CROSSING THE LINE

An unseen demarcation line separates Bekasi and Jakarta. How I imagine it to be is this: two big squares juxtaposed to one another and the moment you reach the edge, or the line, of Square A (read: Jakarta) you enter Square B or Bekasi, the suburban counterpart that’s caught between modernity and the rhythm of bucolic living, and vice versa. As I wrote in my earlier posts, Bekasi’s pacing is much slower yet it’s not retrogressive. It’s moving forward at its own pace; mo one’s pushing it and it’s not allowing itself to be pushed. It has its own malls and restaurants, the ubiquitous amenities of modern-day living, which are of a different standard but suits the needs and tastes of the local residents. Or another way to put it: imported items found in Jakarta are matched by local products in Bekasi in which the latter enjoy more prominence in the supermarket shelves than the former. If one desired imported products – ranging from the lovely yellow lemons, boxes of couscous and chamomile tea, and bags of sweet potatoes – one has to cross the line to Jakarta. The travel time from Bekasi to Jakarta is below an hour on normal road conditions. Expect it to crawl at a snail’s pace when the infamous Indonesian traffic jam gets underway. Your driver better be a patient one and you should be armed with a book or your iPod.

My friend Alex and I wanted to de-stress after a week of teaching, marking papers and explaining to parents why their children’s marks were slipping so we headed to Plaza Senayan where we noted the stark differences between the two squares.

Plaza Senayan is a veritable catwalk. The women were dressed to the nines! To think that they were just strolling around the mall, window shopping, movie watching or eating out. Signature bags – Prada, Louis Vuitton, Birkin and Chanel – whizzed past by me, shouldered or hand-held. The fashion of the day was skinny jeans, stilettos and a simple top. Make up was light and the hair was tied up or let down. I found myself gawking at this young woman, her arm looped through her boyfriend’s, because she had the attitude to match her outfit of black top and leggings, light brown jacket and brown stilettos, and a Birkin bag swinging from her hand. She walked sans that haughty mien but an aura exuding confidence in her style and herself. She was the only one I saw who made a fashion statement with aplomb unlike this other woman – particularly this woman – who should have been handcuffed by the fashion police. Her get up: black mini skirt, grey tights, orange pumps with gold piping and an aquamarine bag (I forget the brand). Not exactly to my liking, but it could have been pulled off if she wasn’t slouching and her walk didn’t hint at pain every time she took a step.

Bekasi’s fashion is more laidback. It’s not so much about making a fashion statement in public than being comfortable in what they’re wearing in public so stilettos are nowhere to seen compared to flat shoes, sneakers, flip-flops, t-shirts and jeans.

The differences in food choices were also very noticeable. Alex and I were like children let loose in a candy store! The Food Hall is complete, which means I can buy my boxes of couscous and chamomile tea and yellow lemons while Alex can buy his favorite peeled pomelo, sweet potato, cream soups etc easily unlike in Bekasi’s supermarkets. The choices are, obviously, varied. Besides that, Plaza Senayan has food outlets that are not found in Bekasi viz. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at the basement and Cold Stone Creamery on level 4. But Bekasi is not that isolated – it has Starbucks (no Coffeebean & TeaLeaf though) and J Co Donuts. Krispy Kreme die-hards can look to J Co Donuts for donut comfort when they’re unable to get to Jakarta. Sorry to say, Bread Talk is the only choice for delectable bread and pastries in Bekasi.

Square A wins hands down with the choices for dining outlets. Our choices for dinner were Marché for hot-off-the pan rosti on level 5 or Sushi Tei for awesome sushi rolls and sashimi on level 3.  Sushi Tei won. Hoka Hoka Bento, a bad imitation of Japanese bento meals, is the best one can do for Japanese cuisine in Bekasi, which isn’t saying much. At Sushi Tei, Alex and I tucked into a heavenly repast of mango roll, soft shell crab maki, miso soup, chawanmushi and hotate teriyaki.

Marché will be our next dinner destination the next time we’re in Square A. In the meantime, it was time to cross the line and head back to almost-rural Square B.

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