The Jakarta Post
Blok M Square is relatively easy to reach. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Situated in the busy neighborhood of Melawai in South Jakarta across from Blok M Plaza, one of the city's most popular shopping malls, the complex of Blok M Square is mostly known as a center for cheap clothes and batu alik (gemstones).
But those who are looking to spend a weekend there can find other interesting things to explore at the square.
How to get there
Blok M Square is relatively easy to reach. It is located near the Blok M terminal. Buses travel to the square from almost all over Jakarta. There is also a Transjakarta Blok M bus stop.
Those who reside in Kemang, for instance, can hop on the public bus Kopaja 605, which serves the Blok M-Kemang-Kampung Rambutan route, or the Kopaja 605A, which serves the Blok M-Kemang-Ragunan route.
Those going from Menteng should catch a Transjakarta bus via the Sarinah bus stop.
When The Jakarta Post visited the area on Sunday afternoon, the traffic was not as congested as weekdays and some of the entertainment spots were not overly crowded either.
What to wear
It is important to wear comfortable and casual clothes if you want to visit Blok M Square. The mall itself is fully air-conditioned but some of the attractions can also be found outdoors. One should also bring a hat and an umbrella and apply sunscreen beforehand.
What to see
A plethora of attractions can be found within the area. Upon entering the building, head to the 7th floor to visit the Nurul Iman Mosque, which has a mini version of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine. The mosque serves as a place for manasik haji (haj rehearsal). At such a height, it is also nice to look around and marvel at the view of Jakarta's southern part from the rooftop area.
Head to the 7th floor to visit the Nurul Iman Mosque, which has a mini version of the 'Kaaba', Islam's holiest shrine.(JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Walk a bit to one side of Blok M Square to visit the Martha Tiahahu Park. Regarded as one of the most spacious parks in the city, the park features a water fountain and animal statues. It also has a jogging track and grass carpet for visitors to sit down on. It is recommended to visit the park in the morning or late afternoon.
The Martha Tiahahu Park.(JP/Devina Heriyanto)
What to eat
Blok M Square is also known as Jakarta’s Little Tokyo. It hosts the annual Ennichisai festival where several areas are turned into shopping districts with Japanese influences. Though the event is currently on hold, Blok M Square still hosts various Japanese restaurants, bars and karaoke venues.
One of the most popular Japanese restaurants in the area is Kira Kira Ginza.
Situated near the mall, it serves authentic Japanese cuisine such as ramen, okonomiyaki, udon, soba and sashimi. The menu may include pork or non-pork options and patrons can marvel at the traditional Japanese interior that feels authentic without being intimidating. While waiting for your food, the place has shelves of Japanese manga and zasshi (magazines) to enjoy.
The interior of Kira Kira Ginza.(JP/Devina Heriyanto)
(Read also: The legendary eateries you must visit in Blok M)
Not too far from Kira Kira Ginza is Filosofi Kopi, which is a good hangout place and offers delectable cappuccinos, café lattes and other non-coffee beverages with prices starting from Rp 20,000.
The exterior of Filosofi Kopi.(JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Those who want to taste traditional Indonesian cakes, gorengan (fried snacks) and various types of kue basah (sweet treats) should consider visiting Blok M Square at 3 a.m. The square hosts a market for such food until 7 a.m.
What to shop
Although Blok M Square is mostly known for its gemstones, it also hosts a plethora of secondhand books, action figures, vinyl records and CDs on the basement floor.
The booksellers who used to hawk their products at Kwitang in Central Jakarta offer a mix of Indonesian and foreign-language books with prices starting at Rp 20,000.
Visitors can expect to find old local comics, old magazines, dictionaries, textbooks, novels and coffee-table books while exploring the stalls. During our visit, The Jakarta Post found the complete English version of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Buru Quartet in good condition, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and other popular titles.
During our visit, The Jakarta Post found the complete English version of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s 'Buru Quartet' in good condition.(JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Vinyl record collectors can head to the Piringan Hitam record store that has been selling vinyl-related products for two years. The shop mostly sells records of Western artists but we also found other gems like The Tielman Brothers.
Vinyl record collectors can head to the Piringan Hitam record store. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Blok M Square is also home to street painters who can be found with their portrait paintings at the front of the mall. Two of them, Irfan and Suryadi, told The Jakarta Post they could finish a portrait in three to four days. With prices starting at Rp 200,000, customers can choose whether they want their picture to be black-and-white or full-color.
Suryadi, a street painter at Blok M Square.(JP/Devina Heriyanto)
- Those looking for English books may need to look for them among piles of Indonesian books. You can ask the sellers for help.
- If you decide to visit the Nurul Iman Mosque, it is recommended that you wear appropriate clothes.
- Beware of your belongings. Make sure you do not wear flashy jewelry.
- Those who want to shop for vinyl records on Sunday should come to Blok M Square in the late afternoon because many of the record stores are still closed around 11 a.m. (kes)