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.