Sometimes because of the difficulty in communicating or due to what may be cultural misunderstanding, you have to go with the flow just to see where you end up. That was the case last night, when I received a phone call from Putra, a former chef at Goodies Restaurant.
Putra and I have kept track through Facebook since my departure from Smiling Hill but getting a phone call from him was unusual. Actually, he had contacted me a week or so ago and asked for my phone number. Then he called me Saturday afternoon and said his boss wanted to get together at 6 pm that day and he would call to confirm. He never did.
Putra is a well-grounded individual, married with two kids, and has been seeking other opportunities besides cooking. I figured he was contacting me to get some free publicity on my BatamExpat.com site but he wouldn’t give me any details about why a meeting was sought.
Tuesday he called again after 6 pm, asking if I could meet with him and his boss, a Norwegian who I had some recent contact with. It was 6:30 and he wanted to meet at 8 pm. He would even pick me up. Why not, I thought. Nothing much else to do.
Putra picked me up at 8 and we shared some small talk on the way to the L Hotel, which he said one of his bosses (not the Norwegian) was renovating. The hotel was certainly undergoing renovation, construction work of various stages everywhere.
By this time I still didn’t know what was going on but I followed Putra thrpigh parts of the hotel as he told me where the 4,000-square-meter bar/disco would be, where the cozy pub would be, where the massage rooms would be, where the escort ladies would stay (“We want them to live here so we can control them better.”). The hotel would only have 64 rooms, he said, because that is not really our main focus. Interesting. A hotel whose main focus was not on selling rooms.
Finally, after negotiating the construction-laden floors and hallways, we made it to the master suite on the top floor. “This is the owner’s suite,” Putra explained, “but if someone wants to hold a party this is where it would be.”
We proceeded to the balcony, where three Indonesians were sitting. Beyond them was a great view of Nagoya, with the huge Windsor food court just below.
I was introduced but, of course, didn’t get the names, so made sure we exchanged cards. The three men were sitting at a long table, with one at the head of the table. He turned out to be the boss who was renovating the hotel, and the president director of another company. During the evening, he was constantly cared for by a young woman, not attractive but very subservient. When his water glass, or later his Scotch, was empty, she dutifully filled it up without being asked. She was at his beck and call all evening.
A second man was introduced as a consultant who was going to be promoted to marketing. He seemed very interested in everything I had to say during the evening.
We spent long minutes without conversation as I continued to wonder, and occasionally ask, what was going on. I was thirsty and hungry but figured I’d get whatever it was they wanted done done and go on my way. There was some discussion about my website, and about the hotel as the night wore on.
Eventually, the Norwegian also showed up. It became obvious he had a working relationship with the others.
Orders were given to the boss’ staff members, who disappeared on whatever errand they were assigned. I had no idea. Finally, I was told they were bringing drinks, which turned out to be top-tier scotch and cans of green tea. Now, I don’t like scotch and the thought of mixing anything alcoholic with green tea has never entered my mind, but when in Rome.
Glasses of scotch were poured for everyone and the green tea distributed. The boss downed his scotch, about 2 ounces, as a shooter. I sipped mine and tentatively washed it down with tea. The boss began to loosen up. He was preoccupied all evening with a small notepad, much like a 16-year-old would be.
At some point, I casually mentioned I still needed to get some dinner, as much an effort to get out of there as needing food, although it was past 9 and past my dinner time. That seemed to motivate them even more and the boss’ assistant took orders for food all around. I asked for nasi padung ayam (chicken and rice). When the food was delivered 30 minutes later, all the meals were beef rendeng and rice, which is very spicy. There were also two pieces of chicken for me. Everyone seemed famished.
During all this time waiting for drinks and food, I was given an overview by Putra about the “hotel” and also about another project the boss had in mind. During these conversations, Putra acted as translator for the boss, who spoke some English, probably more than he let on.
The hotel, it turns out, can probably better be described as an upscale brothel. They planned to market it primarily to Singaporeans, who would buy weekend package deals that included a female escort, massages, tours, dancing and drinking at the disco – an all-in-one, stay-the-whole-time-in-the-hotel experience. “Do your guests get to select their female escort?” I asked. A long-winded answer came in reply, but basically, yes. The package price was $500.
The other project involves an island near Batam that the boss wants to buy and put up a small resort, probably for another “man’s experience.” There was some talk about having a barbecue on the island soon to look it over. I think I was invited, with my girlfriend, who I had to find a picture of online to show them.
During all this, my help in promoting their ventures was discussed. I agreed to write something up if they provided the details of the hotel opening and the island activity. Then a third project was brought up.
Apparently, the boss, with the Norwegian’s help, had purchased property on the water in the industrial sector of Tanjung Uncang. This area has huge plots of flat land occupied by shipbuilding and oil and gas companies. Big manufacturing/fabrication operations. Their plot is being extended into the water, at the expense of mangroves. I guess with 18,000 islands, Indonesia has enough mangroves that a few more dead ones won’t matter, although it won’t be long before Batam is completely without any mangrove barriers.
They are trying to market the property to companies wanting to set up an operation on Batam, or expand their current presence on the island. Maybe your website could help, they asked. I have no idea.
As the scotch continued to flow, the conversation became more lively and my hosts started asking my opinion about their endeavors, which I gave freely. Would the small pub/bar appeal to other bules on the island? Probably not, as it’s in an isolated, residential area requiring a taxi ride. Would expats pay $500 for the package deal? Probably not, because they can get all that for less, although maybe not all in the same place. Do you know anyone who would be interested in building on the waterfront property? No.
Would expats come to the disco? Probably not, unless there were lots of pretty, available women there.
I could go on but why? We finally were finished about 11 and Putra drove me home. I await their next step. Very strange meeting.