Southeast Asia's new nightlife capital -- Jakarta?

Fri Dec 5, 2008 4:56am EST
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By Ed Davies

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - The chaotic capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation is rarely associated with glitzy nightlife, but new venues in Indonesia's Jakarta may soon see it challenging more cosmopolitan centers in the region.

The city of about 10 million, or many more if thousands of unregistered poor flocking in from rural provinces are included, has just become the first city in Southeast Asia to host a Buddha Bar, the hip Paris-based franchise of restaurant/lounges.

The region's biggest economy has enjoyed a period of sustained growth in the last few years and better stability after the financial crisis and political turmoil of the late 1990s.

"Jakarta is a growing city in a growing country. So we think the market is now sufficient," said Jean Baptiste Giradet, marketing manager of Buddha Bar, which is housed in a restored Dutch-era mansion and former immigration building in the leafy Menteng area of the city.

The Indonesian capital, usually more associated with loud hotel bars, thumping nightclubs or karaoke joints, joins the likes of London, New York and Dubai in hosting a Buddha Bar.

While neighbors such as Thailand have suffered a deepening political crisis in the last three years, Indonesia's young democracy has surprised many by its resilience, and the economy has also benefited from a period of booming commodity prices.

New wine bars and bistros such as Cork & Screw, Loewy and Birdcage have also sprung up to serve a growing middle class and expatriates. Wine appreciation classes are also popular.

Harvey Nichols, the luxury U.K.-based retailer, opened its debut store in the Indonesian capital in October with a floor housing a trendy restaurant, bar and wine shop.   Continued...

<p>People enjoy their dinner at Buddha Bar Restaurant in Jakarta December 4, 2008. REUTERS/Beawiharta</p>