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  • Rumaisha Ghina

Floating Markets of Banjarmasin

Updated: Jul 8

(Image courtesy of Pasar Terapung Lok Baintan)

When hearing the phrase 'A City of a Thousand Rivers,' one might think of Venice or Amsterdam. However, this nickname is given to South Borneo’s own Banjarmasin. The city's extensive network of river canals is essential to its daily life, commerce, and transportation. One unique aspect of this region is its floating markets, known as "Pasar Terapung."

The origins of the Pasar Terapung can be traced back to the era of the Banjar Sultanate in the 18th century. The waterways were essential trade routes that connected Banjarmasin with neighboring regions, enabling the exchange of goods and cultures. In this riverine community, the concept of the floating market emerged.

In the pre-colonial era, Banjarmasin's floating markets were strategic trading centers where goods like spices, gold, diamonds, and exotic wildlife were exchanged, establishing the city as a key player in regional trade. Even during Dutch rule, these markets flourished, integrating European goods into local commerce while maintaining their pre-existing sense of community.

Currently, Pasar Terapung Muara Kuin floating and Pasar Terapung Lok Baintan are the two most popular and oldest floating markets in Banjarmasin. The traders are the beating heart of the floating market, in which women make up a majority of the traders, while men primarily engage in agriculture. Donning their traditional tanggui hats, the women commence trading at 6:00 am and continue until 9:30 am on the weekends. As the sun rises, the river transforms into a vibrant kaleidoscope of colors. Brightly painted boats float gently on the water, their stalls filled with a variety of goods. From traditional snacks and food, to handicrafts and souvenirs, and the endless variety of homegrown products changes with the season.

Bartering is still common among traders, and many items are negotiable, with no fixed prices set by the sellers. The market thrives without a formal merchant organization, resulting in a large number of traders. This market is unique because in addition to transactions carried out on a jukung (Banjar-style boats), traders and buyers are also not fixed in one place, but continue to move with the flow of the river.

However, as a result of the rapid urban expansion, which includes the construction of land-based infrastructure many of these floating markets face a significant decrease in visitors. However, the government has pledged to protect this vibrant collage of culture, commerce, and community. A new floating market has been established at Siring, on the Martapura River. Sellers are encouraged to participate, and facilities like jukung boats are provided to enhance the market's unique atmosphere for tourists. Additionally, the local government hosts the Banjarmasin Floating Market Festival annually, attracting people from local and foreign communities. This event aims to promote tourism and boost the economy in Banjarmasin, while also celebrating and preserving the local culture.


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