Indie Guide Jakarta: Vintage and Local Shopping Guide

The Anti-Shopping Mall Guide to Jakarta
Where to Find Rad Vintage and New Threads on the Cheap

Intro: Like, why are there so many malls?

You're in Jakarta now, but let me give you some perspective of the world outside. Today, Toronto's autumn air was crisp and invigorating, the sun glinted off the yellow tree leaves like a cocky grin and my friend Jeb and I decided we were going to eat our hungover burrito outside. I had no idea where we could find a park in the area we were downtown, but he wasn't worried."I'm pretty sure if we walk far enough in any direction we'll hit a park," he said breezily. 500 metres later in rando direction we were sprawled in the green grass, sour cream dribbling down my chin. Like duh was soaked deep in his #firstworldproblem voice, but little did he realize the urban planning cluster buck nightmare that is Jakarta that I had come from before.

Canadian frolicking in Jakarta vintage. Purple leather brogues $8, men's floral shirt $0.50 from Pasar Senen

Upon arrival in Jakarta, September last year I had a haunted visit akin to ol' Ebeneezer Scrooge. I saw the ghost of anti-consumerist highschool Fel's past scream in agony and attempt a roundhouse kick to my sensibilities. Everywhere I looked, everywhere I walked and everywhere I ate, I was surrounded by MALLS.  As prominent as zits are to your adolescent pizza face are shopping centres to Jakarta’s expat living, but unlike Scrooge this was no nightmare.Where was the local goods? The cool markets?

Before you know your way around, you will feel trapped in massive luxury shopping centre universe. I know it sounds like something out of a futuristic sci-fi film, but it's true! Everything from cool cafes, your gym and even the clubs are found tucked away between shops of Chanel and Versace. Some of the only walking you'll get to do on real live legs things will be through the fake air of Grand Indonesia while enjoying the fake scenery of sakura trees, not to mention loathing your povo intern life as you lust after than Lanvin dress you see every day coming from the office. If you dare walk "outside" proper,  proceed with caution, (unless you live in Kemang, Taman Rasuna or Mentang), due to ubiquitous sidewalk sewer holes that will drop you to your sludgey mortal end or to dinner with the Ninja Turtles?

Open door invitation to Ninja Turtle party aka sludgey death party in hell

Beyond my bitching, it's actually a problem. There's only 9.7 percent green space in the city with developers having snatched up most spaces for luxury malls and apartment buildings(source: Jakarta Globe). You would think there would be more regulation regarding the urban development but low priority for green space over the years, lax laws and corruption has made fighting for the side of the greater good the underdog. A new urban planning bi-law for 2010-2030 has hopes of increasing green space to 30 % but as you live in Jakarta a bit longer and learn about how the city works, you're optimism will fade as quick as your cholesterol rises. Goreng depression please?

Hope for cool shopping, but not outside chilling
With so little public and pleasant space in the city, it's safe to say most of your leisure is spent in the out-of-your-league presence of ol' Louis V and Marc Jacobs. Are you starting to wallow in despair? After two weeks there and having Robin Sparkle’s “Let’s Go to the Mall” on repeat on my brain radio and a cool clothing void, I did too. Had I fallen into a worm hole and emerged in an Asian anomaly without rad local clothing markets, indie and affordable shops as I had seen in Bangkok, Hong Kong or even Kuala Lumpur?  I just wanted to avoid the damn malls and do some normal baller student/intern shopping and roll in some green grass! While the latter was impossible (sorry), the former held hope.

 Turns out I was only lost on cloud ignorance and was pulled out by local and expat friends in Jakarta who took shopping very seriously. I knew I could trust them. They opened my eyes to the light.  Once I went to some of the markets my friends Maeve and Sycillia told me about, optimism flowed out of me like a bursting damn in spring, with my pent up Rupiah gushing forward in equally copious amounts.

Anyways, newcomers, let me save you the consumerist chagrin I felt upon arrival, also the buttloads of money you may dispense at Top Shop from belief that you have no local cool options! As with the indie nightlife scene, Jakarta will continue to surprise you when you know where look! Hopefully this indie guide to Jakarta Shopping will help ease your transition!

1. Intro on how rotten Jakarta shopping can be
2. Vintage Spots
3. New Stuff and DVDS
4. Electronics and Odds and Ends
5. Music: New Indie Pop Song

2. Vintage Spots
Pasar Senen: Vintage.Paradise. Imagine a whole mall full of second hand goodness. Two floors, packed back to front with stalls. It's hot, sweaty and hella cheap. More than just clothing though, you can get home appliances, kitchen stuff, electronics, anything everything at a local price and prices range from 4000-200,000 IDR.  The best time to go is Saturday because it's when they get the new shipments. But careful, you need to bargain like crazy because if you're a westerner they'll obviously try to get you to pay more than 5000 RP for that shirt you love (truth. you can get clothes for that cheap). Also, perfect place for costume party shopping and where locals go for everything! Details here. 
Trans-Jakarta: Senen, Taxi: Ask for Senen or Atrium

 jeans shirt: 10,000 IDR (1 euro)
High waist shorts: from Kuala Lumpur Vintage shopping.

Guess how much? Shoes $8, Jacket $2, purse $4. 

Jatayu: Mini vintage market. There's some potential but it's so small and out of the way that I'm not sure it's worth it. Having made the trip there though, I couldn't resist buying that high waist blue skirt! Maybe you'll be more successful.

Jl. Jatayu 1
Kebayoran Baru
Jakarta Selatan 12130

Uniqlo Jeans shirt (my brother btw!!): 50k IDR pasar Senen

3. New Stuff
Pasar Baru: Not as cheap as Hong Kong or Bangkok shopping but still one of the cool places to shop for hip and most importantly, new clothing. Sort of like the Pacific Mall of Toronto. What's cool is that it's outdoors, like a plaza so it gives you a chance to breath air, yay! Got a sweet blazer there for 100 000 IDR (10 euros) after bargaining of course. Unfortunately, given my internship stipend, my shopping for new clothing was severely limited and that's why I stuck mostly to vintage as seen below.

Semmangi: This is a mall but not luxury baloney. More new clothing and a wide variety. The basement and first floor is where the best and cheap stuff. There you can find reasonable priced blouses, blazers, shorts for work but also funky pieces too. Everything in the first picture is from Semmangi.

Manga Dua: Here you can get a variety of Asian made clothes for good prices. My Spanish colleague got many things for work, blazers and such but also party clothes. But even better, Manga Dua is known for it's huge DVD selection and where friends would go to buy independent or non-blockbuster films that you can't find elsewhere.

Top Shop at Senayan: I know I know I said avoiding the designers and cheap but I just had to point out one piece of advice for those days you want to splurge on greatness. The best Top Shop in the city is NOT at Grand Indonesia but at Plaza Senayan. It's way bigger, more sales, more sizes and selection. Okay back to the indie guide stuff. (Take TransJakarta to Ratu Plaza. It's behind it).

4. Electronics and Odds and Ends

Tanah Abang: Apparently run by Nigerian druglords, this is where you go to get textiles, electronics and whatever else for the cheapest prices around. Tanah Abang is an area of Jakarta, not one shopping centre. Admittedly it's pretty damn ghetto, but if you are looking for the best deals this is where to go. There's also an Arab market there where you can get cheap coals for your shisha pipe, vaseline, olive oil etc. The huge green building is the largest textile market in Jakarta. (Central Jakarta: If you tell your Ojek or taxi Tanah Abang, they'll know where it is).

Ambassador Mall: Electronics haven. Cell phone shops everywhere, cheap (cheaper than Ratu Plaza, the nice sort of Electronics mall). Also you can get cheesy as hell clothes, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Blok M: Haven't been yet but apparently also good electronics spot.

Have any recommendations that I missed? 
What do you do to escape the malls in Jakarta?
If you can't escape, what's your favourite shopping area there?

5. Local Music

The Sigit: Midnight Mosque Song: Finding good local talent in a new country is exciting. And this is the best song I've heard out of Indonesia (not that I'm an expert). It has a jazzy funky beat similar to Timber Timbre, streaked with melacholic noir and beautiful lyrics that you can only fully love once you've lived in Indonesia. It reminds me of Bandung for some reason. 

New to Jakarta? Check out..

Where to Live in Jakarta: Neighbourhood and Apartment Guide for Young Groovy Expats


  1. i know you're from toronto and all, but i was just wondering if you had any travel info on montreal? i'm headed there later this year, and it would be great to know some cool hang out spots.

  2. I know you wrote this ages ago but I'm an exchange student with a bunch of 40 others from Australia and I came across your blog entry and had to share it with everyone. Thank you so much for your tips and witty writing style (I love 'Let's Go To The Mall'), we're thinking of heading to Pasar Senen this weekend! Cannot wait!


  3. Please do!! go to pasar senen and take pictures for your lovely blog! I'd love to feature them instead of my crappo ones. But seriously remember, it's a real adventure. Please read the tips I have on shopping in Pasar Senen like..don't be hungover! Also remember, it's HUGE. u have to walk around to find the good sections, so have patience. also, know a few indo words in case u get lost inside, 'where's the exit?' cuz u feel so hot ur going to faint. How long are you there and where is ur exchange??? Thanks so much for the nice words, it means a lot!


  4. I'll try to take some photos if they let me, but your photos are awesome! Out of interest where are your 'too expensive' top and floral shorts from? I agree that they would be worth it!

    Oh wow thank you for letting me know before hand, I'll be sure to bring a bottle of water and lots of energy! Might have an early night tonight in order to prepare myself for some marathon shopping! I loveee a good scrummage for good vintage stuff so the bigger the better- I'm soo excited now!

    We are on a program that lasts 6 weeks. The first two weeks is intensive Indonesian at Atma Jaya (next to Semanggi) and the other four weeks we are placed at different organisations for internships. I'm studying journalism back in Australia so I'm interning at Reuters news wire (and trying to pitch fashion stories to their dismay lol).

    I've got three weeks left to tackle everything on this post, going to make it my to do list! xxx

    1. Ha yea they don't care about pictures. I got the shorts and top from top shop. I want to write more about Jakarta, are there any guides you would find useful?

      that's cool ur interning at reuters. Had a friend there before and from what i understand, fashion is DEF not their thing! You should try freelancing for the papers though. U make decent money.

      Good luck with Bahasa! You should pick it up quick and thanks again for the good vibin!

  5. whaaa!!!
    I am so shocked to found this blog. shocked because I found 'bule' (Western tourist) that loves to shop in Pasar Senen. and yeah as an Indonesian living in Jakarta, I agree if you choose Pasar Senen, I go to Senen Station to take a bus every morning. it is not safe to be in around Senen because there are a lot thieve and bad behavior people and crimes thingy. and you have to give EXTRA protection for your belongings.

    girls in Jakarta, uh... I think most of them prefers to shop in Grand Indonesia or Senayan City or other malls and buy branded stuffs. I sometimes shop in Semanggi and then enjoy Sky Dining in the afternoon, watch the sunset with friends.
    but I usually shop in ITC or Blok M. in Pasar Senen, I usually hunting for books. it is way cheaper than other books stores in town. hahaha... but after reading this blog, I feel like I wanna go to Pasar Senen to shop this Saturday.

    it's an honor to found this blog. terima kasih :)

    ps: sorry for my bad English

    1. Thank you so much! Don't apologize for your English, it's great (so much better than my bahasa!)

      Lots of bule like to go to Senen. My australian friend is the one who told me about it! I hate big shopping malls and that's why I didn't like Jakarta at first, but after i found senen, it opened up a whole new world.

      thanks for the tips. I want to write a guide to my favorite warungs! IF you have any advice i'd love to hear it!

  6. Hi Felicia, I'm also a Jakartan. I'm up if you still need heads up for warung/streethawk/cheap good eats in town ;)

    I found your blog when I was googling for Pasar Senen, and I'm enjoying what you wrote so far. Especially with that LDR post, just what I need to hear. Some tend to overact and think too much and putting themselves as some sorta victim of love, when in LDR. While in fact, .. just chill out and live. Right? Haha.

    My email is if you need any help about Jakarta (or Bali, I live in Bali too) underrated but gem spots. ;) Keep writing! x

    1. Thanks Noran! As soon as I get settled we should meet up. I'll actually be having a housewarming party (don't have the house yet but looking), you should come!

      Can't wait to hear about your LDR non-woes!


  7. Hi Felicia, I found this blog when trying to find quinoa in Jakarta.
    I'm Indonesian, and I've lived in Jakarta since 1975, but I've never been to Pasar Senen :-) too scary! I'm amazed that you dare to go there :-D
    I hope you enjoy your stay in Jakarta/Indonesia.

  8. i cant agree more on this. im indonesian but been out the country for some good years. when im back now im totally alienated to it. those huge fake malls suffocate me a lot. i feel im gaining some kgs here as i never walk out the street. NO PARKS. i feel thats the saddest thing out of the this whole things. sucks my soul out. when i was in europe, i stayed very near the parks, me and friends often nap there have beers and all. everything needs to be posh, girls need to carry high end luxury bags. some older ladies have high hair looks like their stuck on the 70s. Ugh nah. OK i know this is negative feedback but i just cant help to spit out the facts. Im seriously shopping online now drooling on uk christmas sale. Stumbling upon your blog now i feel i should spare a chance to look to all these markets. I remember going to few when i was younger. im fingers crossing on some change here, hopefully since they're building the metro, they'll consider some parks/ open air markets as well and totally ban the indoor smoking. im a smoker but i hate to be in a room fills with bad air. i genuinely feel it's lovely city fills with beautiful people but this vague posh idealism thing minus big part of it !

    anyway thanks for blogging this! im sure you've find more sweet sides here while on your internship ! have a lovely trip! x

  9. Nice shopping Place I must say. I just found very much of uniqueness in every product I found here.

    Shopping In Jakarta

  10. Thanks for this post, incredible ideas for the outfit, I want you to visit my blog and share with me some more ideas for casual clothing, I am waiting.

  11. I like shoppin very much and I guess every woman fancy it. Great pictures. The clothers are nice.


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