Market Feature #5: Pasar Tanah Abang – South East Asia’s Largest Fabric Market

Pasar in a distance
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.

Many local people flock to Pasar Tanah Abang to purchase cheap clothing

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:

Jo and Jeans
Lots of denim! A large selection of jeans are available on the entry level at Blok A and on the upper levels too
Prada jeans
Copy denim
Jo and sportsware
Lots of pre-made clothing, including sportswear, shirts, swim suits for children and ‘Busana Muslim’ (Muslim fashion)
Moslem fashion
Pasar Tanah Abang is famous for its vast array of ‘Busana Muslim’ (Muslim fashion)
Liz and the Italian suiting fabric
As South East Asia’s largest fabric market, there is a mind-boggling amout of fabric at Tanah Abang. Here, Liz is checking out material suitable for tailored-wear
Liz and modern brights
Pasar Tanah Abang has fabrics for all uses. You can find material for drapes and curtains, bedding, clothing & uniforms and upholstery. Basically, if you need fabric, this is the place to come!
Indian embroidery childrens clothes
At Pasar Tanah Abang, you will also find traditional costumes for children (these are from India)
Indian hena
You can also find genuine henna and an assortment of Indian jewellery
Fabric seller
Whilst meandering our way through the market, we met Pak Pratap Mulani of Laris Textie. We enjoyed a length chat with him and he introduced us to some beautiful imported fabrics including songket and laces.
Indian embroidered fabric
‘Bollywood songket’ from India, which retails for approx. Rp500,000 per metre (about $50 AUD)
Jo and her fave fabric
The colours in this piece of Bollywood Songket really captured my attention. Cantik Sekali! (so pretty!)
imported lace
Imported lace, most popular for wedding attire
Afir selling prayer items
We met Afir who sells prayer hats (peci) worn by men at Mosques. At the time of our visit, Jakarta was gearing up for the Holy Month of Ramadan. Afir also sells sejadah (prayer mats)
peci (hats) and prayer mats
A selection of ‘peci’-style hats
Celine bags
Copy handbags
Sports bags cont
Pasar Tanah Abang sells a wide selection of sporting goods, including bags, clothing and accessories
Sports bags
Backpacks can be found on the upper levels of Blok A
A vast array of luggage is also available on the upper levels of Blok A

In conclusion:
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).

Selfie.. liz and Jo prepare for the adventure

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:

  1. 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
Selamat Datang Jo
A photo of our entry point at Blok A

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

Liz and Moslem ware
The wearing of sensible and modest clothing is recommended
From where we stand Pasar Tanah Abang
Don’t forget to wear comfy shoes. There’s a lot of ground to cover
Liz Sepri and ??
On Level 5 we met the the delightful Sepri and Yulianis, both originally from Sumatra but moved to Jakarta for work

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!

Delamat Datang sign
When we visited, we found the market to be very clean

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

Ramai sekali di luar Blok A
The traffic surrounding the pasar is always ‘macet’ (congested). If you are being picked up after your market experience, contact your driver in advance

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

Pasar main lobby
As the day unfolds, the pasar becomes extremely busy. Watch out for all of the ‘cargo’ as it moves throughout the market

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!

manpower transport1
Pasar Tanah Abang is a ‘working’ market. There are constantly deliveries coming and going. It’s exciting and hectic which means you must always be aware of your surroundings

Manpower transport outside blok b2
A heavy load and a smile

Interesting Facts:

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)

Bus outside Blok b
Local bus passing the entrance to Blok A at Pasar Tanah Abang.

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



    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hi Julia, thanks so much for the feedback. Great to know you are enjoying our blog. Let us know if there’s anything you want us to explore in Jakarta. We are always keen to hear from our readers. Best wishes,

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