Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ranamok and the J Bar


When our beers were finished we moved on to a place called something like ‘Ranamok’, back in the centre of Jakarta. There were lots of big cars parked outside and a long queue consisting of noisy young expats and silent Indonesians with pale, unhealthy faces. As we waited in line to buy our expensive entry tickets, I sniffed the pleasantly warm air; a security guard was smoking a clove cigarette; beef sate was sizzling at a fast-food cart lit by a hissing kerosene lamp; three street kids were seated on the cracked pavement playing dominoes and drinking fruit-jelly drinks.

When at last we got inside the Ranamok Disco, I began to suffer from smoke-and-sweaty-people phobia. The vast room was packed wall to wall and seemed to have only one way-out. There may have been fire-exits. It was just that, in the crush, I couldn’t see them. The rather obscene American music was deafening and finding a seat, or having a conversation, or even dancing, seemed impossible.

"Most of the Indonesians here are for sale," screamed Carmen. At least I think that’s what she said.

"We’re not staying long," shouted Fergus, starting to struggle through the crowds towards the exit.

Next on our itinerary was the J Bar, a small place of smoky blue light and mirrors, which had its fill of slim, doe-eyed, sickly looking teenage girls and fat, grandfatherly, sickly looking expatriates. The atmosphere was of one of chilling yet fascinating misery. The air conditioning was too cold.

"As we came in, " said Fergus, "did you see the man in the suit, by the door? The small, bulky, middle aged guy."

"Yes?" I said, recalling a dark skinned fellow whose eyes had avoided mine.

"That’s said to be the gentleman who carried out the murder in the Gamesman’s Bar," said Carmen.

"And that very thin bloke to the left of the bar is Henry," said Fergus. "Helps run one of the Indonesian banks."

"The one in the expensive suit, talking to the dark-skinned girl?" I asked.

"That’s him," said Fergus. "Poor man discovered dark spots on his skin. Doctor told him it’s skin cancer. His wife’s got cancer now as well."

"His wife is the dark girl?" I asked.

"No," said Fergus.

(I was told that some years later the K Bar was destroyed by an angry mob.)

The nightlife tour was enlightening, but I was relieved when it was all over. And I hadn’t yet met any deserving waifs or strays.

2. NIGHT AND DAY
Gamesman's Bar
Pop Gun
The Bintang Disco
The Ranamok and the J Bar Bogor

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