Like Orchard Towers in Singapore Jakarta’s Blok M with its famous group of girlie bars is probably the most popular place for western men in the city to meet women offering play for pay. As with Orchard Towers I’m not totally sure why that is since there are so many better options around. Alas the place gets mentioned quite a bit so I would be remiss if I did not report on it.
Blok M is easy to find with the help of a taxi driver. Since taxis are how most visitors get around that means its easy to find in general. Nearly every driver knows the place though they usually call it Jalan Palatehan since “Blok M” is a large area that holds a lot more than a street with a few bars.
The area that would concern most readers of this site is a portion of Palatehan Street that is home to a small row of bars that have quite frankly seen much better days. While this area used to be a little better I don’t ever remember it being anything spectacular. Nowadays it seems to be barely kicking along outside of a few choice spots.
Everest is a large bar at the top of the street with plenty of seats and pool tables open to play but not much in the way of customers or liveliness. A few freelancers may find their way in and out of this place but the main draw seems to be the female waitstaff which is rather large considering the kind of business the place gets. A few of the women are very good looking and they are all friendly. Service is good and drinks are reasonable at around 3 US dollars each but it is more of a slow paced watering hole than anything else at this point. It used to fill up with women most nights but it seems those days are gone.
Top Gun has been around for ages and has always been one of the most popular bars on the strip. It fills up with dozens of freelancers but like the bar itself many of them are starting to show serious signs of aging. Some are definitely approaching 50 years of age. A select few are much younger and more attractive. The atmosphere depends on the people inside. Most nights the bar draws a good crowd with lots of foreign customers. The service from the waitstaff is average at best but the drink prices are the lowest on the strip. An ever present odor combines with the presence of roaches to show that this isn’t the place to take your boss for a business dinner. The best thing about the bar is that the music is played at a reasonable level so that conversations can actually be had, at least until the live band takes the stage and does its best to rock out.
My Bar used to be lively at times but at this point it’s a wonder the place remains open at all. The last time I poked my head inside there was nothing but a single male bartender and a bunch of mosquitoes to greet me.
D’s Place is without a doubt the liveliest bar on the block. It’s longer than it may appear at first glance stretching well into the back space. Even with a large bar, plenty of seating on the floor and a row of booths on the right side, the place still manages to fill up fast and get crowded enough that just moving around can take some doing. There is a small stage with poles where a team of women in their 20’s take turns dancing all night long. They aren’t nearly as hot as the dancers at Malioboro and they don’t normally get nude either but they are definitely among the best looking women on Jalan Palatehan. The dancers do get into the dancing which is a nice change from the boring two step seen at a lot of Thai go go bars nowadays but once the women are off stage many quickly light up cigarettes and lose their smiles. Some freelancers roam around on the floor with a few being probably 60 years old or more. At least the oldest of the old only try to push shoulder massages though it’s still a little sad. A VIP room in back is available for guys willing to pay to have some of the dancers join them for a bit of fun. It’s also possible to take some gals away for a jaunt.
Most other bars on the street are no longer worth visiting for anything more than a regular drink, but even that can be had at an endless supply of nicer places in other parts of the city.
Freelancers in the bars of Blok M will ask for wildly different amounts of money depending on any number of factors. Only they could tell you how they come up with their quoted prices. I can’t even give an average rate for the area since it seems to vary so much. I’ve heard of anything from 300,000 ($26 US) to 1,200,000 ($103) Rupiah for an overnight session with the lowest prices requiring negotiation for anyone who isn’t a regular that the gals already know. The dancing gals at D’s ask for 1.5 million to head out and less to stay inside though room fees are extra.
The most interesting venue in the area these days is probably Maribaya massage on the 6th floor of the Hotel Melawai where a host of women wait for customers looking for full service fun. The rate is 600,000 Rupiah ($52 US). Two service providers for each punter is not considered out of the norm. It’s not the cleanest place in the world but it’s an easy to navigate set up and the women are on average as good or better looking than the freelancers in places like Top Gun. Maribaya opens at around noon while the bars don’t get hopping until at least 9 PM.
Jalan Palatehan isn’t nearly as bad as streets like P Burgos in Manila when it comes to scammers and street vendors selling fake Viagra. Nowadays a punter can roll back and forth between bars all night without seeing more than five or six beggars or sellers in total. On some nights they might not see any.
The only aspect of the “street scene” really worth mentioning are the local guys who put a tax on the taxis that pass through. Whether they are parked or slowly driving through they apparently have to hand over some money which in turn inspires them to ask for high set fares from punters rather than turning on the meter. Many people seem not to care about the extra charge but those who want to get around it can walk a few meters to the main road and flag down a cab of their own.