Distro: Shopping and Googling

Without hesitation, Tuning walked straight into a North Tebet area distro on the hunt for a groovy T-shirt and jacket.

His four friends -- Zee, Anti, Huan and Widia -- sat on the store couch, waiting for him to complete his purchase.

"Today is my birthday and my friends have given me a present ... (they are buying me) a T-shirt and jacket and they're letting me select it," Tuning said.

Tuning and his four friends frequently shop in the distros found in North Tebet. They like the T-shirt designs that they can't find elsewhere, and the prices are within their reach.

There are more than 10 distros in the area.

"So, if we go into one of the stores and we can't find an item we like, we can look for it in other nearby distro," said Widia.

The group of friends say they can easily spend half a day in the area, browsing for the goods they want, or just window shopping.

If they're hungry or thirsty, they can stop by at one of the many caf*s or restaurants scattered in the area.

Teenagers have become the biggest consumers in the Tebet distros. The atmosphere of the stores has been designed to meet these youngster's tastes; decked out in cheerful colors with posters of famous bands stuck on the walls and soundtracks of fast-beat music.

The price of the distro goods is quite reasonable -- around Rp 70,000 to Rp 85,000 for a T-shirt and Rp 110,000 to 175,000 for a jacket or bag. Shoppers can also purchase a variety of hats, belts, thongs, hairpins and other stylish accessories.

Most of the distro staff members are aged around 20 years; usually university students working part-time.

Their ages are similar to that of their customers: There tends to be a bond and some familiarity between the customers and the sales assistants, and they appear to enjoy chatting and exchanging information on what's new in fashion.

"I remember the tastes of some shoppers who have become our regular customers, so I often help them choose the clothes that suit their style," said Neni, a sales assistant at the Gunmo Store.

Although the distro clientele mostly consists of young people, it is not uncommon to see parents tagging along on their teenagers' shopping adventures. While their children busy themselves looking for the latest merchandise, parents can relax in one of the big comfy chairs provided in the stores, have a meal in a nearby restaurant or accompany their children on the hunt for the perfect new fashion statement.

Lili, a mother who regularly accompanies her sons on their shopping sprees, knows her children's tastes.

"I often quietly buy something here to surprise my children," said the mother of two teenage boys.

The tempting variety of unique goods is not limited to teenage tastes. Many young men and women also come to buy clothes here.

Ayu, who works in the marketing department of an IT company, goes distro shopping once a month.

"Even the T-shirts are good. The designs don't look childish so that I feel ashamed to wear them," she said as she picked out a new T-shirt.

Ayu said she often shopped in Tebet with her work colleagues to look for goods in the distros and enjoy a meal in a caf*.

"We have our favorites here," she added.

The comfortable atmosphere, good quality clothing and choice of caf*s makes the North Tebet area an interesting place to visit.

The distros have become popular hang-out spots for Jakarta's youth and a welcome shopping alternative to the sprawling multi-level malls scattered throughout the capital.

Tuning and his friends said they go to a mall if they want to see a film in a theater, or if they are looking for something that can only be found in a big department store. But if they are just after a meal and a chat, they choose to come to Tebet.

"The atmosphere is more comfortable and friendly. We often find new friends here," said the high school student.

"Moreover, there is often live music here."

Some caf*s in the area offer live music -- mostly featuring local school or university campus bands -- on the weekends to attract visitors and make the atmosphere more lively and welcoming.

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