Jakarta has its fair share of five-star hotels. I can’t be bothered to do a Google search to find out how many there are, suffice to say that all the major hotel names are here: Hyatt, Hilton, Shangri-La, Marriot, Meridian etc. Blimey, even the ultra plush Ritz-Carlton has recently entered the fray, offering its guests:
an oasis of pampering and prestige, with accommodations offering floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city and luxury amenities such as fine linens, designer bath essentials and a 42-inch plasma screen television to enhance each stay.
Such extravagance doesn’t come cheap of course: room rates at the Ritz-Carlton start at US$158/night or about three times Jakarta’s monthly minimum wage! But you’d be wrong to think that most of the hotel guests are wealthy tourists or foreign businessmen: many of them are actually locals. Where they get the money from is anyone’s guess.
Anyway, at the weekends these hotels are very busy indeed because this is when they rent out their ballrooms to Jakarta’s elite for lavish wedding parties.
On Saturday, I got to go to one.
The ballroom was huge – they could have got a full size football pitch in there. Fancy chandeliers hung from the high ceiling. Even a bloody great video screen had been set up so you could see close-ups of the just married couple! Not that most guests could give a toss of course – they had just come along for the grub.
And there was a lot of it. Tons of it. Enough to feed more than 3,000 people according to the guy who had invited us, this evening’s Master of Ceremonies (MC).
I got stuck in straight away. A plate of excellent sushi, then some succulent Peking duck followed by some medium-done imported rib-eye American steak, all washed down with two glasses of coke (no Bintang mind you).
A bit of a break to let it go down.
Then another helping of sushi (I simply had to have more of that salmon - it literally melted in my mouth) and some Chinese noodles, followed by a fresh green salad with Italian dressings.
Blimey I was full - but not yet finished.
A bowl of Neapolitan ice cream covered with sliced almonds, strawberries, grapes and a rich chocolate sauce. Finally a bowl of traditional Indonesian fruits and a few more glasses of coke.
Stuffed. Totally. What creased us up then was our young servant asking where she could find a bowl of siomay. With all this fancy nosh laid on and she wants to eat siomay, one of Indonesia’s least expensive dishes! Hahaha! And if you’re wondering why she came, well someone’s got to look after our kid while we make gluttons of ourselves, haven’t they?
Somehow I manage to stagger back to the car. Lucky I’m not driving.
Arriving home, I switch on the box. But I begin to wish I hadn’t eaten quite so much as disturbing images of malnourished kids in Lombok are being beamed into my home, their stomachs blown up like balloons and their arms thin as matchsticks. I’m not feeling so good now. In fact I want to puke. I switch the TV off and go to the bathroom.
Now what is going on here? This is Indonesia for heaven’s sake. Java is so bloody fertile that in some regions the farmers can even get three rice harvests a year! Everything grows here. Now starvation in a place like Somalia where only 1.67% of the land is arable is understandable. But in Indonesia? Never.
Maybe I should just shut up - at least that would stop me from eating. The diet starts Monday!