The Markets of Jakarta A glimpse into the rich culture of traditional Indonesian markets

Beneath the urban exterior of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, lies a city rich in traditional markets and culture. As you wander along the rugged footpaths of Jakarta’s busy streets, it is difficult to ignore the vibrant colour and life that inhabits every corner.

Traditional markets 'Taman Fatahillah', located in the area of Kota Tua.

For the most part, footpaths are crowded with small carts and the aroma of Indonesian cuisine and tobacco fills the air. The chaotic sounds of horns beeping, engines whirring and voices shouting, are reduced to ordinary background noise. For a split second, you forget the sickening humidity and the scorching sun and let yourself absorb the vibrant life that surrounds you.

Local street Vendor Amat, selling Indonesian cuisine on the outskirts of Glodok.

But behind the smells, sights and sounds of Jakarta’s colourful market life, there is far greater meaning to be uncovered. For thousands of years, Indonesians have bought basic household items from their local markets. These markets have become an integral part of the city’s character and exist in almost every pocket of Jakarta; bursting with history and human life.

Local shop owner Baskoro, operates a permanent market inside of Glodok each Sunday from 5am to 12pm.

According to the travel information centre Jakarta100, there are an estimated 150 traditional markets located in Jakarta, with over 100,000 stalls and almost 2 million daily visitors. For many Indonesians living here, the markets are an essential part of daily life. Local fruit and vegetable market owner Aanjay, said most Indonesians will begin each day with a trip to the local markets. This is because many cannot afford to have refrigerators, and therefore must buy fresh fruit and meat each day.

A local fruit and vegetable market owner Aaanjay in the markets of Taman Fatahillah, Jakarta.
Aanjay lives in the slums next to Taman Fatahillah, and works in her market stall from 8am to 5pm each day.

A recent finding by the UN Human Settlements Program, have estimated 26 percent of Indonesia’s population currently reside in slums, with 5 million of those people living from within Jakarta. For this reason, many locals wish to purchase household items from markets rather than shopping malls, simply because they cannot afford the prices.

The local markets in Taman Fatahillah

Despite Jakarta’s abundance of markets, many of the items sold are often similar, but may vary to suit the ethnic groups within the area. Of these markets, many will range in size and nature. Traditional markets for example, are those used by Indonesians for basic household needs. They sell items such as fruit, vegetables, spices, meat and fish. Alternatively, speciality markets may sell one specific item such as vintage pots, birds, flowers or fish.

A local market owner preparing her produce to sell at her market stall.
A stall in Glodok selling an array of fruits and vegetables.

When approaching the markets in Jakarta, it is not uncommon to see many vendors illegally situated on the outskirts of traditional markets. This is often due to the high cost of renting a stall within the perimeter of the markets. In Jakarta, this is regulated by the local government, who control Pasar Jaya - the company which own a large percentage of Jakarta's market stalls.

Ade operates a small stall on the outskirts of Glodok.

Despite this, traditional markets in Jakarta are an integral part of the city's character. They are responsible for sustaining millions of Indonesians each day and have become a central part of life. Traditional markets provide insight into the lives of those living within Jakarta and offer a greater understanding into the true meaning of Indonesian culture.

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