Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mall Taman Anggrek: My Indonesian Comfort Zone

Mall culture takes on a life of its own in most Southeast Asian cities, like Jakarta. You cannot get away from them; they are everywhere. Mall Taman Anggrek is currently the largest mall in Jakarta. The obnoxiously large building houses more than 500 stores on seven floors. Taman Anggrek is translated to mean “orchid garden” in English, which evokes images of serene beauty and calm. I never understood the name, until I found out there used to be a real orchid garden in that location.

Picture of Mall Taman Anggrek interiorEarly in the morning during the week is the best time to enjoy the mall’s interiors. It is a marvel of space, light and marble...a truly impressive sight. Even though I dislike malls in general, I cannot deny that the architects who designed Mall Taman Anggrek are true artists.

It is also a less stressful place to shop, especially for women. We can walk around the mall without being harassed, unlike the congested street fairs that dominate many city neighborhoods. I couldn’t avoid Taman Anggrek, or any mall for that matter. It is where I had to go to find Western sizes of shoes and clothes, and anything else that is familiar from home. I am almost ashamed to admit that these malls are also havens for foreigners like me. I don’t have to worry about getting ripped off like I do in other local establishments. Taman Anggrek is my Third World reminder of home…sort of.

Are malls like Taman Anggrek the best that Jakarta has to offer? Well, yes…and no. The few city museums and monuments I visited are intellectually superior to anything that can be found at the mall. Still, the air conditioning, window shopping, and gourmet fast food trumps culture and history for many locals and foreigners in Indonesia’s polluted and over-populated capital city. When expats like me need to escape from the heat, noise and smells of the Jakarta streets, retreating to the mall is the easiest thing to do.

What is your idea of comfort when you're far away from home?


Original Designer Woman said...

My ideal comfort is being on the beach. I have a chance to think and the water is very soothing. I love to stare at the ocean and imagine all the wonderful things I can do with my life. Everything is in the ocean. My mind goes crazy when I near the ocean because the sea is wide and endless, much like my dreams wide and endless.

I remember one time I was sitting on the beach and a bird, not sure what kind of bird flew next to me and stared out at the water. Was he dreaming too? Did he yearn for an answer from the vast waters of the earth much like me?

Good post!


Kekla Magoon said...

I figured out recently that my favorite/most comforting part of travel is the actual physical motion. Especially ground transport -- cars trains, buses -- from which I can see the world going by out the window. Something about the steady motion lulls me into a particular mindset, a sort of meditative state that I really enjoy. I always feel a little disappointed when I arrive, no matter how exciting the destination!

Anonymous said...

that's right, sister Pauline, telling it like it is!!! i have been to this mall and it is a strange mix of sanctuary and utter disappointment. i mean, why build western influence in a non-western world? why can't the jakartans weave a world that is their own without the American-sque megamall foundation? i can't describe how sad and gravely disappointing jakarta is to the culture that has been wiped out by the Dutch years ago. bali is the best and if it was 8 hours away, i'd be flying there every other weekend or whenever i had the cash.

Pauline Karakat said...

Hey, if Jakarta was anything like Denpasar, Bali, I would NEVER see the inside of a mall. In Jakarta, the mall is the only place where you can relax a little bit, even when you are surrounded by avid shoppers. I love discovering local culture, but in Jakarta I found that interests in history, culture, and the preservation of the environment are repressed. I braved the street fairs, visited museums, and had some good experiences, but when you are coughing and sneezing because of the pollution, or seeing Buddhist statues that are over one thousand years old falling apart because the curators don't take care of them...its infuriating!

The Jakarta mall is (unfortunately) a culture-deprived foreigner's last resort in the city. I hope this will change very soon. I don't mind eating my words!

Anonymous said...

Well mall culture is worldwide and it has good and bad points. People want change and advancement so they see malls as a way of being modern and advancing. They sometimes lack the understanding of what
real modernization is.


Escotravelsandeats said...

comfort for me is always good quality just makes me happy and satisfied....

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