Relax Living Spa Jakarta

Relax Living Spa is a chain of affordable family massage spas in Jakarta. They currently have 3 outlets: one in Menteng near the Restaurant Ocha & Bella, one in Kemang in front of Kemang Icon Hotel and another one in Pondok Indah. 

I used to go to Relax Living Kemang on Sundays, after a party week-end in the city. I recently went to the one in Menteng which is bigger. All the Spas have the same decoration and the exact same atmosphere. This Spa is very clean and as soon as you get in, you feel zen already. It is calm, the design inside is very elegant and it smells good. There was a time in Jakarta when you had to go to 5-star Hotels to enjoy a relax time in a Spa. These days, many Spas in Jakarta are able to offer a quality treatment in a very clean and peaceful environment, Relax Living is one of them. You can have 75 minutes of Reflexology for 225 000 Rp, where you would have to spend 1 000 000 Rp in a 5-star Hotel. On top of that, you have access to the Jacuzzi and the Sauna in the lockers room.

For those who want a special treatment for 2 people (it works great for a couple), you can choose the Presidential Suite. It is a private room which is pretty big with a Jacuzzi for 2 people and 2 Massage tables. You have your massage with your partner and then you have your bubble bath in the Jacuzzi. It is pretty fun and it is a great way to spend cozy time with someone.

The massage itself was very good also and i noticed my masseuse had experience since she has been working here for more than 3 years in this Spa.

Presidential Suite in Relax Living Menteng

Jacuzzi in Presidential Suite

Overall: I would recommend this Spa after a stressful day in the city or on the week-end after a crazy party in Jakarta.

Relax Living Kemang
Jl Kemang Raya No 2 (in front of Kemang Icon Hotel)
Phone: +62-21 719 4051

Relax Living Menteng
Jl Wahid Hasyim No 59
Menteng - Jakarta Pusat
Phone: +62-21 3192 3708

Relax Living Pondok Indah
Pondok Indah Plaza II BA 46
Jl Metro Duta Niaga
Phone: +-6221 765 4606

Kalijodo: Visiting The Largest Red Light District in Jakarta

I had heard of Kalijodo a few times before, in particular through emails from readers of It is famous for being the largest red light district in Jakarta and also a center for illegal gambling.

It is located near Best Western Hariston Hotel, in Grogol, along the Ciliwung River. If you are on the toll road coming from the airport to the city center, you can actually spot it: There are maybe a hundred bars, discos and cafés lighted up with bright neon signs and with large advertising for Panther Stout or Bali Hai beers.
Kalijodo street from the opposite river bank
I visited a few days ago. It had been raining all day and the traffic near Taman Anggrek was horrible. Since we were stuck, I asked the taxi driver if he could bring me there to have a look.

He went to Kalijodo following Jalan Pesing street, which is lined up with ladyboys (waria) and further away, with street girls. The location is just in front of the nightclub MW.

Indonesian Ladyboy (Waria) on Jalan Pesing
MW Nightclub - Jalan Pesing
There are also some "hostesses" on the streets, serving beers and other drinks. This might be the lowest form of prostitution in Jakarta: The client pays for his drinks and can then enjoy time with the girl, from touching until a full sexual act. In this case they will go a bit further away from the crowd. From articles I've read, the price for such transaction can be as low as 20,000rp.

There is always a pimp waiting on a motorcycle nearby. If the prostitute goes with a client, he will follow them and then make sure everything goes smooth. Once finished, he provides the girl with a ride back.
Street hostesses on Jalan Pesing
Kalijodo's red light district is more organized, like a little city of its own, a ghetto. Being there feels like watching a violent documentary on National Geographic: It is a dark 1-kilometer long stretch of sin with prostitutes, gangs, poverty, and human misery. All of which are dressed to resemble a fantasy world of pleasure and fun.

I was there on a weekday, at 8pm so it was not so busy. Apparently it is packed on Saturday night with hundreds of people from all background, rich or poor, Indonesian or Chinese (very very few foreigners though).

The first thing that struck me is that the area retains a sort of common, day-to-day life. There is a police station, kids playing around, street food vendors, convenience stores, mosques. Business as usual some would say. From time to time, you see a lady with a jilbab walking by, seemingly unmoved by the activities in her surroundings. Kalijodo makes you experience all of Indonesia's contradictions and complexity.

The street is hardcore, like I have rarely seen before: "Preman" (gang members) are everywhere. They jumped on us as soon as we arrived to make us pay for parking. The fee was uncommonly high at 20,000rp: We tried to negotiate but the man told us: "If you want to be safe, you have to pay".  That's just what we did. A few meters later, I tried to take my camera out of my bag, but someone came at me angrily and asked me to put it back. I was there with my work clothes and a Macbook so it was not the best time to get into problems.

For this reason, I could not take any decent pictures, but we came back later on and shot the following video from inside the taxi:
The bars come in all kind of shapes and types: Some are very tiny with dangdut music; others are large and more luxurious with Western house music. There are also small massage parlours (panti pijat), short-time hotels, Viagra/Cialis stands, etc.  All the clubs/bars have prostitutes standing outside with some mamasan (male or female) trying to lure customers inside the club. The girls were awfully young and not at all what I expected. This was probably the most shocking from my visit and I still feel sorry about what I saw.

I didn't talk to any of them, but they were clearly underage. Some looked liked they were on drugs, dancing on Funky House music, but most were just frightened teenagers. The taxi driver told me that depending on the girl, the price was 50,000rp to 150,000rp, which is nothing. I have no idea how much money actually comes back to the prostitute but probably not much.

I have never had a definite opinion about prostitution in Indonesia. It is hard to pass a judgment about an issue that I find so complex. Kalijodo is different: It just feels completely wrong and it is really the kind of place that should not exist. Unfortunately, it is not enough to just destroy the cafes and to put a mall there instead (This is the plan of Jokowi/Ahok: Elimating Kali Jodo). It is about understanding all the parties needs and setting rules about how far one can go.

Prostitution is already illegal in Indonesia, and yet it is widespread. Wouldn't it be better if the government was to organize it, or at least to provide a safe environment for the girls, away from the gangs and with regular visits from doctors?

Or should the government be stricter in enforcing rules to fight prostitution?

I don't have an answer to those questions but I would be glad to receive your comments.

Astons Specialties (Bar, Coffee, Grill)

Astons Specialties is a Singaporean chain of restaurants serving Western food and drinks. They have only one location in Indonesia currently, in Alam Sutera Living World Mall (next to Mercure Hotel).

I wanted to try this place as I read that its owner wanted to bring "affordable western cuisine" especially steaks to its customers.

I was disappointed when I saw the menu because the steaks were certainly not inexpensive: Minimum 130,000rp++ for Prime Sirloin, up to 260,000rp++ for the Wagyu Ribeye Grade 6. These prices are very standards for Jakarta and Astons will certainly not have a competitive advantage on the prices.

The steak I tried (Prime Sirloin) was perfectly cooked and the taste excellent, but the french fries and the vegetables were cold.
I think the main advantage of Astons Specialties is that there is not a lot of competition in Alam Sutera at the moment... The place is not spectacular both in terms of design and food, but it is one of the few serving western dishes and steaks in the area.

Overall: I recommend if you are in Alam Sutera and if you are precisely looking for a good steak at a regular price.

Astons Specialities
(self-advertised as the Number One Steakhouse in Singapore)
The Living World Mall - Alam Sutera - Serpong
Phone number: +62 21 2921 1948

Twitter: Astons Specialties Indonesia
Website: Astons Steak Asia

Opening Hours:
Everyday from 10am to 10pm

Keyaki (Hotel Sari Pan Pacific)

Keyaki is a Japanese restaurant located in Sari Pan Pacific Hotel, on Thamrin. Sari Pan Pacific used to be one of the Best Hotels in Jakarta back in the 1980's. Now with growing competition on the Luxury Hotels Segment in Jakarta, it is just a good hotel with excellent location.

Two outlets are still very popular and worth the detour in this Hotel though, it's the Sari Deli (Pastry and Delicatessen) and the Keyaki Restaurant. This Restaurant is located inside the Hotel, on the right side when you enter through the main entrance.

It is still a very popular Restaurant among business men staying at the Hotel or Japanese food connoisseurs. You can read my review about Good Japanese Restaurants in Jakarta, if you want to compare.

Overall: The food, the atmosphere and the Sushis were very tasty. Recommended for a Business Lunch Meeting. Still a very good place with emphasis on service.

Keyaki Japanese Restaurant
Hotel Sari Pan Pacific
Jalan Thamrin
Jakarta 10340

Phone: 021 31923330

Keyaki Japanese Restaurant: Website
Keyaki Japanese Restaurant: Facebook (not a lot of Facebook friends!)

Opening Hours:
Open Daily from 11.30 AM until 14.30 PM for Lunch  
06.00 PM until 10.30 PM for Dinner

Le Quartier (French Restaurant)


Le Quartier ("The Neighbourhood" in French, pronounced like the jewelry brand "Cartier") is a new French Restaurant, opened in 2013 in Kebayoran Baru, near Senopati. I liked the building facade of the Restaurant as we feel like being in Europe. The inside decoration is also well done with chandeliers on the ceiling. It gives an impression of luxury and elegance.

The food was good also, with a fair choice of French meals and good bread. I liked the Steak Tartare, tasty and juicy. I had some good wine also, which is quite important for a French Restaurant. The desserts were OK and the service was friendly.

Overall: Since the decoration and the atmosphere is very nice and it feels romantic. I advise you to bring a date here, it will be a successful dinner.

For our selection on the Best French Restaurants in Jakarta, you can read this article: My Favourite French Restaurants.
Le Quartier
Jalan Gunawarman #34
Kebayoran Baru
South Jakarta

Phone: +62-21 7278 8001+62-21 7278 8001

Opening Hours: Open From 07:00 - Onwards

Facebook: Le Quartier
Twitter: Le Quartier

Why Are Ojeks More Expensive Than Taxis?

I had an argument this morning with the ojek driver (moto taxis in Jakarta) who works outside of my residence.

I was planning to go to Pacific Place Mall, just one kilometer away. This normally takes about 5 minutes and with a taxi it costs less than 10,000rp.

The ojek's starting price was 30,000rp, which is crazy, and after much talking he gave me a last price of 20,000rp. I tried to bargain harder but I felt I didn't have the upper hand. I gave up and I took a taxi (for which I paid a sweet 8,000rp).

This experience made me wonder: How can a taxi be cheaper than an ojek? This is not the first time it happens. On average, I would say it is more expensive to go around with ojek or bajaj than by taxi in Jakarta.
At first glance, it seems that taxis should be more expensive: Their job requires more skills, they provide more comfort and safety to their customers and above all, they have more costs to bear.

A taxi driver usually gives back to his company more than half of his daily revenue. A Blue Bird driver told me that they must make a minimum of 500,000rp per day before they can start making money. Once they reach that target, they get 50% from any ride (another driver told me his minimum was 450,000rp and he received only a 30% cut). They must also deduct up to a third of their revenue to pay for gasoline.

In the end, a taxi driver may get a monthly salary of approximately 1,5M rp to 3M rp. That's only a small percentage of all the money he received from clients.
On the contrary, ojek drivers keep most of the money they make to themselves. Often, they are the owners of their motorbike (or they will be if they took a credit). They pay their gasoline too but it is much cheaper. To make 3M rp per month, an ojek driver only needs to do a few rides per day.

So why are ojeks more expensive?

The reason is that the bargaining power of ojek drivers is stronger.

Ojek driver can make their prices fluctuate according to the time of the day. During peak time, they can be strong with the pricing because they know they will get another customer soon. Taxi drivers cannot do that; they just take whoever stops them (except the taxis that don't put their meters on). This logic tends to make them wait for a big fish instead of taking small jobs.

The price given by an ojek driver can also change according to who is requesting a ride. They will not give the same price to an expatriate, to a maid, or to an executive working on Sudirman. Since I am a bule, I am not surprised I got a high price.

People who need ojeks are usually in a rush: They must go somewhere fast and they need to beat the traffic. They don't have much time to negotiate or to find cheaper alternative. They will tend to agree on any price, even if it is unreasonable.

Ojek drivers are also located in strategic areas: They do not compete directly with taxis but complement them. You will find them waiting for you where there are no taxis available. They have to wait longer for a client, but to compensate they charge him more.

At last, you would think that it is very easy for an ojek to go wherever he wants and to wait for a client. This is rarely true: A newcomer will probably be rejected as he is bringing more competition. This self-regulation of the ojek's industry certainly limits the options for the client, and therefore the price war.
Ojek drivers get more money than taxi drivers, and they work less. I guess the new question that would need to be answer is why taxi drivers don't change job and become ojek?

I asked this to a few of them, and their answer was that their status as a taxi driver was more prestigious. They are clean, they wear a uniform, they can stay inside their car and they belong to a corporation. All of this makes it worth having a lighter paycheck at the end of the month.

Eric Kayser Jakarta (Plaza Senayan)

Eric Kayser Indonesia is now opened in Plaza Senayan. Just like Paul Bakery and Patisserie, it is an international French Bakery chain, very famous in France and in some big international cities (New York City, Tokyo, Singapore). Now that Eric Kayser is in Jakarta, I can compare those 2, in order to know which one is the Best Bakery in Jakarta (and where to find the best baguette!).

Eric Kayser is upmarket: The decoration of the Plaza Senayan outlet is very unique and luxurious. For instance, they used marble to display the bread and pastries. Even if it's not the same decoration, it reminded me TWG Tea Boutique, because of the pastry display in the middle of the restaurant. 

Even though a lot of care has been put into the design of Eric Kayser, I'm not really thrilled with its overall aspect. I found it quite bland and cold.

I like their bread much more: Baguette, Healthy Breads, etc...The Bread corner is very well arranged, and you can help yourself with any kind of French Croissants, Raisins Rolls, or Chocolate Croissants. I tried the Croissant and the Chocolate Croissants and it was delicious. I was also pretty happy with the waiters and the service offered in Eric Kayser restaurant, as everybody seemed to know what they were doing.

Paul Bakery/Eric Kayser: What is the Best Bakery in Jakarta ?

The long awaited game between those two upscale bakeries can finally begin. Now we can compare, in order to make the best choice for our mouth...

First, regarding the location, there is no doubt about it, Paul Bakery has a better location, on the terrace of Pacific Place Mall. The kiosk style of the Bakery and the possibility to dine outside makes you feel a bit more like you are in Paris, and is much more pleasant. Eric Kayser Bakery has just a regular location in a fancy mall, and the place is much smaller than its competitor in Pacific Place.

Tastewise, I have to admit the pastries are more delicate and nice looking at Eric Kayser Bakery. I can't help but think that this Pistachio Eclair from Eric Kayser might be the best I ever had. It is a very sweet piece of Pastry. I also prefer the "Help Yourself" Bakery corner of Eric Kayser, which is definitely a trend in Indonesian-style bakeries.

Overall, service and atmosphere, I would rather choose Paul Bakery. Living in Jakarta makes you spend a lot of time in the malls. When you are going to a French Bakery, you want feel like you are in Paris, with a nice decoration, traditional outfits and maybe some French words written everywhere...

Winner of the Game: Paul Bakery
Eric Kayser Indonesia
Plaza Senayan, Fourth Floor
Jl. Asia Afrika, Senayan,
South Jakarta
Phone: +62-21 53660821

Jakarta Nightlife 2014


Jakarta nightlife has changed quite a bit since my previous guides: "Jakarta Nightlife 2011", "Jakarta Nightlife 2012" and "Jakarta Nightlife Tips". Before you head out tonite, these are the latest trends in the Jakarta's partying scene:

The new center of Jakarta nightlife in 2014 is in SCBD (Sudirman Central Business District), in the ex-Bengkel area. In 2 years, many bars and clubs have opened there and they attract the wealthy, trendy youth of Jakarta:
To have a drink, try Lucy in the Sky, Potato Head Garage, Beer Garden, Canos in Foundry 8
For clubbing: Fable (Young crowd, Jakarta International School) or Empirica (Upper Class Indo Chinese). 
These places do not have too many tourists or expatriates yet.
Apart from that area, two new clubs worth trying have opened in 2013: Alibi on Rasuna Said (replacing JackRabbit) and the popular Exodus from the Stadium group.

Immigrant was still on top of the game when it closed down for renovation a few months ago. We can expect it will still be popular with a more mature crowd (25-45 years old) when it reopens.

Dragonfly, Red Square and X2 now attract mostly foreigners and girls looking for foreigners, with a varying proportion of working girls in each (high in Red Square, lower in X2 and Dragonfly). Equinox in X2 is always full on weekends but the crowd is not as upper class as it used to be.

The following bars/lounge/restaurants are usually always busy with expats on weekend nights: Loewy, Bluegrass, Aphrodite, Liquid Exchange, Social House, Cork & Screw, Union, Potato Head, Eastern Promise, De Hooi, Fez, Face Bar, Awan Lounge, Molly Malone's, Murphy's, Black Cat, Melly's, Vin +. Level 5 of Grand Indonesia is nice too with many new cafés like Warung Kopi Tinggi, H5, Ismaya Catering Co.

There are 3 popular rooftop bars in Jakarta: SKYE is the best one with regular events. It is a good place to start a party night and it is busy every day. Cloud is very similar. You also have Awan Lounge in Kosenda hotel but for a younger, cheaper crowd

Hard Rock Cafe has moved for a third time in 10 years. It is now in Pacific Place but it isn't really happening.

Blowfish has been renovated. It is smaller and has become more quiet. Domain as well has some good nights but it is mostly quiet.

Prices have increased. It is not uncommon to pay a 200,000rp entrance fee in the most popular clubs.

Jackrabbit, Luv's Bar and Tribeca have closed. Jaya Pub hasn't and it is still the oldest bar in Jakarta nightlife.

BATS, CJs, Blok M are pretty much the same as before: They have live music, expats and businessmen, and lots of working girls. You can go there pretty much any day of the week and it should be busy. Some other hotel bars are not really happening but they are ok for a drink: Burgundy (Hyatt), MO (Mandarin Oriental).
Tiga Puluh (Le Meridien) and Tempus (Ritz Carlton Mega Kuningan) have live music has well but aren't too crowded.

Bars in Jalan Jaksa change name regularly, but the atmosphere hasn't changed. It is a mix of young indonesians, working girls, professional girlfriends, backpackers, budget expatriates, gays and random people.

7/11 stores are becoming the new cheap bars in Jakarta. On Weekends, they will be full everywhere.

Off the beaten track but very popular too, De Leila is where Saudis go to party in Jakarta.

In Kemang, it is hard to keep track but Nu China, 365 and Triple Nine are still there and crowded. There is a new strip of bars on Jalan Taman Kemang with many recent openings: Umbra, Beer Brother, Parc 19, Liberica, Cowboys Saloon. Hipsters may want to check Treehouse or Cafe Mondo.

In North Jakarta, the music is changing: Techno Kota/ Techno Dangdut/ Funky House is slowly becoming a thing of the past. They don't have it anymore in Mille's and Millenium (but still in Crown, Exotis, Puja Sera). The popular places are still the same: Stadium and Crown are the busiest ones even during the week. Still packed as well are Club 36, Malio Club, Alexis, Mille's and Millenium. Sexy dancers and striptease (full naked or boobs only) is the norm in many places: Classic, Malioboro, Crown, Club 36, V2, Emporium, Sumo, etc etc... Even in Stadium during the week...

Prostitution and massage parlours are still operating freely in the capital of the largest Muslim country in the world (Travel Hotel, Classic, Fortune, Malioboro, Alexis, Emporium, Orchardz, etc... basically all the clubs outside of the city center). Drug use is also massive in North Jakarta even though the prices have tripled in a few years.

The only major new nightlife venue in North Jakarta, 1001 (Colosseum) is a surprising success. I consider it to be one of the most impressive nightclubs in the city. Great lighting, great music and good crowd. On the other hand, Illigals, even though it has some interesting events is still rather quiet.

There is also some nightlife that has emerged outside of Jakarta's city center: In particular, in Central Park Mall near Taman Anggrek and in Pantai Indah Kapuk, near Pluit. Those are Cafés/lounges, no real nightlclubs to my knowledge.

Closing hours for the night clubs is very unpredictable. Officially, it is 3am but it seems to change every week. Normally, clubs in the South close at 5am maximum, and clubs in Kota around 7am-9am. Clubs that can be used for afters are Mille's and Exotis. It is very common to rent a karaoke room to keep the party going in some clubs like Stadium, Millenium, Crown.

Since I cannot be everywhere all the time, please drop a comment if I missed something! Thanks a lot!

More pictures of Jakarta Nightlife's new venues (Empirica and Exodus):