The big South African wielded the long-putter he is phasing out to sink five birdies, against one "silly" bogey, to lie two shots behind Australia's Scott Hend and Korea's Hwang Inn-choon at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.
"I've got to be satisfied with that. Obviously you would like to say it could have been better but I played nicely," said Els who finished 14th at the Chiangmai Golf Classic in March.
"I made a silly mistake on the third hole which was a short par-four. I played with a nice group of guys who played good as well.
"I like playing out here in Asia and the golf courses are nice. I need to get more rounds under my belt and I feel that I'm starting to get better," said Els, who took a share of the 15th place in the PGA Tour New Orleans Classic on Sunday.
Hend looked in his element playing in the country where he won his first Asian Tour title in 2008 and the big-hitting Australian traded six birdies and an eagle against one double bogey.
"I'm in a good position. The scores are going to be low this week so I've got to keep grinding those numbers and add that into a good score," said the three-times Asian Tour winner.
Korean Hwang used his new putter to birdie four of his closing five holes and Bernd Wiesberger of Austria fired 67 climb to third.