All posts by Angela Jelita

Angie is a journalist, content creator and environmental activist in Southeast Asia. She produces Feed Earth Spirit, which bridges food, the environment and consciousness. She is also the founder of Indonesia Indah Foundation, an NGO in Indonesia that empowers people to become agents of change for the environment.

Le Souq, C’est Chiq

Literally translated as “Arabic Market”, Le Souq captures the young and vibrant spirit which is somewhat lacking in Jakarta’s interior design world. Fresh out of the oven, this interior decorating shop has the shelf age of one week but has won over the hearts of countless people already. What makes this shop so special? Three words – “Joie de vivre”.

Owned by Dutch national with an Egyptian father, Mira Noordhoek Hegt, Le Souq has filled a gap in the market. As soon as I entered, I squealed with delight at the colourful Buddha head candles amongst the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rabbit print cushions, funky lamps and elegant French embroidered mirrors on display. I literally wanted to have everything in the shop! Of course this made Mira extremely happy.

“I want this shop to put a smile on your face,” she says. “It’s meant to be a fun interior decorating shop where you can also buy nice, unique, high quality gifts for the home. I want people to feel welcome here and not intimidated like you do at many high end interior shops.”

You definitely feel welcomed here and intimidation is nowhere in sight, although quality is. The design of the products distinguishes itself by being cross-cultural with a mix of styles. All products are hand made from natural, high quality materials, like teak wood and hides and fabrics used are either silk, pure cotton or linen or a mixture of both. The combination of styles is surely inspired by Mira’s travel experiences, having lived in Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia. Her collection reflects the best of these worlds.

Coincidentally, Mira is a lawyer by profession, but interior design has always run through her veins. Her husband’s move to Indonesia was “meant to be” it seems, for her to take the plunge into the design world, what with Java being the epicentre for the production of furniture and interior products. After a year in the pipeline, with the 3 P’s; Planning, Paperwork and Presentation, her dream has become a reality. All materials are imported, but products are made here, which is the reason why Mira’s financial manager, Maaike Evers, is able to keep prices down. We like this a lot of course.

Is Jakarta ready for the ‘happy chic’? Mira and Maaike definitely think so. “Your home is the most important place on earth in these hectic times. It should have a luxurious feel, yet you should feel comfortable in it and it should put a smile on your face, too!”

One of the great things about a trip to Le Souq is that you can combine it with a visit to the shop on the floor above, Dyrt, where all products are made entirely from recycled banners. Owned and founded by Karen Isdaryono, Dyrt design boasts a varied product range including Home, For Kids, For Sports, Woman, Office and even Pets! Forest Resource Certified, this shop is passionate for recycling and it shows. Minimum waste of the disregarded banners from HSBC, Citibank, Gudang Garam, Warna Warni and several other companies is a rule and small leftover cuttings are even woven or made into small placemats.

“These kind of recycled products are not new in the western world,” Karen tells me, “but here they’re still a novelty and in most cases of low quality. At Dyrt quality is high and training is even provided for those interested in learning about making recycled products.”

Two distinguishably unique shops under one roof ladies and gentlemen, both equally able to satisfy the design guru/recycling enthusiast in you.

Please visit these innovative ladies at Jl. Kemang Raya No. 72, Lot K.

Le Souq / Mira Noordhoek Hegt

+62 21 719 5672

Dyrt Design / Karen Isdaryono

+62 21 718 0275

First published in Indonesia Expat November 25, 2011

Set Your Inner Hippie Free at Tiger Island

Most people don’t get over-excited when you mention the Thousand Islands (Pulau Seribu), myself included, however one of these one hundred or so islands (I know, the ‘thousand’ in the name is very misleading) has captured my hippie heart and soul and is now my favourite weekend break within two hours of the Big Durian. Pulau Macan aka Tiger Island (another misleading name as there are no tigers in sight, I assure you) is a tiny island paradise where not a care in the world exists.

Our trip to the island of the tigers began with a speedboat ride, which left Marina Ancol at 8am on Saturday morning. As we pulled out of the harbour, we held our noses for the first five minutes as the boat waded through North Jakarta’s polluted murky waters. After that we were off, and the waters quickly turned sky blue as we marvelled at the many tiny islands we passed, some with small mansions on land, wondering how the other half lived.

From afar, Pulau Macan looks like a small hedge in the middle of the ocean, and as we got closer, it turns out it looks like a very big hedge in the middle of the ocean. The first thing you see as the speedboat pulls into the pier is the row of solar panels, and as a self-confessed eco-warrior, the moment we set foot ashore I was home. Guests were lounging in hammocks, books in hand, chilling out on the driftwood bar overlooking the clear baby-blue ocean, enveloped in giant sofas in the open-air living area with smooth grooves flowing (one positive criticism would be that the playlist needs to be longer and not on constant repeat – only so many times can I hear Eric Clapton’s ‘Cocaine’ over the space of a weekend).

Myself and mystery date decided to go on a rekkie of the island, which lasted about five minutes as the island is only about a hectare in size, discovered a cockerel, some hens, two very happy lounging island cats, and our beautiful hut (I say hut because that’s what it is – not a wall in sight). You really feel at one with nature here. We spent the rest of the morning snorkelling around the islands, kung-fu fighting off some very aggressive little fish who just love to nip you behind your ankles, as well as dodging some very prickly sea urchins! Besides these two ‘deadly predators’ (don’t forget the tigers), the snorkelling around Tiger Island is very pleasant – good visibility, various different corals and thousands of fish.

That afternoon I met the island’s Swiss/Dutch/Indo GM, Marc Zwyer, at the island’s bar and he told me how Pulau Macan is very proud of its sustainability projects. Three years ago, under new management, the island was transformed into an eco-resort and the aim is for guests to be inspired. “The speed boat may not be eco-friendly, but the first thing you’ll notice on our island are the solar panels and the energy generated from these are stored in a big red box which provides electricity, albeit limited, for guests to be able to have a small lamp on in their huts, as well as a fan,” Mark tells me. To be honest the constant cooling breeze that blew through the island was fan enough, but apparently August, which is when we were there, is the best time to visit as the breeze never stops.

“Water is imported to the island on boats and as we don’t get much rain here we use rainwater to hydrate the organic garden which grows chillies, ginseng, cassava and aloe vera,” he continues. “This whole bar you’re sitting at is made of driftwood that our guys go hunting for in the ocean as are most of our huts. We teach local fishermen to make furniture out of driftwood to sell in the hope that this knowledge will be passed on to their children and hopefully end the fishing in these waters.” As it turns out, overfishing is a real problem here and fishermen still use cyanide spray to fish – over our stay I caught sight of at least three fishing boats hovering around the neighbouring islands. The island also has a coral nursery where guests can help with planting new coral.

On the island, guests are encouraged to use water and electricity sparingly, which are lessons we should all use in our day-to-day lives back in civilisation’. The island promotes healthy eating and wellbeing and meals are very healthy, served buffet-style according to the number of guests staying so as to avoid waste (they have a strict 40 guest max policy), and is predominately vegetarian with the additional meat dish to satisfy the carnivores. Pulau Macan can be chartered along with its small neighbouring island for team building exercises like ‘survivor’ where teams have to construct, cook and survive with only natural resources, and the occasional hidden mie goreng packet.

Geologically speaking there is no threat of tsunamis in these waters and Mark assured me there are no pirates, unless you wanted to throw a pirate themed party of course. We stayed an extra night because one night simply wasn’t enough, and our time was spent taking little traditional boat trips to the neighbouring islands to snorkel with the fish, practicing yoga to the sunrise, cozying up to beautiful sunsets, sleeping at 9pm, and just generally feeling like we were thousands of miles away from anywhere, so when the time came to leave the island, we felt more relaxed than we’d ever been.

If you’re a hippie at heart, love to chill out in hammocks and walk around half naked, and can handle the sound of silence, this is the place for you. Book way in advance as the island is almost always fully booked on the weekends.

First published in Indonesia Expat, 30 November 2011.