Pasar Tanah Abang is huge! So big in fact that it is considered to be the largest textile market in South East Asia. But unlike other markets we have visited thus far, Pasar Tanah Abang is more a ‘locals’ market’, frequented by patrons looking for grosir baju murah (cheap wholesale clothing). Moreover, this pasar acts as a wholesale supplier to other markets (such as Pasar Mayestik) and different businesses.
Ask any local person familiar with Pasar Tanah Abang to describe it and they are likely to say, ‘busy’, ‘hectic’, ‘crowded’. To be honest, they may even be surprised that you are contemplating a visit. We were also advised, hati-hati – take care of yourself and your possessions as pick pocketing is supposedly common.
So armed with this sage advice, early one Jakarta morning Liz and I ventured into Jakarta Pusat (Central Jakarta) to discover Pasar Tanah Abang for ourselves. In pictures, this is what we found:
We left Pasar Tanah Abang with big smiles on our faces. We were delighted in the energy of the place; the friendliness of the people and the fact that we ‘conquered’ the market (well, at least a tiny bit of it).
To best prepare for your adventure to Pasar Tanah Abang, here is some advice we put together for you, our valued reader.
Top 10 Tips for Visiting Pasar Tanah Abang:
- Take note of your entry point into Pasar Tanah Abang. Take a photo so you don’t get lost! With at least 6 levels to explore, the whole adventure can be a little disorienting
2. Wear sensible clothing and dress respectfully. We would also recommend you wear your bag across your chest or at least ensure your bag can be secured properly. We were advised by many local people to keep an eye on our valuables
3. The patrons and stallholders are very friendly and many have an excellent command of English. Don’t forget to practice your Bahasa Indonesia too!
4. The pasar is air-conditioned and is comfortable to walk around. It is also clean
5. The toilets were Western-style (i.e., seated toilets). Again, they were very clean when we visited but we do recommend you bring your own tissue
6. Unlike other markets we have visited, there is no wet market at Pasar Tanah Abang
7. This is a local market, so don’t expect to see many *bules around. Your presence may be received with looks of curiosity and surprise. But this is all part of the fun. We felt very welcome at Pasar Tanah Abang and in fact the highlight of our visit was meeting and talking with people
8. Car parking is hectic – call your driver in advance so that you don’t have to wait around for too long
9. Go early! We arrived at 0930 and by the time we left (after midday), the pasar was crowded but we had avoided the brunt of this. We would advise you to avoid weekends – it is extremely busy and traffic in and around the pasar is often grid-locked
10. ‘Hati-hati’! This was a constant call between Liz and myself during our visit to Pasar Tanah Abang as delivery people carried large parcels through the market. It was very important to be aware of your surroundings as some of the parcels were so big that the delivery person couldn’t see beyond them. Bolts of fabric are carried over shoulder and trolleys are pushed with a steely determination. Your presence in their path isn’t of much consequence.. so stay focused!
Tanah Abang translates as ‘Red Land’ in Sundanese
According to Wikipedia, Pasar Tanah Abang has existed since 1735
In early 2003 a section of the market was destroyed by fire and was then rebuilt
The market is divided into sections including Metro Tanah Abang, Tanah Abang Lama, and Tanah Abang AURI. From 2005 onwards two more blocks were added including Blok A and Blok B, whereby Blok A is the largest section of Pasar Tanah Abang, featuring approximately 8000 stalls. (Wikipedia)
Until recently, the area of Tanah Abang was known for its constant traffic congestion caused by illegal street vendors and illegal parking. However, current Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, (known by his Hakka Chinese nickname, Ahok), has worked hard to clean up the area with noticeable results.
Pasar Tanah Abang
Jl. Kb. Jati, Kp. Bali,
Tanah Abang, Kota Jakarta Pusat,
Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, Indonesia
*bule: white foreigner
Please note that we do not support the making and selling of copy products. This blog post reports on what we found at Pasar Tanah Abang and is by no means an endorsement of the counterfeit-product industry.
Words: Jo Photography: a journey bespoke