When I tell locals that I live in Kemang, the first thing a lot of them say is, “Oooooh, Kemang. A lot of bule [Westerners] live there.” Of course all the restaurants, bars and boutiques attract foreigners, but there’s a whole lot more to Kemang than coffee and couture.
Kemang is an area of stark contrast: You have modest kampungs through the back streets, which run parallel to enormous houses for the rich. There is plenty in between, like my kos, which is like a share house.
Just minutes down the road from the Commonwealth Bank and KFC sits a rubbish dump. I saw a man walking through it the other day in nothing but a towel. I wonder if he lives there.
The Kampung and the People
The kampung near my place has got to be my favourite part of Kemang. I walked through it the other day to take some photos, and a crowd of kids followed me wherever I went, demanding I take their picture.
A lovely woman, Ibu Hana, invited me in for a cup on teh manis and some sweets to share with her and her elderly mother. She had just lost her job at Dunkin’ Donuts and was hoping I knew someone who needed a pembantu (maid). Anyone?
The kids followed me to Ibu Hana’s place, wanting more photographic attention. Ibu Hana scolded them and told them to go and take showers. She apologized to me. “They’re very kampung kampungan,” she said, which is a bit like saying, “Sorry. They’re very ghetto.”
The Flower Market
One of my favourite things to do on a sunny Saturday is walk down to the markets on Jl. Kemang Selatan and treat myself to a beautiful bunch of lilies. The flowers are super cheap and the markets are worth a visit just for the colourful spectacle.
I definitely haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg of art galleries in Kemang, but I went to an exhibition last night on Jl. Kemang Timur at Linggar Seni, which is a beautiful cosy art gallery with a leafy garden. The show that’s on now is “Girl Talk Unedited,” and is a show by seven female artists. It’s definitely worth checking out.
One annoyance about my place is the flooding. Sometimes when it pours with rain, the street below ours gets flooded, and it’s a bit tricky to get home.
But as always, the Kemang locals know how to make the best of the situation, and the kids jump right in, taking advantage of the temporary pool to relieve them from the heat. (Although seeing as Jakarta has an open sewage system, they’re basically swimming in other people’s feces. Oh, well.)
It’s true what they say: The people make the place.