Exploring the Moving Market in Pulau Burung District
© Tay Juhana Foundation

It was almost evening when several wooden boats move closer to a humble deck in front of Manunggal Jaya Village’s hall. This village lies in Pulau Burung District, also lies on the coastal part of Indragiri Hilir Regency in Riau. That afternoon, some people—which are merchants—got off, brought various goods from their colorful boats. Boxes and sacks contain numerous needs for the locals transported to a spot next to the village hall, along with tarp canopy, which they began to raise to mark and cover their area. The place gradually radiated busier ambiance, showing the working merchants arranging their commodities in a crowded and small spot. Once every week, this happening occurs, and the local people refer to this as ‘moving market.’

The history of this moving market started around the same time when people were arriving as transmigrants in Pulau Burung back in mid-1990. The incoming population was allocated to live in villages among the network of canals that had been built. Due to the transmigration scheme, most of Pulau Burung area is coconut plantation. Amid the row of coconuts, the view of canals is everywhere. The canals are part of the water management system, and are also the primary transportation means here. There are 11 villages in Pulau Burung District, which have been the living place for the transmigrants. The locals usually call the village as SP (Satuan Pemukiman). To move from one village to another, people often take the boat since riding motorbikes takes more time and sometimes dangerous due to the weak infrastructure. For this reason, some villages become transit spots of the moving market for the locals to make their livelihoods as merchants.

SP 3, with an official name of Manunggal Jaya Village, is one of the villages appointed to host the moving market. Here, the market is called Pasar Rabu (Wednesday Market) since it is only operated every Wednesday, where the merchants usually come at 4 PM to a spot near the village hall. They will fulfill this area with their colorful tarp shades until approximately 9 PM.

Accordingly, there are six other markets which named with days in a week—from Pasar Senin (Monday Market) to Pasar Minggu (Sunday Market). These markets are available in six other different villages. Every market might have a different time to open. For example, while Pasar Rabu opens at 4-9 PM, the Pasar Minggu begins in the morning and closes in the afternoon.

Exploring the Moving Market in Pulau Burung District2

The merchants who sell goods in the moving market come from different villages, even outside Pulau Burung District. They sell a variety of things, from daily needs, street foods, packaged snacks, fruits and vegetables, clothes, to multipurpose tools. Many of the moving market’s merchants work full-time as sellers, but some only make trading as a side occupation besides being coconut and pineapple farmers. Usually, these merchants obtain the commodities from the market near to the port, where bigger merchants have wider access to various goods coming from other places.

Despite the effort needed to reach the place, there are visitors to the moving market coming from different villages. In Pasar Rabu, for example, the buyers not only come from residents of Manunggal Jaya Village but also locals from other villages. They have come all the way, sailing through the canals by wooden boat to the market. Undoubtedly, exploring the moving market in the corner of the village gives anyone the observe and experience the economic pulses spreading throughout villages in Pulau Burung District. These pulses have been simultaneously growing along with the development of coconut plantation in this area.