House-hunting means differently for people as I discovered last weekend in my search, together with friends, my boss and other people for a new house to move in. We, the tres amigos, have to vacate our flats because construction of a new building in front of our flats was to commence. In fact, it had already begun much to our annoyance as the raucous of the workers and clouds of dust disturbed our serene repose and relaxation particularly on the weekends. We defined a house as a wonderful place to return to relax and cast off the accumulated stress of the day. It’s not a dormitory room, a make-shift flat or a house that resembles a prison cell, which was how one of our companions viewed it. For him, it was just a matter of finding a place to move us no matter how shabby or unsafe the place was. He didn’t think much of us and saw us as an aberration to be dealt with fast. Worst, he didn’t even ask us for our opinion about the place. Aside: That’s one person off my list of favorite people.
Ignoring the troglodyte, we proceeded with our merry but tiring house-hunting in and out of Bekasi. A property agent could have done the legwork, but we opted to make use of familial connections – friends of my boss were more than eager to lend a helping hand in looking for houses with disewarkan (for rent) signs hanging on the gates. Her mobile phone was ringing off the hook all day with calls about houses for rent.
High-rise buildings like HDB units, private condominiums or maisonettes are not very common in Bekasi unlike in Singapore, but private condominiums are ubiquitous in central Jakarta. Residences in Kalimalang, I noticed, were either bungalows or two-storey mansion-like houses. The latter, I found, was a better option because of the high ceiling that eliminates the gloomy feel permeating most of the bungalows we visited. The low ceilings made the bungalows look like burrows only rabbits would find delightful to live in. However, I realized that some of the two-storey mansion-like houses were not what they seemed. Walk through the door and you’ll face a hotel-like set-up. Instead of a house, the very entrepreneurial owners have partitioned the area into a corridor of rooms like in a hotel, and fitted with communal areas like the kitchen and living room. The upside: you’re within a residential area where security isn’t a problem because non-residents have to check in at the guard house before entering the compound.
Another housing development that’s seemingly unique to Indonesia is the dormitories sprouting all over the place with a hint of a pseudo hotel ambience to cater to the influx of expatriate professionals and students looking for semi-temporary domiciles. Aside: I’d rather stay in a hotel because there are the added touches of room-service. house-keeping and private bathroom.
After navigating through the circuitous routes in and out of Bekasi, we finally settled on a bungalow with a high ceiling and a quaint garden within Permata Lingkar, which is near our workplace and the highway, making it easier to get to town and the airport. Our soon-to-be-new-residence is a 10-minute walk from the security post. Parallel to the residential area is the hyper mart Giant and the convenience store Indomaret (the local version of 7-11). Further down the road, turning left from the guard house, is the place to get the caloric manis martabak (sweet Indonesian pancake) that’s oozing with chocolate and cheese. A few more steps and we’d have reached Saribungo, a local restaurant that’s always packed with diners in the evening. The first and last time I found myself there I was met by the waiter who, much to my surprise, announced that they didn’t have rice anymore. Aside: I wonder if they’ve solved their rice shortage (not that I eat rice but my friends do).
My house-hunting has been happily resolved. Now, it’s just the problem of having to deal with the chore that I truly detest – packing and its twin.