Do you happen to be in Jakarta, Indonesia, and for some reason can’t venture to the other areas in Java (or Bali), not knowing what to buy as souvenirs? Surely you can go to the nearest department store or boutique and buy some clothes with flower paintings named ‘batik’, which is the national icon of Indonesia. However, for extensive choices of batik and other Indonesian handicrafts, Sarinah Plaza is the place to go.
The oldest mall in Jakarta
Sarinah Plaza is a mall located in an elite area of Central Jakarta, very close to the iconic monuments of Monas (National Monument) and Monumen Selamat Datang (Welcome Monument). Built in 1962, it is Jakarta’s very first mall, and since its establishment, the mall has been the center of Indonesian handicrafts. Now it is one of the busiest malls in Jakarta, where you can also find a supermarket, boutique, cosmetic shops, restaurants, a food court, a cinema, and other facilities located on the lower floors.
Extensive choices of Indonesian souvenirs
For Indonesian souvenirs, go to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors, where extensive collections of batik and other handicrafts that are icons to many other parts of Indonesia are sold. These handicrafts were not made in Jakarta, and surely they have been bought and sent from many areas in Indonesia (mostly from Java and Bali). Batik and ‘wayang’ (puppets depicting characters in Javanese mythology) from Central Java, as well as masks, paintings, and different types of wooden and clay sculptures are the things you can buy here. In Sarinah, not only can you find cheaper handicrafts, like wooden key chains that cost less than 2 USD, but you can also buy products of higher quality like handmade batik (batik tulis or written batik) for more than 50 USD per piece.
Discover discounts all year long
On the lower floors (1st, 2nd and 3rd), you will find a money changer (1st floor) and assorted shops selling garments, fashions, electronics, children’s toys, jewelries, snacks, etc.. Here you can find imported and local items of higher quality, but at lower prices than a few of the other fancy malls in the surrounding area (e.g. Grand Indonesia, Plaza Indonesia etc.). Take your time to shop around. Throughout the year, many shops also give discounts, and the discounts are even larger during public holidays, like the annual Chinese New Year that will fall on February 8th in 2016!
Eat at Sate Jaya Agung
On the basement level, you can find the Hero Supermarket, KFC, McDonald’s (it’s the first McDonald’s opened in Indonesia!), and a food court, selling continental foods with prices ranging from 1 USD to 2 USD. However, if you are a bit adventurous and want to try fresh street food, go outside of the mall and head to Jalan H. Agus Salim behind the mall (also known as Jalan Sabang). Here you will find several warung (an Indonesian term for a modest restaurant) and food stalls selling Indonesian foods, known to have lots of spices.
For the most popular warung, go to the one named Sate Jaya Agung, selling not only chicken and lamb satay (skewered BBQ meat), but also lamb curry (called ‘gule’) and yellow chicken soup called 'soto’. Everything sold is delicious, especially the satay, as they put lots of sweet and tasty gravy on the satay. Here is a little tip for you - bring a few coins of 500 or 1000 IDR (~0.40 or 0.80 USD) to be given to the street singers, otherwise just shake your head and they will leave and move to another table.
A strong message from Jakarta: "We are not afraid!"
Everyone must have known the terrorist attack in front of Sarinah Plaza very recently, and you may be wondering whether or not it is still safe to visit. Well, terror attacks and accidents can happen anywhere, and just like the terror attack in Paris a few months ago, Indonesia is yet another victim of the terrorist group (ISIS), where we all know that the terrorists have purposely, but very unsuccessfully, created terror among people. You may have seen or heard from TV or social media how fast Indonesian police acted, that they have defeated the ISIS fighters and had things under control within just less than 24 hours, and how unaffected Indonesians were with this terrorist act.
During the attack, Indonesian food hawkers were still selling their foods amidst the bombs and gun fires, and on the following day, everything including businesses went on as usual! The people of Jakarta have sent a very strong message to the terrorists, saying “We are not afraid!”, and this message has become so viral in social media. Are we going to be cowered by terrorists? No way!
Visit this mall before leaving Jakarta
For souvenirs and other goods with lower prices in the area, Sarinah Plaza is the only place to go. If you happen to find one or more of the souvenirs here sold somewhere else in the city, you will find the prices here are relatively cheaper. If you have a short time in Jakarta and need to find something to be brought back home, don’t bother to go elsewhere for souvenirs. Head to Sarinah Plaza to purchase your souvenirs from Indonesia!
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