August 11, 2015
Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins
When poking into stalls on Jalan Surabaya, an old saying comes to mind: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Regardless of how you feel about Chinese porcelain or Led Zeppelin vinyl, the antique market, or Pasar Antik, is a shady, half-kilometer browse in Menteng. As the previous seat of government, the area boasts upscale, tree-lined, residential streets. The traditional market was born in the mid-70s through entrepreneurial spirit and a good idea. It grew from a weekend event to daily standard shopping hours. Officially opened by Ali Sadikin, then-governor of Jakarta, the antique shops took the place of Kota Tua’s traveling traders. Many of the stalls are run by the next generation of owners.
The variety of goods is endless, but here is a short list: wayang or puppets, brassware, ceramics, textiles, wooden carvings, statues, books, period cameras, chandeliers and all things glass, gamelan gongs and other instruments, phonographs and records as well as telephones from every era. Stalls are organized by theme. Men polish timeworn items on the curb and many new items are likely made to look old. There are original finds and, of course, fakes, but it is about “the love of stuff.” There is no certificate of authenticity, so if your taste runs to serious collector’s items, shop with a local expert to determine vintage and worth.
Come with cash and a sense of adventure. Traders are friendly and happy to give the hawker’s tour of their wares. It is suggested to walk the street of shops, make a mental note your interests, and then, compare costs. Bargain for the best price, usually a bit more than half of the asking price, and embrace your treasured purchase. You are in good company, as Mick Jagger, Sharon Stone, and former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, have reportedly shopped on Jalan Surabaya.
Parking and tasty restaurant choices are available across from the market and nearby. If you have a curious eye for past gems and can see the delight in them today, Jalan Surabaya is an enjoyable day out in Jakarta.
Gail G. Collins writers internationally for magazines and has co-written two books on expatriate life. She feels writing is the perfect excuse to talk to strangers and know the world around her better.