Jakarta is known for its large, high-end malls, but if you are searching for a different kind of shopping experience away from the comforts of air-conditioning, then you should go to Pasar Baru, which is translated as “New Market”. This open market located in Central Jakarta was built in 1820 by the Dutch, who called it Passer Baroe. It used to be the one of the thriving business centers in old Jakarta and was dominated by Chinese, Malay, and Indian merchants. At that time, the place was frequented by rich patrons. According to stories, Dutch girls wearing white dresses and holding umbrellas would take leisurely strolls along the walkways while checking out the wares. Today, however, the New Market attracts diverse groups of people.
A lot of the shops in Pasar Baru sell different kinds of textile. You can find rich, colorful fabric of any kind – chiffon, cotton, georgette, batik, wool, silk, and nylon, among others. Whatever kind of fabric you need, you are sure to find it in the New Market. Aside from textile shops, which seem to dominate the market, you will also find shops selling shoes. A close observation would reveal that most textile shops are owned by Indians while most shoe shops are owned by Chinese merchants.
As you walk through the market, you will find other shops selling all sorts of goods such as herbal medicine, spices, stationery, house décor and accessories, and even old Indonesian coins. There are also places to eat in the market. Along Rabbit Alley, which is also called Gang Kelinci, you will see noodle eateries. A short distance away from Rabbit Alley, there is a small collection of stalls selling Indian food items.
Before going to Pasar Baru, you need to keep some things in mind. First, the place being so crowded makes it easy for pickpockets and purse snatchers to operate in the area. Make sure that your wallet or purse is kept close to your body at all times. If you need to get some money, do it discreetly. Always be aware of the people near or around you. Wearing jewelry will attract thieves so it is best to skip the earrings and necklaces and bracelets. You are going to an open market, anyway; sporting a simple, casual look is best.
Like any other market, the New Market is a place where you can sharpen your haggling skills. The common practice is to ask for up to a fourth or a third of the original price. Most merchants give reasonable price discounts, and they actually expect their buyers to haggle. If you are fortunate, you might chance upon the store owners who can give better discounts. However, you must remember not to argue with the merchant when you are haggling. If you do not get the price you want, just walk away politely.
Eating at the Pasar Buru is no problem at all, but buying drinks from vendors is not advisable, as the water they use may not be safe for drinking. It is best for you to bring along your own bottle of water. You will need it, anyway; it is a good defense against the warm tropical weather.