Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Magic of Malioboro

The Magic of Malioboro

I was having a few drinks with K. Tan at the Bentley's Pub, Nikko Hotel along Jalan Ampang yesterday after our meeting. Later we were joined by Benny, CP, Chee Wai and Avinash--all ex-colleagues of mind.

Meeting them brought back memories of my time working in my former company. During those days I often had to entertain colleagues who dropped by in Jakarta on business trips. Even though I wasn't living in Jakarta then, I was there almost every other week.

I remember bringing Benny to Diskotek Malioboro along Jalan Gadjah Mada in Jakarta, before the place was burned down during the riots of 1998. He was still a swinging bachelor then; now he is a father to a three-year-old daughter.

Diskotek Malioboro--named after a popular street in Yogyakarta--was everyone's favourite place. We all felt quite sad when we saw images of the place burning over CNN. Things changed quite a bit after that.

The crowd that used to frequent Malioboro, moved to the newly opened Diskotek Stadium, which is a behemoth of a nightspot: a one stop-shop for karaoke, dancing and girls. Stadium soon became a favourite haunt for the "feng tau" crowd; after 2 am, the entire crowd dance-floor would swaying to the techno-music in a mass Ecstasy-induced trance. On weekends the place is never closed--it runs continuously, 24 hours.

The nightlife scene in Jakarta has also changed these days; there are more wine-sipping, jazz-playing yuppie places around. It's a good indication of a recovering economy but somehow it is not as fun anymore.

Those days before the riots were the best of times. Diskotek Malioboro was small, dirty, loud and smoky, even smelly; but we didn't mind. We had a lot of friends there and we met people from all over the archipelago. It was a microcosm of the real Jakarta, the melting-pot of Indonesia.

But if you bother to look around, there are still a lot of cheap diskoteks like Malioboro around in Kota--places like Bintang Mawar, Monggo Mas and Super. There are also quite a number of them in Pangeran Jayakarta too. But somehow it is different: The magic is no longer there--the magic that was Malioboro.

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