Dear Me,

Remember this? I know you do.

Hold on, let me switch on the lights.

This is the sort of thing people like you dream about. Look at these slices of beef rib. There’s 1.2 kg of meat right there on that plate. Perfectly charred. Succulent. Melt-in-the-mouth.  And the sides! Oh sweet heavens the sides. Garlic parsley cottage fries, shimeji mushrooms, tomato prôvençale, béarnaise AND cabernet sauce, and green salad with walnut dressing. The salad was just for show, something to gently draw across the carpet of meat in the diners’ stomachs.

And remember the soufflé?

You barely had time to take a snap before your friends set upon it like a horde of hungry jackals. Quite some feat, considering they’d just eaten a whole cow. Yeah, “happy birthday”, you, now get out of the way before I spoon you in the face. You did manage to get your hands on some of the pistachio parfait and pistachio sauce, for which I congratulate you, my little friend, for they were truly sublime with the hot chocolate cloud that was the soufflé.

Have I refreshed your memory? Are things starting to come back to you now? The fogs of time are lifting? Oh good. I’m glad I could be of help.

Now let me ask you this, lady. What kind of a moron goes all the way to Bali for her birthday, and hardly eats a bite? You, that’s who, you idiot. I saw you, picking away at your little foie gras terrine like it was going to slap you in the face. “I don’t feel so well”, you whined. “Uuuggggh my stomach is upset”. Loser.

I hope you’re happy with yourself. Now we have to leave Asia without knowing what Métis’ Côte de Boeuf tastes like. Yeah, that dish that was so good that your friends went back the following night. Thanks a freaking lot, dimwit. Last time I take you anywhere.





Opening hours: Lunch from 11 am, dinner from 5pm

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Over the past year I’ve been to Jakarta no less than 11 times. I’ve never quite gotten used to the immensity and drabness of the place, with its senseless traffic, oppressive malls and heart-breaking poverty. The city stretches out for miles, as large and populous as London, but with none of the open spaces, pretty shops or vivacious life that dazzles and energises. It’s hard to breathe, and the skies are that certain shade of polluted grey that fill you with weariness and gloom.

So if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to spend more than a week in this dismal capital, make sure you head to Pulau Macan for the weekend. There are many other islands to visit in the Pulau Seribu, the thousand islands off the coast of Jakarta, but the infrastucture is poorly developed and ageing, and I’ve heard horror stories and reports of badly cared for, dirty beaches.

The journey starts early on a Saturday morning at Marina Ancol, where the fetid, stinking water fills the traveller with apprehension, and mild regret for that early breakfast. Over the course of the two hour speedboat ride the water turns slowly from grey to blue, dotted here and there with little islands, a mosque peeking from behind low red roofs, jettys jutting out invitingly.

Pulau Macan, the Tiger Island, is a tiny lump of land surrounded by shallow, crystal clear turquoise waters. It’s been developed as an eco-resort, with a dozen huts and cottages scattered about the island, and shared but attractive toilets and showers. It’s all reclaimed wood, solar energy, rain water collection and locally sourced food and staff.

I felt the knots of anxiety and dread loosen as soon as I stepped into my driftwood hut, an open wooden platform set right by the edge of the water. There was a simple and comfortable bed swathed in soft cotton and a mosquito net, a pretty paper lamp, bamboo shades on three sides, and that gentle lapping water beyond a small private terrace. A few steps took me directly into the waters, where the recovering reef is full of life. I spent hours snorkelling, though you have to watch for jelly fish and urchins in certain areas, and particularly territorial (though harmless) fish near the main stairs into the water.  Those bastards will head butt you in the leg the first chance they get. I can still recall the strange, alien shapes of the urchins swaying in the currents, with brightly lit blue and orange spots on their bodies. It was peaceful and soothing and I let my mind drift, and rest.

There’s not much else to do on the island. You can paddle or row across to the even smaller island a stone’s throw away, with a beautiful cove of white sand and turquoise water, or rest in one of the hammocs or sofas in the communal area. The hearty and satisfying meals are taken communally from a mostly vegetarian buffet, with snacks available throughout the day. Peanut butter and jelly on hot toast was perfect after a long swim.

It’s all very friendly, relaxed and low key, and perhaps my favourite getaway so far in South East Asia. It’s out of the way for most travellers, so you’re only likely to find locals and expats there. Conversations are hushed and gentle, and if you would rather keep to yourself no one will mind. At night I woke up and walked to the edge of the platform. Everything – the water, the dark shadows of the trees, my skin – felt alive and whole. My eyes filled with the startling silver light of the moon, and I breathed freely, tasting the quiet of the night.

Is it worth the $200 per person (including the speed boat) for a week end? It never even mattered.

Where: Pulau Macan, a 2 hour speed boat ride from Jakarta’s Marina Ancol

Website: http://www.pulaumacan

Tips: Book a couple of weeks ahead, it quickly fills up at the week end. No need to bring snorkelling gear or water shoes, they are provided.