We lived in Jakarta from 1997-2002 and we had some rough times, some dangerous times and some really great times.
The money was nice – and the free phone calls back to the UK and the free electricity to run all those air-conditioners..ah bliss.
We lived in Jakarta at the time of the fall of President Soeharto and that was a nasty and dangerous time.
Most of the expats left, repatriated, or temporarily domiciled in Singapore. Not us though, no, Pricewaterhouse expats were sent to Bali.
You’d think that a whole country would be changed overnight by a coup, but not Bali. Nothing gets in the way of making money.
Bali was open for business. The people may have suddenly gained a new president and in north Jakarta, hundreds of Chinese Indonesians slaughtered, their houses burned and businesses destroyed, but not Bali.
However, I am moving off topic here.
The good things about living in Jakarta, especially after the expat exodus, was cheap housing.
We moved to an enormous house on a lovely road. It had a long drive, with a tamarind tree by the gate. The lounge took your breath away – it was large enough to entertain 500 people. I had to buy a grand piano (yes, we had the money) and on one memorable occasion, I helped out Indonesian friends by holding a rehearsal – a full orchestra and choir, in the lounge.
The best things were the shopping, the massages and the food, not necessarily in that order.
Massage, oh the bliss. The very best one was a Creme Bath. I’d call my favourite masseur, Tumbar and she’d arrive by taxi, with her coconut butter and I’d go and wash my hair.
I’d lie across the bed and Tumbar would kneel on a cushion and massage my scalp, face and shoulders for 90 minutes. After, I’d feel as though every bone had turned to rubber.
Another favourite was gentle massage. Our senior driver’s cousin, Ibu Ida would arrive and gently do a whole body massage. No deep tissue work, just a nice gentle motion that left me feeling invigorated, yet relaxed.
There was another type of Javanese massage that we didn’t particularly enjoy – an eighty year old Ibu (mother, or lady of a certain age) would arrive, with fingers of steel and work on all those nasty little stiff muscles and spasms.
We decided that we couldn’t take the pain and hid behind the sofa!
Reflexology was very popular – hard or soft, both worked, although soft reflexology was more enjoyable – no, bearable, is a more accurate description.
After I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, I used to visit a ‘jamu man’ – a herbalist, who also practised reflexology – but with pointed stones.
I’d lie on his massage couch and he’d push cone-shaped pieces of stone into my feet whilst I tried not to scream.
After, when I was convinced that I wouldn’t ever be able to walk, I’d gingerly put my foot on the ground and to my amazement, there was no pain.
I liked shopping. Pasa Raya, an enormous department store was our Saturday treat. Our son would head off to the basement to play LAN games and we’d wander around the kilometres of floor space, eventually meeting for lunch. Mr P would always eat Sop Buntut Goreng. This was stewed ox tail, dried and then floured and fried and served in a rich broth, with rice. Heart attack on a plate.
I can’t really remember what I ate – it varied. I just remembered Mr P’s indulgent Saturday treat.
The cosmetic department was extremely enticing. Pasa Raya had the full range of luxury Western cosmetics – including Prescriptives. I loved that counter and bought Magic Powder and other exciting products.
I tried all the skin creams, lotions and serums. They seemed okay, not life-changing.
One year, for my birthday, Mr P went to the La Prairie boutique, somewhere in central Jakarta and bought me a very expensive and delightful range of their products. Now, that was luxury. Can’t say that it made me gorgeous, but oh, it was nice to try the creams. I even had a couple of facials there, in lieu of payment for singing lessons. Bliss.
One of our happiest and most enduring memories, was the night that Mr P returned from a business trip, with Champagne, (Dom Perignon 1985) and Vodka and a large tin of Caviar. We made chopped egg, blinis and chopped onion as garnishes and had one of the most wonderful evenings of our marriage. Never again, but it was worth it. Happy days.