Want a quick taste of Indonesia, but find yourself stuck in Jakarta with only an afternoon to spare? To Alun Alun (Town Square) with you, in that case. Located on the third floor of the Grand Indonesia mall, the hip craft store, art gallery and café-restaurant has quickly become the default place to which expats send out-of-town visitors in search of souvenirs. But Indonesians themselves are the real target audience for the rich displays of batiks, paintings, jewelry, ornaments, books and CDs.
"If we can convince just 1% of Indonesians to buy one quality Indonesian item per year, that is already a great start," says Alun Alun's Pincky Sudarman, who scours the country for interesting products and returns with items old and new. Alongside the traditionally made batik, for example, is a great selection of batik made using a breakthrough technique that allows for the printing of completely different patterns on each side. (See 10 things to do in Singapore.)
Besides fabric, the store's best buys include stylishly packaged homegrown coffee, tea and chocolate; fashionable Mustika Ratu spa products; and high-end jewelry from notable designers like Meike Sahala Hutabarat and Delia Von Rueti, whose fantastical one-of-a-kind creations incorporate materials from coral to sheepskin and snakeskin. In the well-stocked CD section you'll find everything from Javanese classical works and progressive-house compilations from the city's top DJs to the albums of Jakarta-born pianist Ananda Sukarlan, famed for compositions based on gamelan and folk music. Get them to go in handbags made from recycled toothpaste tubes or gift wrap fashioned from old cement bags. (See pictures of Singapore.)
The in-store restaurant, Palalada, is a great spot for refueling. Or you can grab an eye-popping Toraja coffee at the café, Warung Kopi, which draws a trendy crowd with its artful presentation of street food. For more, see www.alunalunindonesia.com.
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