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Little Bangkok in Jakarta: What You Need to Know

Little Bangkok in Jakarta: What You Need to Know
Little Bangkok in Jakarta: What You Need to Know

This latest establishment, a new part of the city’s Tanah Abang Market, channels the Krung Thep futurism. Is it worth the hype? Indonesia Expat is here to find out.

There is something revolutionary about Little Bangkok. While most people would associate traditional markets with dull interiors, unkempt shops and poor air circulation, Little Bangkok is flooded with Jakarta’s youngsters as they gleefully take a snap of the trendy clothing this establishment has to offer. Here in Little Bangkok, old customs are deliberately discarded and new traditions are embraced — both by the merchants and the curious window-shoppers. Of course, Indonesia Expat took a little excursion around Little Bangkok on 22nd January and observed, with our very eyes, whether this so-called revolution is worth the hype.

Where is it?

Little Bangkok is situated on the first floor of Jembatan Metro Tanah Abang (JMTA) within the Pusat Grosir Metro Tanah Abang (PGMTA) as a part of Central Jakarta’s Tanah Abang Market. The market is approximately 400 metres (or five minutes of walking) from the Tanah Abang railway station. Potential market attendants and curious window-shoppers could also reach Tanah Abang Market by a Transjakarta bus along the Senen-Tanah Abang route. Additionally, Tanah Abang Market is approximately 19 kilometres from the Cawang toll road.

Little Bangkok is the part of Tanah Abang Market at Central Jakarta
Little Bangkok is the part of Tanah Abang Market at Central Jakarta

Legend has it that Tanah Abang Market found its namesake back in the year 1628 during which the Mataram Empire attempted to invade Batavia, the former name for Jakarta. The imperial army discovered vermilion-hued soil in what is today known as the Tanah Abang neighbourhood. In Javanese, the word “tanah” means soil whereas the word “abang” means vermilion. Cut to the year 2024, and the Tanah Abang neighbourhood has turned into one of the most populous districts in the city.

How did it start?

Little Bangkok was officially opened on 15th January 2024 by Pusat Grosir Metro Tanah Abang (PGMTA). This brand-new establishment (or sub-market) was launched as an initiative by PGMTA to reinvigorate Tanah Abang Market, all while simultaneously serving as the market’s latest effort to adapt to the changing, technology-driven times.

Acknowledging the fact that more and more shoppers and resellers have grown interested in either hiring the services provided by personal shoppers (in Indonesia, this is commonly known as “jasa titipan”) or purchasing items from online auctions often held on Instagram Live or TikTok, PGMTA started looking for ways to modernise its marketplace. Long story short, PGMTA found a potent inspiration from the city of Bangkok in which most of the marketplaces frequently collaborate with personal shoppers, online auctioneers, social media influencers, and content creators to introduce and, subsequently, sell their items.

Little Bangkok appears like a small and cosy indoor boutique.
Little Bangkok appears like a small and cosy indoor boutique.
What does it look like?

Even though the sub-market is named Little Bangkok, it does not mean that its interior channels the cultural heritage of what is famously known as Asia’s city of angels. Little Bangkok presents itself as an indoor boutique structure, though its interior design appears more sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing than the rest of the PGMTA compound. Moreover, unlike the rest of the PGMTA compound, no packed bundles of clothing items are visible in front of each boutique. This is due to the policy enforced by PGMTA to ensure Little Bangkok remains aesthetically pleasing — especially for online auctioneers, social media influencers, and content creators who might be interested in taking some photos and conducting an impromptu livestream.

What does it sell?

With the exception of one modest-scale coffee shop, all of the boutiques and kiosks occupying Little Bangkok sell clothing items that are, as of today, predominantly aimed at women. Even though some of the clothing items were directly imported from Bangkok, some items were also shipped from the more renowned exporting countries such as China. Most of the clothing items are in vogue with the current fashion trends in Jakarta, such as Korean-inspired frocks and a more urban take on modest clothing (also known as hijab).

Various fashion items are sold at Little Bangkok
Various fashion items are sold at Little Bangkok

In selected boutiques, they also provide stitching services for market attendants who, instead of conducting a purchase on behalf of someone else or shopping for their own necessities, might be interested in launching their own fashion line. Some of them have also put up the name of their Instagram account and WhatsApp contact information on their store display and store receipts. This initiative is aimed at potential market attendants who might be interested in exploring other clothing items that are not necessarily put on the physical display, but available for pre-orders.

What is the difference between Little Bangkok and Tanah Abang Market (PGMTA)?

Unlike PGMTA, the market attendants are free and encouraged to take photos and, if interested, enter any of the boutiques and kiosks in Little Bangkok for an impromptu livestreaming by using the market attendants’ respective devices. Furthermore, there will occasionally be a short fashion show during which a few models strut around Little Bangkok wearing the clothing items that are being sold by the occupying merchants.

The pricing method is slightly different as well. While almost all merchants in PGMTA sell their clothing items exclusively in bulk, the merchants in Little Bangkok provide two options for their customers: they could buy either in bulk or as individual pieces. As of today, the approximate price of the clothing items being sold in Little Bangkok, as an individual piece, stands between Rp80,000 Rupiahs and Rp150,000. However, the merchants would typically be open for a price negotiation should the customer be more than willing to procure the former’s items in bulk instead.

Little Bangkok is a fascinating marketplace in Jakarta
Is it worth the visit?

Definitely. Even though Little Bangkok is not a literal, physical miniature of the city of Bangkok, it is fascinating to see how the iconic marketplace, which has stood tall for nearly three centuries now, adapts to the changing times and is willing to innovate itself. More importantly, at a time when younger people are likely more interested in spending their downtime at a trendy coffee shop or a shopping mall, the existence of Little Bangkok encourages the “now” generation to appreciate the cultural significance — and relevance — of Tanah Abang Market. In a bigger picture, Little Bangkok has the potential to redefine what a traditional market (or, in Indonesian, ‘pasar’) should look like in the future.

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