Posts Tagged ‘grand mall of jakarta’

Jakarta Day 3: Monday, July 17, 2017

Leko restaurant

The restaurant we ate at in the Grand Mall.

In the evening on my third day in Jakarta, Indonesia, we traveled back to the Grand Mall of Jakarta to eat supper at an Indonesian restaurant called Léko. Dewi, our in-country representative, knew the owners (a former student of hers, I believe) and ordered a variety of Indonesian dishes and drinks for us to try. They ranged from savory beef ribs to extremely spicy chicken with a hot sambal sauce. One of my favorites was a grilled fish – it wasn’t too spicy and was very tasty, especially the skin.

Waiting for bus by hotel

Our group, waiting for the bus outside the hotel.

I asked Dewi if the durian fruit smoothie was good and she said I had to try it, as did two other teachers sitting with me. Durian is considered the “king of fruits” in southeast Asia, and grows up to 30 cm long and can weigh up to 3 kg. Its name derives from the spiky protuberances that grow on the husk.


Inside the durian fruit

What I didn’t know is that people have differing reactions to the smell and taste of the fruit. Some people find it has a pleasant aroma. Others find that it smells of rotten onions, body odor, or other worse things. It is known to attract flies. It is banned from some hotels and businesses. I tried it and found it interesting at first, then it got stronger and more unpleasant the further down I sipped. It tasted to me like three-week old unwashed repeatedly used gym socks. Not that I’ve ever tasted gym socks, but you know what I mean.

I tried another teacher’s cendol, which was OK – kind of a sweet green been mixed with coconut milk. The lychee smoothie (sometimes spelled litchie or lici in Bahasa Indonesia) was good but sweet. But I couldn’t finish the durian fruit smoothie, and after the meal, the taste lingered; every time I burped or hiccupped, there it was again.

Durian fruit

Es durian, or ice durian. Not something I’m going to try.  It even smells bad just to walk past it. Now, if it was passion fruit slush, I’d be all over it, sketchy ice or not.

I’m not here to eat only American foods and drink American drinks. I’m here to experience Indonesian culture and to learn. An adventure of this sort requires the willingness to try new things, knowing that sometimes the result can be unpleasant. I know I won’t like everything I try. But so far I’ve enjoyed the food and loved the drinks. Now I know I’m one of those people that have a bad reaction to durian fruit. Sometimes knowledge comes at a price.

After dinner we had an hour for shopping. I’m not much of a shopper, unless it’s for souvenirs or gifts, and all the shops I saw here were decidedly Western. Even the posters and mannequins were of Americans or Europeans and the prices expensive. So I watched the people, trying to see if I could understand why this mall was so popular. I noticed that not many Indonesians had bags for purchases – oh, some had smaller items they had bought, but nothing really big or expensive. The downstairs grocery stores selling western food items and the restaurants seemed busy, but there didn’t seem to be as much purchasing as one would see in an American mall.

Group at Leko

The group of us at the Leko restaurant.

So do the Indonesians come here to be seen and hang out? Certainly to an extent – they were dressed much more nicely than most Americans would be at a shopping mall. But to my eyes there was something more than merely hanging out. What could be the purpose of building such a monument to Western styles and products?


I asked Dewi and was expecting something profound, something that would give me insight into the Indonesian soul. But I found it was for the same reason many Americans go to a mall: they like to window shop. In other words, they like to see the products and imagine what it would be like to have them; they visualize a future time when they can afford them. They’re just like us in this respect. Although I’ve never understood the attraction of shopping without buying (since I’m of the “I came, I saw, I bought, I left” – mentality – a real Veni, Vidi, Vici type of person), it speaks to my central research question that there is fundamentally no difference between the types of aspirations Indonesians and Americans have, and how the shopping mall is an expression of an ideal of what our lives can be like. The Western dominated media seen around the world has imposed our vision of the good life on Indonesians as well as Americans. I just hope that Indonesia doesn’t lose what is uniquely good about itself in the quest to become like the rest of the world.

Ancient and modern

A western Sumatran style of architecture. Notice the many tangled electric lines. It’s like this throughout the city.

As a final note to the day, I thought about how some societies have built walls to keep others out, be they the Great Wall of China or the border patrols of the United States or the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea or unspoken rules that keep some types of people out of sight. Some walls, such as immigration restrictions and tariffs, are social instead of physical. Some are based on the fear of others and their “foreign ways.” This shopping mall represents the opposite; a kind of homogeneity of styles and cultures. There were many women dressed in western fashions, others wearing hijabs or even full burkhas, but all acting and shopping and laughing just like any crowd in a shopping mall in the United States. We can build walls of fashion or laws or customs and try to hide away from others, or hide others away from us, but we are more alike than not, more similar in beliefs and aspirations than we realize. I do not feel like a stranger or a foreigner here. I may not yet speak the language well, but I am learning and I feel a part of a common humanity in this city half way around the world.

Feed a man a fish

Feed a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

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Jakarta Day 2: Sunday, July 16, 2017

President-Joko-Widodo with hat

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia. I have to get me one of those hats!

After our batik class at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta, we boarded the Whitehorse bus and drove to the Grand Mall of Indonesia, the largest shopping mall in the country. I’ll talk in another post about my feelings about why shopping malls are popular here, but suffice it to say it is huge and contains many western style shops. It is divided into two large sections with a roadway passing between and walkways over the road. We got off the bus, went through a normal security checkpoint (very common here – all hotels have them when you enter) and went into the lobby of the East Mall.

We immediately ran into a large crowd gathered around someone near the far wall who was moving slowly along. Everyone had cell phones out and were trying to take photos. I asked a blonde American lady standing nearby who the person was, and she didn’t know. It must be some local celebrity, I thought, to gather such as crowd. Finally, an Indonesian person told me who it was: “Jokowi, Jokowi!”

Doug with Pres

One of the TGC teachers, Doug, with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia.

It took a bit longer to realize that this is their nickname for Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia. He had simply dropped by the mall to say hello and shake hands. No grand announcements or press event, no media circus unless you count countless cell-phone recordings, just a not-so-quick stroll through the mall to meet the people. Someone said he does this fairly often.

Matt and Jen with Pres

Matt and Jennifer with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia. I didn’t want to press my way into the crowd, so my own photos didn’t turn out very well.

This was amazing. Can you imagine Pres. Trump just dropping by a local shopping center to shake hands? Everything our president does is orchestrated months in advance with a team of Secret Security agents making arrangements for every detail long before. There can be no “dropping by” anywhere. This is the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India, and the United States. Over 275 million people that he leads. And he only had a thin phalanx of security guards in black uniforms and a few mall cops (which must have been scared to death by the sudden responsibility). He was shaking hands and posing for selfies, working his way slowly around the ground floor and out the other side. The mall entrance had no more than the usual level of security check.

Escalator layers

Layers in the Grand Mall of Jakarta.

Several of our teachers seized the opportunity, and being larger than most Indonesians, managed to push their way forward through the crowd and even got their photos taken with Pres. Jokowi. It made Dewi very jealous. I am including the photos here.

We were supposed to get our own supper while at the mall. I used the money I borrowed from Nikki because I haven’t had the chance to change the U.S. cash that I brought. I carry it in the leg pouch that Gayla (my sister) loaned me. The exchange rate here is crazy – about 13,000 rupiah per U.S. dollar. That’s a lot of zeros. They went through a major devaluation and inflation period in the late 1990s, and it resulted in long-time president Soeharto stepping aside. This led, finally, to the democratic election of new presidents, of which Jokowi is the most recent. It will be a challenge to figure out the equivalent U.S. values of things and not have “sticker shock” when a drink of juice costs over 10,000 rupiah.

Me in mall

David Black at the top of the Grand Mall of Jakarta overlooking the city.

I bought some Minute Maid juice in a supermarket downstairs – I wasn’t hungry for supper. I wanted to see just how big this mall was, so I worked my way up to the top along with Jennifer and Matt. We found some windows looking out and a great view of part of Jakarta with colorful houses and tall buildings clustered in no apparent order or pattern. I took some panoramic shots. I am including one here, as well as photos looking down into the mall.

Jakarta panorama

A panorama of part of Jakarta from the top of the Grand Mall.

On the way back to the lobby, I stopped by a chocolate store to sample their products. They had nibs and other samples that were excellent, and claim to be a sustainable production. I hope to see cacao plantations and chocolate production on my five-day extension in Yogyakarta and Bali.

Cokelat store

Chocolate (cokelat) store in the Grand Mall of Jakarta.

We gathered in the lobby and got back on the bus outside, then worked our way back to the hotel. On the way, I took photos of the bougainvillea with pink, magenta, purple, white, and salmon/orange blossoms along the road, some food stalls selling bakso (meatball soup), which was made famous by being a food that President Obama liked on his visit here, and the wild power lines stretched all over the place, an electrician’s nightmare. I thought of the infrastructure challenges facing a rapidly developing nation, and how Jokowi’s leadership and popularity are changing the face of Indonesia as it joins the ranks of major nations on Earth. I can certainly see why he is popular.

Food stands

Food stalls near the Grand Mall of Jakarta. You see these all over the city, including mobile food carts (like the one in the middle).

Outside Le Meridien

Back at the Le Meridien Hotel in Jakarta after a busy day.

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