains as strong as it did 10 years ago when I first came here. While this has no doubt helped keep the tourists (or competition as I call them) away, the daily smog and dense fumes have masked the real modernization that the city has undergone. The last few years alone has seen loads of great new clubs and bars springing up all over the city, something which has really helped mature and diversify the nightlife in the city.
With so many different venues and forms of entertainment, Jakarta is a city that has something to offer everyone. From low-end drinking holes to city view VIP bars, provided you have the cash, you are certain to find the kind of place where you are happy to spend it.
Though a night out in Jakarta will cost you a little more than cities like Phnom Penh or Ho Chi Minh, it will still be cheaper than most other South East Asian cities and will be a lot cheaper than in any developed country. Despite being a mostly Muslim country, alcohol here is still relatively cheap, especially when compared to its Muslim neighbour Malaysia.
Another great thing about the Jakarta nightlife is the sheer number of the locals who love to go out and have a great time. Of all the people I have spoken too, most tell their parents that they have gone to a friend’s house for the night, leaving them free to have fun until the sun comes up.
The best places for those with the money to spend are the bars, lounges, and clubs of Jakarta’s five-star hotels. Most of these are located in the area around the circle that joins Jl. Jend. Sudirman. This area is really swanky and is definitely the place to go if you want to see the best dressed and most glamorous women in the city. The occasional luxury sports car roaring by, and a noticeable lack of interest from the locals when compared to the rest of the city, definitely keeps you aware that you are in an area where money talks. So for those people like me who don’t have much of it, these parts are window shopping only!
Being the premiere spot of the Jakarta nightlife scene, this area obviously has some amazing bars, many of which have some pretty stunning views of the city. Some are more laid back and are designed more for the relaxing businessman type, while others are far more lively bars that frequently have live bands. On Friday and Saturday nights many of these upmarket bars are jammed full with wealthy locals and of course working girls. The chances are at least one will approach you in the first 20 to 30 minutes of you being there, offering to come ‘join you’ for a drink.
It took me about 5 minutes to find the best expat spots in Jakarta, so you will have no trouble whatsoever finding them. All over the city, you are bound to run into the odd foreigner sitting in some local bar drinking away. For the most part, expats and tourists tend to gather in the Bintang area of the city, undoubtedly because of the locals’ ability to speak English and the safety in numbers factor.
The area is full of ‘cafes’, particularly along Jalan Jaksa, where prices are quite reasonable and there always seems to be something going on. On the whole, it is a good crowd around there which is a nice mix of people of all ages with different backgrounds. This is the area I head to every weekend to ‘pregame’ before hitting the clubs.
If you are looking for the best place to do some day drinking then head down the bay and visit Ancol. Though the beach is nearly always crammed, and the rest of the place looks like a Disney theme park, it has a really fun vibe and is a nice place to chill. I met one of my former girlfriends in Ancol by just walking up to her and asking her the time, something that has gotten me a few numbers since then too. I like the area, though it can just be a little bit of a pain to get too, especially in rush hour traffic.
The two other areas that show just how varied Jakarta’s nightlife really is are Kenanag and Kota. Kenanag fills the gap between Bintang and the 5-star hotel bars, being the trendy spot for emerging middle-class Indonesians that have a little more cash to spread about. I like this area for its diversity and cleanliness, though again, the locals seem a little less interested in you being there.
Kota, on the other hand, is an entirely different kind of place altogether. Most of the expats I know tend to avoid it altogether saying that it is a blot on the Jakarta nightlife scene that is helping to give foreigners a bad name due to the kind of troublemakers that often go there. This is the area you will find all the sleazy bars and prostitutes should you want to get a taste of the local girls without having to do anything more than opening your wallet.
Jakarta has so much to offer that it won’t take you any time at all to find what you want. The city is generally very safe, though people heading to Kota should take extra care of their possessions and to keep clear of any trouble. There are loads of live music venues dotted around the city along with karaoke bars for those of you who want to experience a local night out. Having had so many great nights out in Jakarta, and being a place full of so many beautiful and friendly women, I can definitely say that for me, the Jakarta nightlife scene is the best in the whole of South East Asia.
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