In the quiet residential Menteng District of Jakarta, Indonesia, Jalan Surabaya (Surabaya Street) stands apart. It's an antique market in one of Jakarta’s more upscale residential areas. It's also an endangered tourist destination, under attack by a city government intent on reclaiming the land for other purposes.
Occupying a 500-yard stretch on one side of Jalan Surabaya, the 184 shops along the line hawk antiques of all sorts: batik, salvaged accessories from ships, old coins, porcelain, wayang golek (Javanese puppets), batik, lampshades, vinyl LPs, old phones, wood carvings, utensils, and books, among others.
Read on to learn more about the antiques (and authentic reproductions) waiting for you when you shop here.
What You’ll Find on Jalan Surabaya
The goods on Jalan Surabaya reflect Indonesia’s past and patchwork present.
From the Dutch colonial era, you’ll find plenty of old coins, Dutch porcelain, chandeliers, and silverware. From modern culture, you’ll find rotary telephones, cameras, and LPs. From traditional Indonesian communities, you’ll find Javanese puppets, batik, and Balinese carvings.
You'll find a few dedicated, one-product shops for items like cameras and vinyl. A number of stalls on one end of Jalan Surabaya sell secondhand luggage. And for some reason, there is a glut of accessories salvaged from ships, from portholes to diving helmets.
All this requires patience and time to sift through, so visit Jalan Surabaya early in the morning or later in the afternoon, avoiding the noonday sun entirely. The shops open daily from 10am to 6pm, so work around that schedule to get in about two to three hours of dedicated shopping.
History of Jalan Surabaya
Many of Jalan Surabaya’s antique sellers trace the origins of their trade to itinerant antique sellers in the old city around Fatahillah Square. As their numbers grew, the need for a permanent place for these sellers grew as well.
In 1974, then-Governor of Jakarta Ali Sadikin moved the sellers to their current spot on Jalan Surabaya, where they have been hawking their wares ever since.
President Barack Obama lived in Menteng for part of his childhood, although the neighborhood is much changed from when he was living here. The school he attended, Menteng 01 Elementary School, still stands – with the addition of a statue commemorating his brief study there. (Location on Google Maps)
Haggling Down Prices in Jalan Surabaya
You’d be a fool to pay the first price quoted for any item on Jalan Surabaya. If you want to get the most out of your shopping experience on this street, you’d better know how to haggle.
Many of the more expensive items can be had for less than fifty percent of the stated price; a wood carving that starts at IDR 300,000 ($30) can be dickered down to as low as IDR 120,000 ($12) if you have the patience and good humor to talk the price down to a level you can tolerate. (Read about money in Indonesia.)
There are exceptions to the rule, of course; Caucasian buyers are often quoted higher prices than locals, because it’s presumed that bule, or white folk, have more money. To get around this problem (and also to navigate the language barrier) you’d better have a local intercede for you whenever possible
Lian Records: Vinyl Collectors’ Stop on Jalan Surabaya
A favorite stop on Jalan Surabaya is Lian Records (Jl. Surabaya No.63, RT.16/RW.5, Menteng, Jakarta; location on Google Maps), the vinyl shop in the middle of the stretch. This shop is a must-visit for LP collectors, as the proprietor Lian Nasution has put together an eclectic collection worthy of the pickiest vinyl enthusiast.
You have to have a little patience to work your way through the collection, which isn’t arranged in any particular order, and are housed in a shop no larger than a walk-in closet.
You can ask Pak Lian himself for advice; his encyclopedic knowledge of the expansive vinyl stock can help as you sift through the piles of LPs littering the store. Pak Lian is the son of the store’s founder, who opened it for business in the 1950s.
Records go for IDR 20,000 ($2) to IDR 40,000 ($4), although you’re free to dicker down.
Antiques vs. Fakes on Jalan Surabaya
Jalan Surabaya’s reputation for antiques and vinyl aside, a fair number of reproductions and out-and-out fakes proliferate among the goods in the stores. The rule on Jalan Surabaya is, as with all flea markets, caveat emptor.
While this writer was able to ascertain the authenticity of the old Dutch colonial coins pictured above, a number of hawkers attempted to foist a number of large but obviously fake coins. (Even a novice like myself could tell that the coins were far too light to convincingly pass as legal tender in the 18th century!)
Telling the fake from the real on Jalan Surabaya is not easy. One rule of thumb: if an item seems too cheap to believe, it’s probably fake.
Restaurants along Jalan Surabaya
On the western side of Jalan Surabaya, across the street from the shops, you’ll mainly find gated-off homes, fit for Indonesia’s upper crust. Many official residences for government officials and ambassadors can be found in Menteng, leaving little room for the street food stalls and Padang restaurants one has come to expect of Jakarta’s food scene.
For a food or drink break after shopping at Jalan Surabaya, you’ll only find a couple of restaurants next to each other (location on Google Maps), where they’ve managed to find a toehold between Menteng’s mansions.
Giyanti Coffee Roastery (giyanticoffeeroastery.com) is a colorful space utterly devoted to coffee. Its quirky but cozy interior serves as a showcase for locally-sourced coffee – you can have an espresso on the spot, or order bags of their choice beans to take home. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9:30am to 5:30pm.
Cali Deli/Madame Ching (pictured here) combine two different food concepts into one space. Cali Deli serves sandwiches with a Vietnamese touch – think banh mis and iced coffee. Madame Ching, on the other hand, blends Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine to produce excellent noodle soups and rice dishes.
Location of Jalan Surabaya in Jakarta, Indonesia
Jalan Surabaya is located on Menteng district in Central Jakarta (location on Google Maps), about 1.5 miles southeast of Jalan Bundaran HI.
Jalan Surabaya is a peaceful respite from clogged-up Jakarta proper. The shopping area is shaded by a number of trees, and your guide spotted a squirrel negotiating a telephone wire while he was there. Shopping in Jalan Surabaya is quite peaceful, assuming you schedule your shopping when the worst of the heat is over.
There are no public transportation options for Jalan Surabaya; ride a taxi or a bajaj to get to the area.