Indonesia offers plenty of shopping opportunities. From street vendors selling authentic homemade wares to huge department stores, the choices are endless. Most of the goods available here are cheaper than anywhere else; Asian shopaholics are known to travel here every year for a spot of retail therapy. Bali is the best place to go for local arts and crafts, while bigger cities such as Jakarta and Yogyakarta are better known amongst seekers of mainstream and luxury brands.
Prices may be set in department stores, but generally it is possible to bargain on the price on goods and services throughout the country, from unmetered taxis to souvenir stands. The rule of thumb when it comes to the bargaining business is to start low, then slowly let the shopkeeper bring up the price to a third or half of his/her original quoted price, depending on what you’re buying and where you’re making the purchase. The shopping hours here are from 08:30 to 20:00, with some shops closed on Sundays. In Muslim areas, some shops are closed for a few hours around Friday lunchtime for prayers.
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Indonesia is famous for its beautiful local crafts and handiwork, from leather goods and silver to art and wood carvings. The best places to score some excellent Indonesian arts and crafts would be at local markets and from street vendors, where you can even bargain down further the already-low prices.
In Yogyakarta, you can find plenty of good leather crafts such as the exotic wayang kulit (shadow theatre) puppets, as well as bags made of natural fibres, silver and batik. Lombok and Surabaya are the most popular for hand-woven cloths and traditional textiles, while Papua and Bali are more well-known for their intricate wood carvings and sand sculptures. To get a better deal on these items, head out to smaller, more remote towns, and avoid big cities and touristy areas where prices are likely to be hiked up. For a one-stop destination for all things local, nothing beats Bali for quality and variety. Every village on this island is unique in terms of items for sale, where the goods differ from one village to another.
Indonesian batik, with its gorgeous patterns and delicate details, is recognised the world over for its elegant beauty. Geometric patterns and motifs of flowers, leaves, birds and butterflies are printed onto finely-woven cotton in shades of brown, cream and indigo, and sometimes interspersed with bright colours such as yellow, green and red.
There are two types of batik, batik cap (the printed batik – where motifs are stamped onto the cloth repeatedly) and batik tulis (hand-drawn batik – where motifs are drawn onto the cloth by hand using the canting technique), with the latter being more expensive than the former. Yogyakarta and Solo are the centres of traditional Indonesian batik, while the town of Pekalongan is the leader in the production of stunning hand-drawn batik.
Aside from the more traditional street stalls and local markets that Indonesia is well known for, there are also ultra-modern shopping malls and department stores selling all sorts of international brands, particularly in larger, metropolitan cities such as Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta. Most of these types of establishments are concentrated in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, where you’ll find a huge variety catering to different markets.
Department stores such as Metro, Sogo and Debenhams are targeted towards the middle and upper class, offering a variety of international brands from computer software to luxury goods. Middle-range department stores such as Pasaraya Grande and Batik Keris are suitable for day-to-day shopping needs such as household essentials and groceries, and have entire floors dedicated to local handicrafts and textiles, while budget-range department stores such as Matahari and Ramayana target the lower income group, with many items sold below the market price.
Indonesia’s locally-made products make for interesting and unique souvenirs to take home. Supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere around the country are a treasure trove of such items featuring a variety of local goods from foodstuff to beauty products. Inexpensive and unusual, you can buy local gems such as Indonesian honey, Javanese coffee and Indonesian tea – all for a fraction of the price they’re sold for elsewhere.
Some supermarkets are even equipped with their own beauty counters with a variety of home spa products and homemade beauty bargains that work just as well as the more mainstream brands. If you are a smoker or know anyone who is, don’t forget to get a few packs of the sweet-smelling, clove-infused local cigarette called rokok kretek, which tastes as unique as it sounds.