Yogyakarta’s old market
Pasar Legi market, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The women – and, for some reason, they are mainly women – all smile at me. Here I am, a nosy tourist walking around with a camera, yet everyone seems so welcoming. Perhaps not too many tourists come through here. Or maybe it’s just easier to be pleasant. After all, these women are here all day and their livelihoods can depend on building good relationships with their customers.
This is Pasar Legi, a market in the old town of Yogyakarta in Indonesia. It doesn’t claim to be the oldest or the most traditional market in the city but, if you had told me it was, I would have believed you. It has that kind of atmosphere and I find walking amongst the stalls fascinating.
Pasar Legi is in the centre of the old town of Yogyakarta, called Kotagede. This historic area is filled with traditional wooden joglo houses and merchant houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. They mix traditional Javanese architecture with influences from the colonial Dutch.
The district feels very different to the rest of the city. The modern developments and conveniences of today haven’t infiltrated the alleyways and open air courtyards. It’s busy without feeling overwhelming, convenient without seeming homogenised.
Kotagede has long been a centre for commerce. A lot of wealthy merchants had their houses here and opened shops in the area. One of the most popular wares was silver and the galleries (many of which still exist) were found along Kemasan street.
So it’s not great surprise that commerce feels so natural here at the Pasar Legi market in the middle of Kotagede.
The stalls spill out into the space at the front of the enclosed market hall, fruit and vegetables carefully arranged on blankets on the ground. Food is being cooked on trolleys for workers and shoppers. There are cardboard boxes full of biscuits, scales waiting for purchases, and plenty of conversation.
The mood continues inside, although once through the main doors, everything becomes slightly darker. The artificial lights are kept to a minimum and, with a ceiling of mainly corrugated iron, the sun can only sneak in from certain directions. Smoke from the small cooking fires throughout the building rises up and gets caught in the rays.
The stall owners sit on benches or small stools, surrounded by their wares. As I walk through, I look at what’s for sale. There are piles of fruits and vegetables, biscuits and instant coffee, rice, palm leaves, hats, baskets, brooms, eggs and more. It’s the kind of market local residents would come to regularly for their daily needs.
In the centre of the market is a separate tiled area where butchers work behind benches, chopping meat for sale. In other sections, meat is being cooked in pots over fires. At one stall, a woman is cutting open coconuts for thirsty and sweaty workers. It is hot in here.
As I wander through and take photos, I enjoy the friendliness the locals show me, even offering me some tastes of their wares. It’s a wonderful slice of Indonesia and the hospitality of Yogyakarta. And I am constantly impressed with how the whole places looks, so fitting for the old district.
Let me leave you with some more of the shots I took of the market and its people. Enjoy!
Time Travel Turtle was supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.