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Kemang: From Clay Pots to Hotspots

The first thing that comes to mind when people hear the name 'Kemang' is a neighbourhood heavily domiciled by westerners - also well-known as the 'kampung bule' which can be freely translated as 'the white's village'. The second thing is the rows of antique/furniture shops with a touch of western influence. Not as absurd as a batik wall hanging with a Rolling Stones' symbol in the corner, but there are shops that sell local stuff the so-called modern Indonesian would think twice about before buy. Huge Lombok pots for example; they look great in the front yard of a mansion surrounded by lush green stringy bamboo plants, but people who live in this country long enough understand the impracticality of the idea. With high humidity, the heat and plenty of rain, those pots will likely become home sweet home for buzzing mosquitoes. Doesn't that make you wonder why one particular café gallery on Kemang Selatan has decorated their front garden with dozens of those clay pots. A bid to attract western customers perhaps? Some people think those oversized pots are of greater use when they are turned up side down.

The easiest way to go to Kemang from the centre of the city is to take Senopati, which runs south off the Pizza man statue and becomes Prapanca as it enters the Blok M area. Continue with the Ambhara Hotel on your left and Pasaraya on your right hand side. At the third set of traffic lights you'll see a huge Bintang beer's logo (if it's not covered by large blue plastic sheet), with directions and signs to all restaurants in Kemang area. Turning left here will bring you down towards Kem Chicks and into Kemang.

During weekdays, Kemang streets are always packed with assorted traffic, orange bugs or bajaj, buses and motorcycles in various stages of disrepair manoeuvre with distinct precision through the narrow spaces around and between the cars. The peak hours usually last from 7 to 9 a.m. when people are on their way to schools and offices. It expands during lunchtime and at the end of school, which is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. And from 4 to 7 p.m. when people are on their way home from work or simply searching for the right place to have dinner - so it's basically busy all day long. If you're lucky, you'll witness how some people can become so creative and helpful in this situation. At Mc Donald's crossroad sometimes there are cigarette sellers or even drivers who are waiting for their bosses to finish their Big Mac who jump into the middle of the traffic and start directing it. They do it sincerely with all their heart under the hot sun and expect only Rp. 100 per car in return. It is common knowledge that some Indonesians are natural traffic cops.

During weekends and holidays, Kemang streets are almost deserted. Probably because a lot of the residents spend their days off on remote paradise islands somewhere or simply dream of them in a heavy slumber after a week of hard work, putting up with their daily tropical distress. This is the time to drive your Jag, 1960 Mercy or your big Harley out of the garage. That's right folks - the quiet street also means a green light to parade around in the precious vehicle that not even your drivers dare to touch - have a cruise around! It can be a relaxing drive and you can stop by at a café near by to get a hot cup of cafe latte... minimum pollution guaranteed.

Beside its antique shops with their clay pots, Kemang is also famous for its 'all in one' location. You can find almost everything you need for domestic bliss - how unique. Two supermarkets, Kem Chicks and Hero, have served the community for quite a while. Kem Chicks, which is run by the Sadino family, provides distinctive local and imported fresh food, jewellery, movies and basically all household needs at one stop. Down the road, you'll find a selection of interior design shops, exclusive designer furniture with competitive prices at Domain or Moie, which are two that stand out amongst the many. There are three pet-shops, two on Kemang Raya and one on Kemang I, where you can buy anything from imported low calorie dog biscuits to furry chipmunks and hamsters. Other interesting places to visit are the designer boutiques (HL and Co., 9 Months), Hair and Beauty Saloons (the Green Door, Talents, Cozy, Mil and Mat, Masle Barber Shop), VCD rentals as well as Photographic and Painting Galleries. Last but not the least - quoted as among the best in town - are a selection of Kemang restaurants.

Amigos - Feel like a girls' night out this weekend but have nowhere to go? Book a place and order El Grande Margaritas to be ready on your table when you and your friends arrive. With their consistently tasty specialities of Fajitas, Tacos, Enchiladas, Burritos and other Tex-Mex food, you won't be disappointed. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. with live country and western bands most nights and Boco-boco line dancing in which the customers are enticed to participate. The singers are usually pretty good, though sometimes they invite guests to perform on stage - the blonde college student with his mother singing 'It's My Life' originally sung by John Bon Jovi can force you to gulp more tequilas. Amigos also have delivery, party and catering services, which can be quite handy if you don't feel like going out.

Toscana - A restaurant with a tasteful design - high wooden ceiling - though seating arrangements can be a little cramped. The place is usually full during dinnertime, packed by people who long for decent pastas. They serve traditional Italian food specialised in regional cuisine, like Salata di Patate Piovra (boiled potatoes and octopus), Carpaccio di Filette Grana & Sedano (thin slice of tenderloin with Italian dressing) and Penne Alla Casereccia (beef sausage, green peas, mushroom and tomato sauce). Their wood-fired pizza and desserts are 'to die for'.

Warna Pernique Resto Gallery - A long name that explains everything; a restaurant and a gallery in one. Interesting ambience with a mix between Mediterranean and classic Javanese design, with gazebos at the back yard. They serve more than 30 noodle items. Their appetisers (beef veggie rolls, shrimp balls), soups (standard mushroom soup, tom yam gong) and their main courses (penne pasta with cream mushroom, fettucine salmon, black pepper steak), most of them are literally surrounded by stringy rice noodles. To reach the restaurant area customers pass through their furniture gallery. What a splendid idea since you are not rushed into buying any particular piece from the collection. Instead, you have time to chew the idea over while you enjoy your food and probably change your mind anyway in the end.

The white's village appears to be expanding and developing further. This is indeed a positive sign for the future, definitely for the residents, visitors and the government hopefully also for prospective employees. As long as the next development is not another nachos restaurant disguised under the name of 'Indonesia's traditional restaurant'.