Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bandung Street Phenomenon: The "Kaki Lima"


Text and picture by Eki Qushay Akhwan

"Kaki lima" - which literally translates as "five feet" - is the popular and accepted Indonesian term for street vendors that sell things on a cart like this. I don't know where this term originated. But if you take a look at the above photo carefully, I think it makes sense. The cart has three wheels. Add these to the owner's two feet, and that makes five; thus the phrase "five feet".

Kaki lima is quite an urban phenomenon in Indonesian cities. You can find them almost anywhere. They sell different kinds of things: snacks, drinks, cigarettes, soaps, detergent, shampoo, over-the-counter medicines, etc. They are like a mini convenient store. "Convenient" is the key word here as they can usually be found within a walking distance of any neighborhoods and open around the clock and seven days a week (24/7).

While the term "kaki lima" may have originated from this kind of kiosk cart, the term is now also used for different kinds of street vendors - with or without the carts.

Kaki lima is both an important mover of our cities' economy and a headache. They often occupy (invade?) the sidewalks and block pedestrians' access to the sidewalks, forcing them to walk on the street and putting them at risk of being hit by motorists. Their unorganized sprawl, I think, is also a sore to the eyes.


Laurie said...

Very interesting, Eki. How are they regulated? Do they need permits to operate? The only similar kind of carts I've seen in the states are hot dog vendor carts in New York City and Chicago.

I am enjoying the jouney through Bandung with you.

Virginia said...

OK I was all off on this one. I was thinking along the lines of something to do with lima beans. A cart selling just lima beans didn't sound like an entrepreneurial success story, but .....
Well, glad you cleared that up for me Eki. The carts could be handy, but I agree a nuisance on crowded streets.

Layrayski said...

very clever name. Kaki lima. Here in the Philippines we usually just call them sari sari store. Sari-sari which means 'mix' or 'variety' because they sell different stuff. =) Nice. I like photos like this.

Saut said...

Hi Eki, nice website you have and it really helps me to keep visiting Bandung virtually.

About five feet, I heard different version though. Five feet is the measure of footpath in Indonesia, or like the size of pedestrian way in front of the normal shops.

Anyway. It's interesting and please keep posting on Bandung.

Rambling Woods said...

They aren't regulated then? I could see where that would be a problem, but they serve like our 24-hour little stores do, except with 5 feet. @:}

Melati said...

Because you asked for it, may I enlightened you what is Kaki Lima (Pedagang Kaki Lima - Kaki Lima Vendors). It means just that, five feet (five-foot ways). It is the corridor just in-front of shoplots. It was supposed to be 5 feet (about 1.5 metres) white. The Britts call five-foot way.

And I am five years late in finding your blog... thank you..