Palembang Flea Market: Palembang, Sumatra

Jakarta may have its Jl. Surabaya and Taman Puring flea markets but Cinde Market in Palembang is a bargain-hunter’s utopia. Cinde Market in fact comprises two markets, situated side by side.

One is a traditional market in a two-story building on Jl. Sudirman, the other a flea market that takes up parts of Jl. Karet, Jl. Raden Muhamad, Jl. Raden Nangling and Jl. Cinde Welan.

The market has apparently been operating since the 1960s.

Effendi, 58, sold scrap metal at Cinde in the early 1970s. Relatives have since taken over the business but he likes to return to his old haunt from time to time.

“I’ve heard from longtime traders that the market has been going since the ’60s. In the ’70s, when I still had a spot there, the only vehicles in the city were American-made jeeps,” Effendi said last month at his home in Plaju.

The mishmash of fascinating junk sold at the market includes everything from safety pins to firearms to auto parts. Effendi said the men joked among themselves that it even had “what every man wants: a woman to satisfy his needs”.

However, the market has not been known as a place where prostitutes are available since the 1980s.

“This flea market used to be a famous red-light area. However, prostitution gradually disappeared from the market as trade activities picked up,” Effendi said.

Cinde Flea Market measures about 5,500 square meters and is one of the biggest of its kind in the country, Effendi said. Vendors of secondhand goods have set up shop along a 300-meter stretch of road and in the adjacent alleys. Some display their wares on trestle tables, others on bicycles or in carts.

However, not everything sold has come from a reputable source. People who have their things stolen can often recover them here. Sometimes, a thief gets caught while negotiating with a vendor, but rarely does anyone contact the police.

Effendi said the vendors usually asked a lot of questions about the origin of merchandise and would ask to see the identity card of the person selling it. Also, they like to make sure there is a witness to the transaction.

“If they cannot produce an ID card, we’ll get them to give us an address. The vendors can usually tell when something fishy is going on,” said Effendi, who comes from Komering.

But not all merchandise is purchased directly from the owners. The bulk of it is bought from the junk collectors who go from village to village in the early hours of the morning, from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Also popular at the market is the secondhand foreign-made clothing found on Jl. Karet. Prices range from Rp 5,000 for an item that has seen better days to hundreds of thousands of rupiah for a designer dress.

Auto spare parts can be found on Jl. Cinde Wulan, as can electric fans, old telephones and used tires.

Many people come to the market to get a key copied at one of the stalls offering the service on Jl. Nangling Hua or Jl. Raden Muhammad.

Rosi, 25, said he had been cutting keys at the market for seven years. He said it took him less than five minutes to make a copy on basic key-cutting equipment, for which he charged Rp 5,000.

“I earn enough to help my parents out and cover my daily needs,” Rosi said.

He said he would not take responsibility for the unauthorized use of keys, having no way of knowing why a copy was being made.

There is yet another aspect of Cinde Flea Market. From 4:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m on any given day, junk collectors, scavengers and market vendors congregate on Jl. Cinde Welan. The transaction process is simple yet unique. As it is still very early in the morning, the vendors use flashlights to examine the merchandise. In the case of electronic goods, prospective buyers will simply enquire whether the thing they are interested in still works. If it does not, it will cost Rp 50,000.

“If you’re lucky, it will only cost Rp 20,000 to fix it and you can resell it for Rp 500,000-600,000. If it is damaged beyond repair, you can’t return it and won’t get your money back,” said Amir, who often buys secondhand goods from junk collectors.

This area is at its busiest on Sundays. People push and shove, even trying to take what someone else has, so much so that locals call it Pasar Senggol (Touching Market).

Cinde Flea Market is well-known in places as far as Medan, Riau and Jakarta. Kebayoran Lama resident Maryadi, 55, said he often came to Cinde market in search of hard-to-find items.

“Once in a while I come here to visit some friends, but at the same time I look for items that are difficult to find in Jakarta. More often than not I will find them, though the condition may not be too good. With some repair work and polishing, the items will be more valuable,” Maryadi said.

Abdul Syukur, 48, who comes from Riau, said he first came to the flea market on the advice of a friend.

“I just wanted to see if what my friend said was true. Perhaps I’ll make a habit of it as many of the things I collect are sold here and the prices are affordable too.

Khairul Saleh