Exploring Solo’s Pasar Triwindu
An Introduction to the City's Antique Market
by Ken Jenie
Those who have delved into antique hunting in Indonesia are probably aware that most of the time, the shopping is done privately at the home of the antique dealer. The hunting, discovering, and purchasing of items from private sellers is a tremendously rewarding personal experience, but admittedly inconvenient for most casual shoppers. It takes a good amount of effort to find these dealers, and often time people do not have enough time to play super-sleuth. Antique centers are convenient destinations where visitors can browse a diverse selection of items by a large number of often specialized shops. Surakarta (the Central Java city best known as Solo) is host to one of the best known market, Pasar Triwindu.
A drive down Diponegoro Street will have visitors greeted by giant statues of Mimi and Mintuna (a Javanese couple symbolizing harmony), sitting on pedestals in front of the market’s classic Javanese architecture. Renovated in 2008, the current appearance of Pasar Triwindu is the result of a revitalization effort by the then mayor Joko Widodo. The market, first established in 1939 to commemorate the 24 years of KGPAA Mangkunegara VII’s reign, had apparently become overcrowded and disorganized – prompting Joko Widodo’s administration to redesign it into a two-story building where sellers can rent/purchase kiosks at an affordable rate. The renovated Pasar Triwindu has since become one of the go-to sites for tourists as well as the serious antique collector.
How clean and easily navigable Pasar Triwindu was made a great first impression. Although the apparent scent of dust, rust, and mold can still make shoppers occasionally sneeze (it is part of the charm of antique hunting), the hallways are relatively pristine thanks to not only the site’s sanitation department, but the sellers’ own initiatives as well. The adequately-sized walkways and grid floor plans makes navigating through the many hallways easy, although sometimes the antiques displayed spill onto the visitors’ path, and ornaments hung on the ceilings will make shoppers occasionally duck. The building’s classic Javanese architecture complements the sellers’ items. Like many antique centers, the character of Pasar Triwindu is defined by the plethora and variety of goods, and the building’s design adds a touch of Javanese atmosphere into the browsing experience.
The general atmosphere in Pasar Triwindu is lively thanks to the overwhelming amount of items on display as well as the friendly sellers. A leisurely stroll through the compound is a visual feast for the eyes, with almost every kiosk filled with hundreds of knickknacks.
During a first brief lap around the market, the most apparent goods are handcrafted javanese statuettes, lamps, furniture, home ware, and jewelry. These items are most popular for visitors looking for souvenirs, and are often replicas. A few kiosk owners mentioned that most tourists do not look specifically for antiques, and are quite happy with replicas. These reproductions (which are made to look aged and are cheaper than their original counterparts) inherit the character of the surrounding objects of the past, adding a sentimental value.
Though popular with tourists, the market also caters to serious antique collectors. For the music collector, some of the kiosks sport a varieties of old records mostly from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There were plenty of Indonesian records, many of them sporting the logo of Lokananta, the first music recording company in Indonesia – established in Solo in the year 1956. The sellers are aware of the current interest in Indonesian records, and are keen on selling their copies. Those who know the odds and ends of record collecting can find gems at a reasonable price after bargaining for it, of course.
Like many markets of its kind, bargaining is a must in Pasar Triwindu. This negotiation is expected, and a good haggler can reduce the asking price by about half or even more.
Some of the shop owners also run their businesses online or via telephone, and are happy to update customers of their stocks.
Finding curiosities and oddities is one of the most rewarding parts of the experience, and Pasar Triwindu has plenty of it. Taxidermy of animal claws, family photo albums, personal diaries, and even missile shells are but a few (and perhaps more common) oddities one will find. Although the amount of goods on display is overwhelming, having patience and a keen eye will reveal plenty of rare and strange objects.
The renovated, 75 year old Pasar Triwindu is a must for Solo visitors. The massive collection of goods almost guarantees leaving the premises with a memento. Even if one leaves the market empty-handed, walking through its hallways and browsing through the pastiche of antiques from different eras will make the visit a memorable one.