This particular spot in Menteng is prominently known as a must-go-to place when visiting Jakarta. The Jalan Surabaya or Surabaya Street Market stands attractively as one of the few surviving ‘theme markets’ which still retains its authenticity and pride after all these years of the ‘modernization’ wave. It is no surprise that the market still has its faithful customers and still attracting new ones. People constantly come here to either buy or sell anything considered as ‘antiques’.
For those who are not aware yet, the Jalan Surabaya Market is an ‘antique’ market, or in harsher tones ‘flea market’. It sells various items that usually attract collectors, historians, those who simply want an extra touch of authenticity in their living room. On the contrary, those trying to get rid of stuff that are not really considered hip since last century also finds the solution in Jl Surabaya. The Market started its business around 30-40 years ago and in the beginning consisted merely of several stalls selling China Porcelains. It then experienced expansion in terms of size and variety. It enjoys a 500-meter length in the pleasant residential area and a colorful variant of stores for customers and sellers to choose from.
You can find many surprising things in the little stores or stalls of Jalan Surabaya. Some of the stores sell any kind of thingamajigs you can think of, from unpolished wooden statues and Javanese traditional masks to decorative Victorian lamps. Other stores specialize in certain items of interest such as cameras and travel luggage cases.
One category of Jalan Surabaya’s visitor is the category of vintage record collectors. The Jalan Surabaya Market can be considered as heaven for the loyal believers of the plate-and-needle way. Surprising discoveries await those who have the time and perseverance to bend over and file through the stacks of records in the rather cramped stall. The variety of records available is impressive, from local artists to legendary international musicians, and even the not-so-legendary musicians who are not quite as famed as Elvis but considered as icons to some. Johnny Cash? 60’s Reggae Compilations? Classic rock giants such as Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin? Name your pick.
As tempting as it may seem to attack the Jalan Surabaya Market and start a hunt of oldies-but-goodies, there are several rules of the game that you must be aware of beforehand. The first one is that not all antiques sold in the market could in fact be properly categorized as ‘antique’. Imitations of the authentic items haunt almost every store, and the sure way to differentiate the real from the fake is that the real ones cost a lot more.
Speaking of costs, there will also be need for sharp bargaining skills to ease your way into a better shopping experience. If bargaining is not your thing, then perhaps it’s a good idea to bring along a smooth-tongued friend to do the nitty-gritty task for you. The items sold in Jalan Surabaya Market have a wide variety of pricing, starting at merely 50 cents to around US$500 ,but these prices are flexible and with a little effort you could probably purchase an item at about half the starting price.
One thing about Jalan Surabaya Market is that it is nicely located in the shady area of Menteng, which would spare you the agonizing heat and pollution usually encountered in other flea markets. The market is not exactly crowded, only a few shoppers here and there, therefore you will have a decent shopping day to look forward to. The best time to come is probably in the morning or afternoon, and preferably with a laid-back mood and plenty of time at hand. An afternoon antiques-shopping session sounds fun, don’t you think?