I had heard of Kalijodo a few times before, in particular through emails from readers of Jakarta100bars.com. 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 kinds 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.

36 comments to '' Kalijodo: Visiting The Largest Red Light District in Jakarta "

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  1. Hi friend, great review. I like many have been interested in this area, have seen it many times from the tollroad.
    Your review will give me the courage to go have a look, good work bro - love ya site.
    cheers

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  2. been there yesterday this is like sitting in the slums of a 3rd world country. By far the worst place in Jakarta and if your an upper class euro you should never think of stepping foot here unless you plan on getting mugges, HIV , or listening to music your great grandpa did while sitting in the living room of someones house which turned into a club . 90% of partyers are prostitutes and 10% are pimps. so basically I wasted my saturday night in a place where the devils wouldn't even go because of the lack of hygiene. and btw girls are not to pretty either they all look as white as a ghost and all are single parents walking around basically naked.

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    1. Absolutely agreed. Good review though. Is a third world.. very unhygienic and u dont wanna stay there long!

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    2. So nice sweet young pussy there though.

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  3. hahaha... this is my hood.. like this blog, please expose this more closer and deep.. wkwkwkk can't speak english well sorry !

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  4. of course no pretty girl will work for 50repu . that is a low class pros area with of course low quality

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  5. how much does it for prostitute at they?

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  6. Fu*k jokowi and ahok, they are trouble maker

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  7. I heard about this place from indonesian friend of mine; was planning to go there just to have a look; but on second thought the mission is a no go, because i kindá know what is to expect over there; plus the information that under age girls are working there; so it true (I always looking for girls at the minimum age of 30 anyway), but however I always went to mangga Besar area or pangeran jayakarta street for girls. mangga besar is a go area, even I never seen white caucassion tourist, it is a safe place + you have tons of cheap hotels over there.

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  8. I like to visit there one day. if foreigner(asian) go there alone who cann't speak bahasa indonesia it will be dangerous? if wanna try some girls over there?

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    1. well, if you can not speak Indonesian, that would not be always dangerous; it is depends on which area are you in or which situation are you in. But for a first timer, if you want to go to find "girls" in Jakarta, you could need a guide; Jakarta is not really like for example Thailand where sex industry is so visible; in Jakarta they do it kind of obscure; "you know they are there but you can not really see it"; therefore an experience guide who know the way may not be really needed but will make things much easier for you. I myself live in Europe and has Indonesian parents; and I speak excellent Indonesian; I have been exploring Jakarta many times for the places to find girls; so I know a lot; but however there are plenty secrets to discover even for me..and that is the fun for going to Jakarta and exploring this places to find "girls/women"...by the way, I will visit Jakarta again somewhere on the next march 2015; so if you planning to go to Jakarta during that time; I would be happy your guide; and we can always share a taxi expenses to go to places for exploring, because taxi in Jakarta in actually cheap, but it will make the trip even cheaper if you share the taxi money with others. You can always contact me on my Facebook for information regarding this subject (if you have any question) at Fb name "Tom senayan". if you request me..just send me massage on my inbox, just say ''I am from jakarta1001bars site"..then I will know it is you..

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    2. Lol. Interested in an extra wingman? :D I'm from Europe as well (Belgium), moving to Jakarta for an international internship until the end of May.

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  9. Is this the only place to find Waria in Jakarta? Do they frequent any of the bars in the main areas for expats? Considering applying for a job that has a 1 year rotation to Jakarta.

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  10. Where is MW nightclub. I can't find Jalan Pesing on an map.
    JL. Pesing Poglar or Pesing Station, yes. GPS numbers would be good.

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    1. For detailed directions see my post below dated November 22, 2015 at 6:52 AM.

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  11. First time I went there it was as described. Shady, dark narrow alleys and seems like the perfect place to get yourself killed. Been back a few times since then however, and now I understand that it is actually very safe there. Might be one of the safest place in Jakarta.

    No one dared to try anything because the premans own the place. They're there not to mug you but to make sure everything run smoothly. After all, if the place is unsafe, their business would suffer so they don't tolerate troublemakers.

    Just make sure you have enough money and pay what you're suppose to pay (Rp 30k for parking and around Rp 150k for the girls), regardless of the service you get (some of the girls give bad service). Or else you're sure to get in trouble.

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    1. well..I kind of agree with you there; if you look at it that way; there is nothing to worry about..I guess if you come over there to find trouble the trouble will find you..I think the best way to visit this area is just follow the rules, pay what you have to pay..come on 30K for parking is nothing, in Holland you pay like 6euro per hour to park your vehicle; and I think the safe way is to mind your own business, don't get into fight with some locals, and don't stared people in the eyes..well bringing a pistol would be nice of course in case of emergency he he he..but I don't know if the girls are good looking over there..and I hate underage girls as well..

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  12. Kalijodo is a ground for battle between Indonesian ethnic gangs, in particular between people from Maluku and people from Makassar Sakerah. Do not go there if you don't want to have problems!

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    1. why go there anyway..there are plenty better places than that and still cheap too

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  13. Phil, regular client of prostitutes.May 28, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    Ahok would actually like to make prostitution in Jakarta and Indonesia legal. It is so common in the country to pay for sex that it would at least stop the hypocrisy and it means the government could make some money out of it instead of leaving the naughty business in the hands of mafias. Girls could work in a more protected environment and they could probably earn much more money. Prostitutes in Indonesia only get a small share of the price a client pays so it would make sense. They could also receive regular medical check-up to make sure they don't have HIV or other sex-related disease.

    Unfortunately, the Islamic parties would probably use this to complain about how decadent Indonesia is becoming and they would say it is a bad idea coming from the West (or from a Chinese in Ahok's case).

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  14. I can only say that this area (KFC = Kalijodo Fu*king Center) was as secure as any red light district in Jakarta. As long as you follow its regular process... Observe, Choose, Confirm The Price, Do Your Things, Pay and Go... There won't be any trouble ^_^

    For those of you who haven't had your experience in this place, you might just want to know and remember, because Ahok will closed this place down, asap after Idul Fitri 2015 (detik.com)

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  15. I had often seen the rows of bars coming to and from the airport. Last week after arriving back in Jakarta just after mid night I asked the taxi driver to take me there. We parked and had to walk over an unlit bridge into the backstreets, the bars, basically small boxes with lots of plastic chairs were surprisingly busy. Lots of customers for the time of day. I was pleasantly surprised how pretty the girls were, though undoubtedly some were very young. Everyone was very friendly and I didn't feel in any danger. The rooms that you go to on the other hand were pretty unpleasant, small room that barely accommodated the filthy mattress on the floor with a small bucket to wash in.

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  16. Do you mean kalijodo? Its the buisness still open there? Christoph

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  17. I believe the correct street name is Jl. Kepanduan II. To locate it, first find the Best Western Hairston Hotel. From this hotel it is only a 1 or 2-minute walk. From the hotel walk west along Jl. Bandengan Utara, cross a very small canal, then turn left on Jl. Kepanduan II and you will be walking south. There are 3 canals very close to each other when walking west on Jl. Bandengan Utara, only cross the first canal or you've gone too far.

    I am a westerner. I walked down this street during the daytime, about 5pm on a Sunday. I could walk inside many of these tiny "bars" with the beer signs, but most of the girls were not there yet, it was too early. I could however, see the conditions and see many of the people in this "neighborhood." I even quickly used the toilet in one of the bars to urinate. This place is a human cesspool, I am not exaggerating. My God, I feel sorry for these people. A sane person wouldn't touch anyone in this area while wearing 3 condoms, it is that disgusting. The terms "poverty" and "third-world" take on a whole new dimension in this slum. Do yourself a favor and stay away. If you are truly curious walk down this tiny street during the daytime, you're in for a rude awakening.

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    1. Here is a link to an article about Kalijodo with a MAP.

      http://jakarta.coconuts.co/2014/11/25/jakarta-city-administration-shut-down-kalijodo-red-light-district-will-not-offer-sex

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    2. The correct spelling of the hotel is: Best Western Hariston Pluit

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  18. can you stay in that best western hariston hotel and get the girls to your room too?

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  19. what is the street name of that place near the airport??

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  20. Ok kfc kalijodoh fucken center. For info im indo chinese who born n grew up in mangga besar, 1 of the biggest red light district in jakarta. N im telling u this, even took me alot of courage to go into kalijodoh. N 1 thing for sure its not a place for foreigner. Dont go there, if u still value ur life. Im not saying someone will kill you. Theres a risk, and its not worth it. Let just put this way, if u think u just go there to look araund n being nice r enough, u r wrong, it only need 1 gangster in the bad mood n your elbow accidently hit his elbow in that narrowed alley, enough to put ur life in danger.

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  21. The best governor Jakarta ever had, Ali Sadikin, better known as Bang Ali, understood that prostitution cannot be eradicated. It is, after all, the oldest profession in the word. Bang Ali legalised prostitution as well as gambling (he taxed gambling to generate income for the city). Not sure if he also taxed prostitution but it would be logical for a legal profession. The current efforts to ban prostitution are doomed to fail.

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  22. Great review of Kalijodo Sir. Now they're all gone, the government finally swept them all out, bringing 3,000 armed force and nobody fought back but one stupid lawyer. I believe your video will become very precious one day in the future.

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  23. hi, i read all the comments and replies but i could not figure out where the MW disco on jalan Pesing is ! i even did some google search! so, can anyone give specific directions or correct street name ! thanks

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    1. Hi, you can check Istana Dangdut MW Café on google maps, Jalan Pangeran Tubagus Angke No.27, Grogol, West Jakarta

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  24. there's no prostitute there anymore

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  25. one of my favorite places in history. actually thought about living there for a year a decade back. no tourists. no white guys. once one guy came thru; nervous, quick, twitchy. probably scared. in an out in five minutes. i took one guy there and he too was out in five minutes. not even close to the quality of sx at dolly, but sure was a hell of a lot of fun.
    dangerous? not in the least. unique as hell and some of the other self-contained venues dont compare; though one is pretty bizarre and worth it just for its unusualness.

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  26. Dangerous?!?! You should try date a western woman!!!

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