Ross fears that Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta is going to suffer re-development.
Last month I had a chat with an expat on Jalan Jaksa who told me he'd seen plans to develop the famous little street, including a huge hypermarket on its corner with Jalan Wahid Hasyim.
I should state at this point that the talk occurred during my once-a-week afternoon visit, when - contrary to wishful thinking among hostiles - I have three or four beers and head for home before nightfall. So it was a clear-headed chat, not one of those rambling discourses that ensue as the night rolls towards chucking-out time.
Has anyone else heard of this proposed development?
It would change the character of Jaksa, which is one of the few places in town where non-rich bules can enjoy a beer at a reasonable price. A Carrefour-type emporium would have a knock-on effect, bring in glossy catering outlets and quite possibly squeeze the little cafes out of business. Even now, there is a quite posh hotel under construction at the far end. Doesn't Jakarta have enough such plush institutions- let's leave Jaksa for the back-packing kids to save their pennies at.
I have to admit a certain fondness for the street. On my first night in Jakarta, quite a number of years ago, I was dropped there by a taxi-driver to whom I'd managed to communicate my need for cheap accommodation. As I was about to enter the Hotel Jhody, - a snip at Rp 40,000 per night - a small man rushed up and warned me not to waste my money.
"My place very good, only Rp 20,000, free coffee in the morning!"
Too weary from a twenty-hour plus flight to argue, I accepted this gracious offer, and ultimately found myself in a room with a grotty mattress on the floor, a broken window and a fan whose power was waning even as I switched it on. I also of course had to figure out how to use a kamar mandi (Indonesian bathroom). Not a great start, nor did the free coffee materialise the next day!
However, I followed my nose and discovered the Hotel Tator, not five-star (Rp 45,000 per night) but clean, and a real bed, and honest, helpful staff. Although too timid to venture far, Jaksa became my home for just over three weeks, till I got more permanent accommodation.
During those twenty four days, I didn't have a TV in my room, but hardly needed it. The pavements beyond the Tator, and the establishments which crowded along them, afforded me not only visual entertainment but also useful insights into what lay in store for a "new kid on the block".
Thus, while aware that time does not stand still, with new joints opening up and others undergoing regular re-incarnations in new guises, I'd be sad to see Jalan Jaksa transformed into a glitzy, upmarket shopping centre.
It has been said, by back-packers passing through, that the milieu there evokes images of Mel Gibson's movie, "The Year of Living Dangerously". I'm not sure if that is an accurate impression, for I was elsewhere in 1965, but Jaksa IS different. Can an "atmospheric preservation order" be enacted as one of SBY's lasting legacies?