Gay Cafe Batavia

7 SEP CI 679 HKG-CGK (survived, and video on demand, too), then overnight train from Jakarta’s Gambir Station to Yogyakarta’s Tugu Station

Writing from a 25,000 Rupiah (~USD2.50) hotel room in the middle of Sosro, Yogyakarta’s backpacker district, I see several wireless networks–but none open for me to connect.

In Jakarta for about a day, we took a brief rest between seeing the old harbor of Dutch Batavia, Sunda Kelapa, and Fatahillah Square, the heart of Jakarta’s Kota neighborhood, in the famous Cafe Batavia. According to the Rough Guide, this cafe located in a beautifully refurbished colonial building is the brainchild of an Australian businessman Graeme James. And beautiful indeed–supposedly named twice by Newsweek as having one of the world’s best bars.

Now, the guidebook does not confirm, nor could I find via Google, whether Mr. James is gay, but Cafe Batavia must be one of the gayest places we’ve ever seen! Of course, Cafe Batavia isn’t an openly gay venue. One would not expect such a prominent and opulent restaurant to be patently identified as or exclusively gay. Whatever problems of social or political acceptance there may be, there would also be the matter of having sufficient clientele. But the old Hollywood-type photos that cover the walls are either homoerotic (think just shy of Beefcake–male athletes, men in uniform, etc.) or feature divas/gay female icons. Entering the Cafe one sees a photo collage from some sort of costume/drag party held at the Cafe (several years ago). The coup de grace–the men’s bathroom. Not only is the concentration of homoerotica/camp particularly high (I recall seeing a picture of two men getting married, one in drag, as well as a half naked man curled up next to another on some sort of chaise), but in the place of individual urinals is a trough urinal. Has anyone heard of such a thing in a high end restaurant? Certainly Mr. James just has some sort of fetish for communal urination? I also note that the stalls are very generously proportioned and feature complete privacy (note to Mr. Craig).

Also seen in Jakarta: On our way to Kota in the evening, we passed stand and portable stand (estimate about 50-100 such stands) selling Viagra, Cialis and other ED drugs. Could someone please explain this to me?

5 thoughts on “Gay Cafe Batavia

  1. I remember the viagra pills as well from when i visited two years ago… i read somewhere afterwards that those are all (obviously) counterfeit.

  2. I had the exact same notion! If not mr James, then at least the architect-interior designer had this purpose in mind. Also, when I visited the restaurant around noon, there were a number of tables occupied by pretty obviously gay couples. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
    As a side note: I’ve lived here for a number of years, and the gay community is rather hard to miss. Social acceptance is not bad considering the fact Indonesia is a muslim country, but you can’t publicly admit being gay. Thus, there are many gay men married with children…

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