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The Stadium

One of the most controversial places in Jakarta is the Stadium - a nightclub with a difference. It makes even the most jaded clubbers in Jakarta want to return there and attracts the attention of the city government and many religious leaders in Jakarta.

To die-hard clubbers it feels like an anything goes place, with a sixties type party atmosphere brought up to date for the 21st century. A place you do not have to leave on the weekend, because it opens on Friday nights and does not really stop going until Monday morning.

The club can be easily found; throughout the night there is always a mini traffic jam near it and it’s castle-like facade with a statue of a knight is impossible to ignore. Neither are the small army of hawkers, beggars, and preman that hang around keeping a respectable distance from the entrance.

Inside it is quite luxurious with three levels of separate discos, each usually with a DJ playing Techno music. Beside each disco, there are a row of luxurious rooms you can rent by the day or the hour. There is also a ground floor café/restaurant, which never closes, with big screen televisions, cozy coves, and couches.

Yet the Stadium is not an ‘All you need is love place’. Rather an all you need is money place, much more tuned to the 21st century. All you need is a few hundred dollars and you could enter the Stadium on Friday evening, party all weekend, and leave on Monday morning.

Most of the customers are Indonesian and not all are young. Although some westerners do party there, the Stadium is still very Indonesian. The most popular drink served is water, as many Indonesians prefer not to drink alcohol because of religious reasons. Instead, many take designer drugs like ecstasy and that is what made the Stadium controversial.

During Indonesia’s boom years, wealth came quickly to many Indonesian families and their children, like young westerners, sought entertainment. That’s when the clubbing scene really boomed, when Jakarta seemed awash with money and a pleasure seeking generation spent that money in clubs like the Stadium.

This wealthier generation did not really drink alcohol, but when E, the natural partner of techno entered Indonesia, the clubbing scene became a drug scene. The Indonesian government, after getting through the financial crisis in the late 90s, and a rough changeover to democracy, then had time to turn their attention to a serious drug problem.

So a war on drugs started and even the hedonistic playgrounds of the wealthy started getting raided. The Stadium was a favorite target. Although the management did not deal in drugs, it attracted people who did and had the customers who wanted them. So the Stadium was regularly raided.

There were now thousands of addicted Indonesians hooked on often dangerously concocted, homemade designer drugs, who curse the first day they entered clubs like the Stadium. Many ended up in jail, including many prominent Indonesian movie stars.

Then there is another addictive side to the hedonistic party culture in clubs like the Stadium. Partying in Indonesia has never been forbidden, but you need money to party. So thousands of poorer party girls addicted to this scene often ended up becoming paid companions in the rooms beyond the dance floors.

Many people blame places like the Stadium for ruining a generation of Indonesians. Yet, on any weekend morning, a mini traffic jam still is outside the area around the Stadium, and the crowds still flock to one of the citiy's most infamous clubs, even after stores start opening and the city wakes up to another Monday morning.

by Mark W Medley

Copyright © 2008, Mark W Medley, City of Dreams: An extraordinary journey, inside the heart of Indonesia's capital - Jakarta