Hope springs eternal for jaded ol' Jl. Jaksa
Source: JP/14 April 2002 by Bill Blade

Less like a gracious old dame fallen on hard times than a raunchy old hussy gone past her use-by date, Jl. Jaksa has been looking decidedly frayed around the edges of late.

Once a home away from home to hordes of backpackers, these have become a rare breed indeed in Jakarta since the start of the monetary crisis and its associated political upheavals, compounded by the disruptive activities of self-righteous, damnation-spewing brethren who have occasionally threatened the street.

Mind you, all the shake-ups don't seem to have fazed certain grizzled old expatriate goats, mostly heavily bearded, who are so often to be found holding court in Jaksa, bleating forth nonsense about the woes of the world and the price of beer.

And just like any jaded, old crone, Jaksa has started to lose a few of her teeth -- the most recent to go being the late lamented Q-Bar, one of the few places on Jaksa with a bit of savoir faire about it.

But even before Q-Bar's unfortunate demise, Romance (right down at the Jl. K.H. Wahid Hashim end of the drag) had finally given up the ghost -- not clear yet whether permanently -- after years of just about hanging in there, as had Angie's, that old Jaksa backpacker mainstay so beloved of the guidebooks.

But all's not lost and, fortunately, unlike most rouged and painted old hags, Jaksa still possesses the blessed ability to rejuvenate herself.

The latest pub to have opened its doors and provide some hope of redemption is BFC (stands for "Bar Fans' Club") at Jl. Jaksa No. 10 (Tel. 330605). This is actually the first pub you come to as you wander south from Kebon Sirih, and is the successor to the old BFC, which used to be located nearby but had to shift its applecart due to lack of space.

One of the better joints along the drag, it could, however, be said by uncharitable souls to be a bit on the dim and gloomy side. But, with a large Bintang to be had for Rp 13,000 and a JW Black for Rp 22,000, this place has a bright future provided they liven it up a bit, not to mention rectifying the far from ergonomically designed bar stools.

The next extant pub we come to as we meander southward after the virtually moribund bar and restaurant attached to the Margot Hotel is Memories (Jl. Jaksa No. 17, Tel. 3928839). This has never been a particular favorite of mine but, judging by the crowds, it's definitely not lacking in popularity and would appear to have benefited hugely from the closure of Q-Bar just across the street. Live music every night and cheap drink add to its attractions. Open 24 hours, seven days a week, a big bottle of Bintang will cost you Rp 13,000, while a house pouring of whisky will hit you for a very reasonable Rp 22,000.

But like so many of the more basic Jaksa establishments, little thought was given to hygiene or the convenience of ladies when they were building the restrooms -- in many ways a large hole in the ground would be superior to the clogged urinals and malodorous, squat-down toilet (only one) that you'll have to contend with here.

After Memories, we find ourselves at the one-room Ali's Bar (Jl. Jaksa No. 25, Tel. 31900807), a place that has come to resemble a little bit of Africa miraculously transported to the apparently more salubrious climes of Indonesia, despite all of the latter's economic travails.

Business, whatever it might happen to be, must be decidedly good in this neck of the woods judging by the amount of JW Black Label being guzzled down, the flashy clothes and watches on display, and the neverending shouting matches as the West African punters doggedly attempt to communicate on their cell phones amid the din blasting out from the pub's sound system.

On the plus side, however, Ali's does provide the luxury of air-conditioning, and a reasonably clean sit-down toilet. Neither is it expensive. A large Bintang will set you back Rp 14,000, while a JW Black Label will hit you for an eminently reasonable Rp 25,000. They've also got English beer in the form of cans of Boddington's draught (Rp 34,000).

Let's face it, though, Little Lagos is about as far removed from the backpacker hangouts that used to dominate Jaksa as Ambon is from Abuja. But of course, it all keeps the money rolling in, so no one on Jaksa is complaining.

Next up is Papa's Cafe & Restaurant (Jl. Jaksa No. 41, Tel. 323452, open 24 hours, seven days a week), presumably named after its lovable and rotund owner, Mr. Anton, who's about as fatherly a figure as any you're likely to find these days down Jaksa way. Open all night, a Bintang beer will set you back Rp 12,000 (nothing else, other than Guinness, available in the booze stakes).

Once again, though, the restrooms leave a lot to be desired, and the food has always struck me as being rather overpriced (McDonald's combos are cheaper!), if not downright insipid.

Still, not a bad spot all round, populated as it is by quite a crew of friendly expats most nights of the week.

The last watering hole worth its salt before you hit Jl. K.H. Wahid Hashim is the true jewel in Jaksa's currently rather tarnished crown -- Ya-Udah Bistro. More a restaurant than a watering-hole (but most definitely NOT a German bistro), not only is it spick and span, and blessed with decent restrooms, but it also has the cheapest hooch and tastiest chow on the whole drag.

At an incredible Rp 10,000 for a big, cold bottle of Bintang and Rp 22,500 for a glass of Bali's own Hatten red wine, you won't get better value than this anywhere in Indonesia (they even present you with an ice cold towel to freshen up with when you take your seat).

But it's the food that really steals the show here. If you like sausages with your beer, this is the place for you. Strongly recommended!

Note: Credit cards are not generally accepted on Jl. Jaksa


  'Nice girls don't go to Jalan Jaksa'
Source: JP/1 December 1995 by Maria Louise Tickle

JAKARTA (JP): Nice girls don't go to Jalan Jaksa, I am told. Foreigners do. By the busload. What better place to get an idea of the sex practices of foreigners in Jakarta than the Jaksa International, a bar which my friend has dubbed "the ashtray".

On Jaksa you see it every night. Indonesian girls in see- through tops who look like nine o'clock is past their bedtime, attached to open-faced foreign guys in back-to-front baseball caps who still look like they can't believe their luck. Jaksa is heaven for the hormonally-driven.

On Jaksa you hear it, every night. The tales of Australian men who call in sick to their language school employers only for it to be later revealed they spent the day in bed with three local girls. Stories abound of local girls who were virgins before they hooked up with a foreigner and who think the relationship will end in marriage, only to be bitterly disappointed. Then there are those men who think their woman of the night wants them for their good looks and charm, only to be faced with a request to cover a very expensive taxi ride the morning after.

When it comes down to it, the message for foreigners dabbling in the joys of the night in Jakarta is quite simple.

"You're crazy if you have unprotected sex," Mackay said.

In a bar on a side-street off Jalan Jaksa a 29-year-old English teacher agreed, but said many foreigners were flying close to the sun when it comes to safe sex. Having lived in a brothel/hostel for six months, he would know.

"A lot of them are not having safe sex. From what I hear from the girls, if the client wants to use a condom they will but if he doesn't, they don't care," he said.

"You'd think foreign guys would know better but many guys here are not worried, AIDS is not a big consideration. They think `It won't happen to me.'"

He said although many local girls did not believe in pre- marital sex and highly prized their virginity, many were sexually active.

Foreign men are afforded almost movie-star status in Jakarta, he said. "One Saturday afternoon I had four girls ring and ask me out," he said, more incredulous than boasting.

"Indonesian girls are very forward, he said. "When you're a bule (foreigner) you get a lot of attention from girls and it's very flattering. A lot of the interest is financial but some of them find Westerners physically attractive and others like the idea of a Western boyfriend."

The attraction cuts both ways, he said.

"When I was first here, I'd fall in love everyday ... the color of their skin is so different, so exotic."

The definition of a prostitute is not clear in Jakarta, he said. "Some of the girls are just looking for a guy but if the situation arose, they may try to get money out of it. It's an economic thing."

"Most of the prostitutes are up-front, but not the same way they are at home. `Up-front' as they put their hands on you and tell you they love you. They get you to go with them and afterwards tell you that you owe them money -- that happens quite a lot."

Having been lavished with attention for so long would it be hard for a foreigner once they're back home and suddenly "average"?

He laughed, leaning back in his chair: "I've thought about that. I guess I won't know until I get there!"


  Tourists nabbed for lacking papers
Source: JP/13 December 1994

JAKARTA (JP): The directorate general of immigration apprehended five tourists, one from the Philippines, Japan, America, the Netherlands and Nigeria, who were staying at hotels on Jl. Jaksa, Central Jakarta, due to having inadequate travel documents on them.

Spokesmen of the Directorate General Hario Subayu, said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post yesterday that the operation started at 8 a.m. on Sunday and was carried out randomly by officials in all hotels in Jl. Jaksa.

Hario said the operation was aimed at controlling the legality of tourists' travel documentation in Jakarta.

During the operation, the officials of the directorate general uncovered an American who abused his visa, a Filipino who had lost her passport, and a Japanese, Nigerian and a Dutch national who could not show their passports because they were in safekeeping with their friends.

The operation ended at 10 a.m. and the arrested aliens were escorted to the office of the immigration directorate general for questioning, Hario said without giving further details. (mas)


  Jaksa Fair lures thousands of visitors
Source: JP/Lenah Susianty, 8 August, 1994

JAKARTA (JP): The Jaksa Fair, the first ever street festival to feature the history of Jl. Jaksa and Betawi culture, lured thousands of visitors to Central Jakarta over the weekend.

The festival was closed yesterday with a performance by the Lenong Rumpi group which presented an episode entitled Pilih- pilih mantu (choosing son-in-law).

The presence of artists staring in Lenong Rumpi, a modernized Betawi Lenong which gained fame as a regular weekly aired on RCTI, gave a glamourous touch to the three day folk festival.

Most natives of Jakarta or Betawi people attending the festival, especially residents of Jl. Jaksa and Kebon Sirih area, Central Jakarta, relished in the presence of their favorite stars who they said raised the magnitude of traditional lenong into a modern drama.

Tarida Gloria, a comedian-cum-actress, who visited the festival and Lenong Rumpi artist Harry de Fretest were among the stars on the first and second night. But prominent business figures, such as Dewi Motik who attended the opening ceremony, were almost ignored by visitors, who were mostly Betawi people.

Minister of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications Joop Ave, dancer-cum-choreographer Sardono, students and backpackers were among the thousands of visitors who packed Jl. Jaksa on Friday evening.

"The Minister came here informally, not as the minister but as a Jakarta resident," said Renaldo Tomasouw, the treasurer of the organizing committee which consisted of officials of the City Tourism Office and Jl. Jaksa Tourism Industry Organizers.

Traffic on Jl. Kebon Sirih and other roads adjacent to the festival was smooth on the first day of the festival although Jl. Jaksa was totally closed.

The three day festival, opened by Jakarta Deputy Governor for Economic and Development affairs TB M. Rais on Friday evening, presented Betawi culture, such as gambang kromong music, sahibul hikayat traditional story-telling and ngarojeng dance, and various Betawi foods including the famous kerak telor, laksa, soto bebanci and sekoteng.

There were also stands selling postcards, traditional Kalimantan handicrafts, food, paintings, and other services, including a PT Indosat stand which offered international home country direct calls and domestic calls.

An information center was established by the organizing committee to enlighten visitors on Betawi culture and the events at the fair.

Harry de Fretes also made use the festival by opening a restaurant named Boim Cafe whose menu consisted of bizarre names like Sop buntut pujaan hati (Sweetheart cocktail soup), Es mambo banjir (Flood ice cream) and pisang goreng impian Barcelona (Barcelona dream fried banana).

Commenting on his turnover, Harry said that he had sold more than he had expected.


Nathanael Lawalata, the man who pioneered the development of budget accommodation on Jl. Jaksa, dressed in a Betawi traditional outfit, told the Post that he admired the spirit of youths who organized the fair.

"This is good because they are young and hard workers. And, I did not expect so many people to come," he said.

"This is really nice," said a Dutch tourist taking a photograph of a man dressed in a Betawi costume.

Ukke Kosasih, the program coordinator, recently said that they plan to make the fair an annual event.

"But, maybe next time, we will also highlight other cultures which have influenced Betawi culture, such as Chinese, Arab and Portuguese," she said.

The street festival was held to promote tourism in the area and also to revive the endangered Betawi culture.


  Jalan Jaksa Fair less spirited than usual
Source: JP/R. Berto Wedhatama, Saturday, 27 August, 2005

The popular annual festival held around Jl. Jaksa, a favorite place for budget tourists, brightened up the area for only a few hours on Friday.

Owing to the obvious lack of preparation and promotion by the organizer, the Jakarta Tourism Agency, the one-day celebration was the least lively so far.

Though, named the Jl. Jaksa Festival, the giant stage was placed at the T-junction of Jl. Jaksa and Jl. Hasyim Azhari, where most attractions and stands were set.


  Jaksa Fair organizer faces fund shortage
Source: JP/30 July 1994

JAKARTA (JP): The organizer of the Jaksa Fair, a three-day cultural festival aimed at promoting the culture of indigenous Jakartans, commonly known as Betawi, is facing financial difficulties.

Renaldo Tomasouw, the treasurer of the organizing committee, said that as of yesterday, the committee had only collected Rp 100 million (US$46,150) of the Rp 350 million target. The money has been received from hotels located along Jl. Jaksa, a popular location for budget tourists in Central Jakarta and the other sponsors.

"It is very difficult to find companies who are willing to sponsor this art event. I do not understand why," Renaldo said, adding that the committee had asked big companies located near Jl. Jaksa to participate.

"We have also contacted several travel bureaus and airlines, but so far only one beer producer has shown interest in participating."

The Jaksa Fair, jointly organized by the Association of Jl. Jaksa's Tourism Industry Organizers (IKJS) in cooperation with the Jakarta Tourism Office, will be held from Aug. 5 to 7 on Jl. Jaksa. The fair is scheduled to be opened by Governor Surjadi Soedirdja.

The street festival, the first of its kind, is aimed at boosting the street's fame and reviving the almost forgotten culture of indigenous Jakarta residents.

"From our surveys, the average length of stay of foreign tourists in hotels on Jl. Jaksa is only three days. They use Jakarta only as a transit point before going to Bali and other places," said Ukke Kosasih, the organizing committee's programs coordinator.

The 400-meter Jl. Jaksa, mentioned in almost all of guidebooks for backpackers, has 27 hotels and hostels with a total of 363 rooms as well as hundreds of rooms rented by area residents, six restaurants, four travel agencies, a bookstore, money changers, laundries, pubs, etc.

The history

Jl. Jaksa has been widely known among backpackers since the late 1960s when Nathanael Lawalata established the first hotel, Wisma Delima. Last year 57,201 foreign tourists visited hotels and hostels in the area, including 4,215 Americans, 9,309 Australians, 29,676 Europeans and 649 Africans.

Hotel rates on Jl. Jaksa range from Rp 10,000 to Rp 45,000 per day.

The Jaksa Fair, which will take place from 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday next week, will feature Betawi music, dances and theater on three stages to be built on the street.

"Visitors can also sample a variety of Betawi food sold by street vendors, and see a photographic exposition of old Jakarta and Jl. Jaksa and the Kebon Sirih area (located in the same neighborhood) as they were in 1939, as well as a demonstration of the making of traditional Betawi Purnam or paper lanterns," Ukke said, adding that around 10,000 people are expected to visit the festival.

The fair will also feature Ondel-ondel and Rebana Ketimpring parades, Sembah Nyai, Lambang Sari, Badah Khatam and Topeng Gong dances, Gambang Kromong and Kroncong Tugu, Lenong Denes and Lenong Rumpi theaters. (als)