Jakarta, sometime in July 2005
It’s already 6:30 pm. All my colleagues went home between 5 and 5:30, but I am still busy. My hectic schedule, however, does not prevent me from daydreaming about a glass of nice and cold Belgian beer. The heat in Jakarta (despite of the air conditioning in my office) justifies my needs, I believe, so I decide to wrap things up and all it a day. Our company’s driver is busy with some errand, so I need a taxi to pick me up first. The call to the Blue Bird Taxi Company is quiet standard. I dial the number and instantly I hear a woman’s voice saying things I don’t understand. The words blue and bird however are highly recognizable, so I know I dialed the correct number. I say “Good evening, I like to order a taxi”. The female on the phone switches promptly to English and asks my telephone number. I give her the office number. This is not the first time that I order a taxi from them, so she immediately responds with: “Pick up at Jalan Tanjung Duren Selatan 2 number 5, mister?” The address is correct so I confirm this information. I also confirm that I am “mister Rudi” and tell her I would like the taxi as soon as possible. I than inform the security guards that I ordered a taxi, triggering one of them to take his position in front of the office, waiting for my cab (which isn’t due for at least another 15 minutes, if I’m lucky). Confident that I will be called as soon as the blue car arrives, I go back to my office and start reading the latest arrivals in my email inbox. After 15 minutes, I shut down my computer and go outside to join the security guard. A few minutes later, my taxi arrives.
The driver asks if I am “Pak Rudi”. I nod while I get in the taxi. “Selamat malam, Pak”, the driver says, and I reply with “Malam! Do you speak English?”. “Ya, little little, where to mister?” I want to go to BuGils Bar, at Taman Ria Senayan, and say so. The driver looks confused and utters “Bugil Bar, mister? I don’t know Bugil Bar at Taman Ria Senayan.” “It’s near TGI Fridays, just drop me there please. Do you know that place?” I respond. “Ya mister, I know mister!” The driver resets the counter to 4000 Rp and starts driving. He navigates us through the heavy Jakarta traffic, breaking the silence with an occasional “macet sekali, mister!” We avoid the toll road, because it is even more congested than the normal road. Strange that people want to pay to stand still on a highway.
After an hour of waiting, driving and avoiding hitting motorbikes, busses, other cars and pedestrians, the Senayan stadium appears in sight. We pass the Mulia hotel and the driver suddenly asks: “This Bar, mister, do you have to open the clothes when go in?” I am wondering why he asks this question and say: “No, why do you ask that?” “Mister, bugil in Indonesian is ‘not wearing clothes’, mister. So you go Bugil Bar with no clothes, ya?” “N0! BuGils is short for Bule Gila! I am not going naked in that bar!” The driver starts laughing hilariously. He stops the car near gates at TGI Fridays. I pay him, and give him a fairly high tip. The driver is still laughing as he says: “Thank you sir!” I thank him and say goodbye and while I shut the taxi door, I catch the drivers words “Bule gila!” while he gets another fit of laughter. He drives of, laughing and shaking his head.
Note: “Bule gila” is Indonesian for crazy westerner. BuGils Café was one of the well-known hangouts for expats in Jakarta, back in 2005. It was a combination of an old style Dutch pub, café and bar, including bargirls. Some famous Belgian beers where on their beverage list. The café had to close their doors in 2008.