For antique lovers, going to Surabaya Street or Jalan Surabaya is a must. This antique market presents a vast contrast against the modern, classy malls that have sprung up all over Jakarta. Likewise, it stands out in the elegant neighborhood of Menteng, where it is found. The market began decades ago as a small gathering of merchants that sold Chinese porcelain.
Over the years, the number of merchants grew and the wares became more diverse. Eventually, it became a themed market for antiques. Today, the street is lined with stall upon stall of antique shops. In this open-air market, you will find all sorts of antique pieces and trinkets, such as Javanese puppet dolls, old cannons, body armors, teapots, jewelry and accessories, ancient musical instruments, porcelain, wooden statues, old books, silver and brass materials, Victorian lamps, glass chandeliers, decorations, and even plates salvaged from sunken ships.
The selection indeed is wide, and it is easy to see why those who love antiques would frequent the place. If you decide to venture out to Jalan Surabaya, you must be aware that some pieces may not be authentic. Thus, if you are not that knowledgeable about antique materials, it is better to stick with the less expensive items instead of buying a very expensive one that the store owner may claim to be a very important piece. However, if you know which items are of great value and you can distinguish between authentic and fake antique pieces, then go ahead buy to your heart’s content.
Of course, never forget to haggle. One fascinating thing about going to Surabaya Street is that you get to see pieces from Indonesia’s rich history – literally. As you go through the different shops, you will be amazed by the diversity of goods being sold. You will be even more amazed when you realize that every single item comes from a point in time that helped define Indonesia to be what it is today. As you go through the stalls, you will get a glimpse of the colorful Indonesian culture and the factors that helped influence it. Reading up a bit of Indonesian history before going to the antique market may make the trip more enjoyable for you.
You will be pleased to know that Jalan Surabaya is not as crowded as the other markets in Jakarta. The prices of items in Surabaya Street are not standard. You will notice that they can drop immediately once you turn and walk away from the stall. Just like in any other market, you must be prepared to bargain for discounts on your items of choice. One thing you may observe when you go to Surabaya Street is that many of the merchants do not seem to be very interested in their wares. They themselves do not seem to realize or care about the value of the antique pieces they are selling. For them, one thing is important, one thing that is fueled by their need to survive everyday: to sell their goods so they can earn money.