Monday, April 02, 2007

Battle of the Sexists

Ladies' nights, with the odd exception, fall on Wednesday and Thursday in Jakarta. Opinions on these nights tend to be very polarized along gender lines and they can bring out the baser instincts of both sexes. For the rare Western or expatriate woman seen in attendance, the smell of haddock in the nostrils can prove a strong impediment to their enjoyment of the cheap or even free booze. For the men, the sudden rush of blood from the brain to the pelvic area can seriously impair their better judgments.

It's a pretty well accepted but not often discussed fact that ladies nights are, in reality, men's nights. It’s men who pack the clubs on these nights and stand around diffidently nursing their beers or engaging in ludicrously age inappropriate displays of disco dancing. It’s men who are the target customers of the five-star hotels in which these bars are located. The assembled night time butterflies who pack these places would certainly not be impressed if they really were ladies only nights. They are here for the men of course, it matters not a jot to them that the drinks are half price as they will not be the ones paying for them..... Men again, that's right, you're catching on. It doesn't even matter to them that its ladies' night at all as most of them can be found in these bars 7 nights a week anyway.

So Wednesday and Thursday nights and are when the men come out to worship at the short skirted temple of Long Island Iced Tea. They head for these bars in search of a reviving tonic to combat that midweek slump and if that tonic should have gin in it, well so much the better. It's always amused and baffled me that Jakarta's sleaziest pickup joints are located in the city's poshest hotels. Maybe this says a lot about Indonesian culture, I don't know. All I know is that I love the sight of over made up girls tottering into five-star hotel lobbies at kicking out time, ripped to the breasts on alcohol with a sheepish Westerner in tow. The looks on some of the fastidious hotel guests' faces are priceless. They are clearly not impressed with this gentrification of the world's oldest profession.

So where exactly are these midweek sin bins? Well the three biggies are as follows:

Down at CJs in the Hotel Mulia, Senayan, Wednesday's ladies' night will now set you back a hefty Rp.70,000 to get in if you opt for the cheapest draught beer. This is certainly something to consider before going there. Even a native Londoner or New Yorker may baulk at paying US $7 for a beer (especially if it tastes like Bintang does). A Wednesday night here could turn into a wallet stinger, especially if you hook up with a hopeful young lady with a thirst for Singapore Slings and Illusions. The bill won't be an illusion I can assure you; in CJ's it's often a rude awakening equivalent to a cold, dead hand clutching your bowel.

So what else does the CJ's ladies’ night have in store for the budding Jakarta socialite? Not much if you're just a neutral observer as opposed to an active participant in the sleaze mêlée. The band are so pumped up with posturing machismo they look as if they’re about to drown in their own love juice and the place isn’t very well laid out. However, even the guys who pack CJ's for purely ornithological purposes might find the ladies a trifle hard-nosed here and not at all as genuinely friendly as they are in cheaper bars around town. They have the same dollar signs in the eyes as the CJ's staff themselves as they chalk up another quadruple whisky cola and draught beer onto your slate. Don't say you haven't been warned.
Stats: Preferred mode of transport - Silverbird Taxi
Average ladies monthly boarding house rent - Rp.800,000
Amount drunk by said ladies every night - Rp.950,000
Average number of drinks spilled on way to toilets - 2.4

BATS in the Shangri-La Hotel (Thursday nights), is certainly one of the most time honored hotel bars around town. It's been temporary home to many a businessman who just happened to stumble into the place before retiring upstairs to his room for a horizontal nightcap. It costs Rp.70,000 to get in these days and is quite a spacious place. The beers come in lofty, elongated glasses, which look good but are quite impractical if your judgment has already been impaired by an early evening booze infusion. Certainly I've managed to soak my face and upper torso before by tipping the glass at too-high an angle whilst trying to get the last bit of precious ale from the bottom. What else is on offer? Well there are an awful lot of hopeful women here virtually every night but especially on a Thursday. The lighting in BATS is brighter than in CJ's and other places though, and when this is combined with the rather faded and over made up visages of some of the regulars it’s resemblance to a meat market is more literal than metaphoric. This place will be around until the universe re-collapses back in on itself and all the girls' shiny metallic belts are ground to cosmic ashes.
Stats: Average number of make up applications per lady - 17.2
Optimum beer tilt angle - 0.00001 degrees to the horizontal
Average wait for taxi in lobby at kicking out time - 50 bleeding minutes
Data transfer via SMS over patrons’ mobile phones - 2500 Gigabits per min

Tiga Puluh in the Meridien Hotel (Thursday nights) offers another symbiosis of smart and sleaze. Yet another verification of the “Fancy hotel plus attached disco equals high-class knocking shop” equation. The top 40 band is dominant here, visually as well as aurally. Many other bars in town feature overly histrionic covers bands pumping up the decibels but in Tiga Puluh, the musicians also assault your visual cortex as the group are positioned slap bang in the middle of the place. This nonsense is a further exacerbated by the fact that they perform on a stage that puts their crotches on a level with the audience's line of vision. Perfect for ladies’ night. It’s all very loud and caveman tactics are perhaps what are required in here.
Stats: PA system power - Equivalent to 10 Hiroshimas
Probability of seeing a girl dancing on the bar in her bra on any given night - 1:2
Long Island Iced Tea strength - Equivalent to 10 Hiroshimas
Acreage of thigh visible - Five hectares
Simon Pitchforth