On my latest visit to Semarang – my hometown – I got the chance to go to a lively traditional market which sits in an unassuming small alley not too far from the Chinatown. Prembaen – the name of the alley after which the eponymous market is named – is filled with small makeshift kiosks and stalls every morning. Fresh vegetables, fruits, spices and traditional snacks vendors share this tiny alley with the vendors of farm produce such as meats, chickens, eggs and even frogs.
What I like the most from this market is its cleanliness, among other things. In other traditional markets, fresh produce waste often accumulate on the floors, which in turn keep hygiene-minded people away from such places. However, all vendors at Prembaen Market are well-disciplined to keep their kiosks and stalls clean and tidy. One of my first impressions toward this market was the absence of unpleasant odor which is usually the first thing everyone would smell upon entering a traditional market.
Nevertheless, many traditional markets are disappearing fast, replaced with modern and bigger hypermarkets which are usually air-conditioned and conveniently located in the city center. I myself always go to such modern markets to buy the groceries. But my visit to Prembaen Market reminds me of what most traditional markets have to offer: warm conversations with the vendors.
When I took my camera out of the bag, some vendors chatted with each other. “Let’s pose, he is taking some pictures,” one of them said out loud and the others chuckled. I felt pure warmheartedness in this place, unlike the business-as-usual mentality that I always encounter when I shop at more modern markets.
“We’ll get famous,” one of the vendors added. I grinned at her.
Finding such clean and pleasant traditional market in Jakarta might be a challenge. But I hope Prembaen Market and other lovely traditional markets elsewhere keep thriving despite the fierce competition from the more modern retailers.
When was the last time you went to a traditional market?