Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 20 December 2013 • Abroad
It’s said that Indonesians looove to shop whenever and wherever they travel. Well, that’s nothing I, as an Indonesian, can deny. I might not shop as much as most of us would, but there has been no trip where I didn’t bring back any souvenir back home, even if it’s only a weekend trip.
Here are my favorite budget shopping places in the countries I’ve been in Asia.
Keyword: cheap. Seriously, this is a heaven for budget shoppers. The maze-like corridors of small kiosks offer countless kinds of goods, from pets to stationery, from fashion to fish cakes. You name it. I know that some fashion stores in Asian countries get their stuff from Catucak.
Getting there is easy peasy. Just follow down the Mo Chit route BTS, and walk a little bit.
Remember: it’s only open in the weekend, it’s easy to get lost in the maze, it’s semi open-aired so it’s not air conditioned, so make sure you’re wearing comfy clothes for a shopping spree in the heat.
It’s a cooled (I forgot how many storey) building located in Pratunam district, full of shops that sell mostly fashion stuff, and mostly for the ladies. We were mesmerized by their collection and very affordable price. A little over the Catucak prices, but still pretty cheap.
In 2012, I got a pair of shades that’s become my most favorite of all my shades, for only THB 300. That’s about $9 at the time. A lot of the shops here would only sell you their stuff in 2s, 3s, or more. There are floors dedicated for boys’ stuff and one for accessories as well. Oh, headache..!
I’ve been there twice and I’ve only taken a photo at the mall since I was busy shopping ;D
Out of our 2 nights stay in Chiang Rai, I think we visited the bazaar on both nights. We’d blame it on how little we had to do in the town aside to the Black House and White Temple in the outskirts, but we gotta be honest, it was the fashionable and – I must say it again – cheap clothes, accessories and souvenirs that really attracted us there. From ethnic to modern and posh styled outfits, they were selling, as well as handicrafts, quirky hats and souvenirs.
The food bazaar was a vast one but always crowded. I guess shopping takes a lot of energy, you need a lot of intake to balance it!
Thanks to a Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, Renny and I accidentally found this shopping area. My goal in Hong Kong was to pay a little visit to Chungking Mansion, where my favorite movie Chungking Express was based on, then to only make me feel uneasy with the staring eyes and shelves of porn magazines.
Soon enough, we found ourselves in narrow streets connected to each other, with soooo many fashion stores lining up left and right. The next thing we knew, we were in heaven, in Tsim Sha Tsui area, in the southern part of urban area Kowloon.
There were big malls with high-end branded items, like Hermes, Gucci, etc. But I never cared for that stuff, so I got busy in the small shops, finding clothes enough to be worn for the next whole year. Nike store was everywhere we looked, with different collections than the ones in Jakarta. We likey ;D
It was our second time in Hanoi, and we only find out then that this capital city of Vietnam actually had a weekend night market in the Old Quarter. Gleefully we strolled down the SIX blocks of stalls until I was so puffed at the end.
Since it was our last night before heading back to Jakarta, we shopped mostly for souvenirs at the bazaar. I bought some t-shirts and cut-out pop-up cards, while they sold a lot more kinds of goods that locals would use too; like mobile cases, home decorations and bags.
Food and drink stalls were also around. And the Dong Xuan market building was a lovely background for taking photos. If only our faces weren’t so oily.
This is where tourists go for souvenirs, local handicrafts, raw coffee and lacquer wares, for which Vietnam is famous for, among other things. It’s located in the District 1, quite central in the touristy area. The market isn’t only a comfortable shopping place (but still you gotta watch for pickpockets), it is also a very iconic building, you even see it on fridge magnets.
My personal best find in Ben Thanh Market: plums. Nothing special about the fruit there, except that I like plums so much but haven’t had enough of it since it’s quite pricey here in Indonesia.
Most of the stalls closed at 5 p.m. The night market starts to open right then, just outside the Benh Thanh market building. Our best find at the night market: prawns boiled in coconut water. Magnifico!
Yup, a night market again. I don’t know why night markets is such a popular concept in Asia, or maybe in the world. Is it like a second job of the sellers, or do they avoid being exposed to too much sun? No idea. All I know is that night markets are awesome for the goods diversity and to be able to make better decisions as I’m not being exposed to such heat. However, the one in Vientiane is one of the coolest night markets because it stretches along a part of the legendary Mekong River.
Having booked rooms at Intercity Hotel right across the night market meant we were doomed. We were doomed to shop so easily for tank tops and t-shirts (about $5-7 each), fridge magnets, hippie pants, and food. There were a lot more of it, though. Like the “bar tender” with neon-light table and a stall for children drawing.
All we wanted was just to go to downtown for a night stroll and dinner. But fate wanted us to shop! Our hotel’s shuttle car dropped us right at one end of the night market on Sisavangvong Road and that’s how we find out about the market. Oh well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Shop til we drop.
Hippie pants, skirts, baby shoes, bags, souvenirs, and so many more, were displayed in rows of stalls. This is the market where you’d want to eye local and traditional items, like the beautiful duvet covers. I think my sister would hug me bad like Elmira hugged the aminals (not a typo!) if I brought her one. But there was no way I was going to carry around a duvet cover for the rest of my trip, which we were still halfway to the end. So a pretty handbag with traditional embroidery would do 🙂
The stalls line up in front of shops, restaurants and hotels. It’s close for any vehicle. The sellers were nice, nobody seemed to be angry if we failed to purchase anything after haggling – unlike at the Hong Kong’s Mongkok Ladies night market (and that’s why it didn’t make it to this list).
Unlike the night markets we used to find in other countries, this one doesn’t occupy a street that’s used by vehicles in daytime. Angkor Night Market’s stalls with thatched roof occupy an area specially dedicated for the market. It’s a magnet to tourists, especially those looking for local-designed goods and souvenirs, such as lacquer wares and antiques look-alike.
We got there when the stalls were just opening at around dusk. Located near Sivatha Road, we found it easily on a tourist map, and reached it by bike.
Our shopping experience in Guangzhou was particularly great because of the nice Uncle Leo and Aunt Ani we met in the Metro train. They guided us, even haggled for us in local language, through both the pedestrian-only streets full of clothes shops (“lu” means street, according to Uncle Leo).
In general, the clothes were more costly than the ones we found in Tsim Sha Tsui, moreover Catucak. But I can say that the quality was also better. And because we were there at the end of winter, there were a lot of really thick and warm jackets and boots on sale. Being realistic, I only went for the not so thick ones, as I was going to wear them mostly in the hot and sunny Jakarta.
Jonker Weekend Street Market was one of the earliest markets I came to know in my travels. My friend Fenia and I discovered it accidentally in our one-day visit to Malacca in 2008. It was like finding a precious gem, except we spent money at it and not making money out of it..teehee.
Cute key chains, trendy hats, pretty lanterns, all kinds of food and snack, you name it, they have it. Some stalls are spillovers from the shops at the area. If only we could find a money changer that opened after 8 p.m. and exchanged our last piece of dollar to ringgit, I’d probably be shopping like crazy. Lucky we didn’t!
The market starts at around dusk, about 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, occupying the Jonker street, in the middle of the Chinatown. We were warned by Jo, the owner of Galileo Guest House, where we stayed, to be extra careful with our bags and valuable things. Apparently, the growing number of tourists has caused the growing number of bag snatchers as well, who mostly operate on motorbikes. So sad to hear that 🙁
Ubud is a lot of things. It’s artsy, it’s scenic, and it’s quieter than Kuta. And it’s got a market that sells many kinds of traditional items as well as some with modern touch. Beach cloth in diverse patterns and colors (which should be washed separately if you don’t want your clothes to be smudged with it), wickerwork bags and decorations, statues, paintings, and many more.
Haggling is a must. I actually bought 3 handbags for IDR 180,000, where the seller originally charged me IDR 120,000 for each. They like to test their buyers, don’t they?
Ubud Market is located on Monkey Forest street, a touristy part of town, and is probably responsible for the traffic jam that sometimes happens around the narrow-street area.
You don’t go to any ITC malls in Jakarta for traditional goods because they sell mostly modern stuff, even “copies” of high-end branded items. They have fake GUCCI and even GUCHI bags, they also have Oakley shades for only IDR 100,000 a pair. They cater to middle class workers, in the way that they also have a lot of relatively good quality items that those who aren’t bothered with brands look for.
I rarely go to ITC to shop for fun. It’s crowded with small shops in so many floors, forming a confusing maze for me. But whenever I go for things related to electronic gadgets in the next door mall, the Ambasador, I’d pay a visit to ITC. And most of the time I’d find something interesting and too cute not to have whenever I’m not really looking for anything in particular.. like a flower crown.. LOL.
Many of the clothes, shoes and accessories sold in ITC, with fake brands or not, are very updated in style. People also go there for the pirated DVDs, which expats also love. Prices are relatively low, and I know that some vendors got their stuff from budget markets in Hong Kong and Bangkok.
There are several ITC malls in Jakarta, and they’re all pretty similar. I go to the one at Kuningan area specifically because it’s only 10 minute ojek ride from home.
*Pictures courtesy of Indohoy, Anggi Jenie, Renny Roosalyn and Vindhya Sabnani. Thank you, my shopping partners!!