I Heart Kemang


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.

The Contrast

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.

This is a family's house in Kemang, complete with a garuda

This is a family's house in Kemang, complete with a garuda

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 rubbish dump

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.”

Kampung Kemang Kids!

"Check my guns."

"Check my guns."

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.

My mate Ella checking out the bunga-bunga

The Art

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.

A painting by Vonny Ratna Indah

A painting by Vonny Ratna Indah

The Floods

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.

"Everybody needs good neighbours..."

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.


10 Responses to “I Heart Kemang”

  1. meaghan J Smith Says:

    I’m in Australia now but I lived in Jakarta and Yogya a few years ago. I like to read this blog on occasion and enjoy being taken back to my memories of Indo. I’m loving the photographs, makes me feel like I’m there all over again.

  2. titiw Says:

    Nice writing dear.. Your photos already shout a thousand words.. 🙂

  3. Marmalade Says:

    I know I am a horrible pedant, but the house with the garudas, surely that is in Bangka, Pela Mampang and not strictly speaking Kemang?

  4. bilangela Says:

    ha ha. i guess you’re right. let’s say it’s greater kemang.

  5. anandaayu Says:

    Bangka is within the Kemang Subdistrict, so it is Kemang.

  6. Ash Says:

    Nice photos Ange!

  7. Marmalade Says:

    @anandaayu, Bangka, and especially the place photographed in definitely part of Mampang. I grant you that the south end of Bangka is the start of Kemang, but the main part of Banka, is in Mampang. Check out ALL the business signs.

  8. Mrs Top Monkey Says:

    I live in Kemang, moved here from KL a year ago. I’d also seen that house with the garuda and thought it must be a govt building! LOL Thanks for posting it… I could never find my way back to that house again.

  9. Don’t go to Kemang, don’t go to Bali « Instant Expat Says:

    […] on going to Bali and Kemang — hell anywhere in Indonesia — be careful.  You might just fall in love and spend the rest of your life stuck in […]

  10. vonny Says:

    hi Angela,
    thanks for put my painting picture to your blog.. 🙂 accidentally, i see your blog through google..
    nice experience and story.. good to know you 🙂

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