Today Adek Deny and I visited the 57th Tong Tong Fair in Den Haag (The Hague, The Netherlands). The Tong Tong Fair is one of the biggest fairs in Europe with products and information about Asia and especially about Indonesia. Originally the fair started as a gathering place for people from Indonesia in the late 50s and originally was named Pasar Malam.
Den Haag was an obvious choice because after the second World War and Indonesia’s independence many people from mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent (the so called Indo’s) decided to move from tropical Indonesia to less-tropical Netherlands and the city of Den Haag was a popular place to settle. It is well known that many of the immigrants had and still have many fond and nostalgic memories of their home country and the Pasar Malam was one of the few occasions once a year to share these feelings of what the Dutch define as “weemoed”. This nostalgic atmosphere is still very vibrant and present in 2015. I noticed that the majority of the visitors is still from that first and second generation of migrants that came to the Netherlands in the 40s and 50s.
Some years ago the founders of the fair thought that it would be a good idea to broaden the scope and make it a more Asian than Indonesian fair. I don’t think they succeeded in that plan (yet) as I experienced the atmosphere as very Indonesian.
The fair is located at the Malieveld in The Hague, a huge open space and grass field where during the year all kinds of events are held. It is located in walking distance from the biggest train station in Den Haag (Centraal Station) The Tong Tong Fair is completely hosted in a complex of big temporary tents connected with -also covered- walk ways, so whether the weather is good or bad outside you will not notice it. Tickets prices range from around 10 to 14 euro for a day ticket, the price depending whether one can apply for special discounts (for students and elderly people).
The most crowded part of the fair is the Indonesian Pavilion, where hundreds of sellers of goods and food offer their supplies. Most of them are from Indonesia and going through this Pavilion personally reminded me somewhat of visiting the side streets of Jalan Malioboro in Yogyakarta. Here you can find lots of original Indonesian food, clothing and accessories, only be aware the prices are very Dutch (so not cheap)!
Another big part of the fair is the Grand Pasar, that has a less Indonesian character. In the back of the Grand Pasar is the ‘Tong Tong Podium’ where artists perform during opening hours until closing time. We personally visited a concert by Orkes Keroncong Cente Manis, which we liked well. There is also a ‘Tong Tong Theater’ where more serious subjects about Dutch-Indonesian relations are being discussed. Finally there is The Food Court with many choices to have your lunch or dinner in real Indonesian style.
Personally I never visited the fair before, but I found it all together a pleasant experience. There are lots of opportunities to buy special Indonesian products and lots of opportunities to try those products before you buy. So I guess that probably most guests come outside with a full belly, full bags and emptier wallets. Exiting the fair brings you back into the reality of the Dutch weather conditions as the rain was already waiting for us. For most of the visitors this means there will be the waiting for another year before they have a chance to relive their Indonesian past again.
You still can visit the fair because it will be opened until June 7th, 2015!
-Den Haag, May 29 2015-
All pictures are our own documentation.
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And actually we bought ….