Opened in the 1930s, Sungei Road Thieves Market is really the epitome of a flea market and sells mainly second-hand clothes, shoes, electronics, homeware, toys etc. Unlike Dongtai Road Antique Market in Shanghai whereby the authenticity of the items is quite doubtful and are just new items made to look old, I truly believe that most of the items sold in this market have been used and are really old / retro / vintage etc :P
Do not come here expecting to find hipster designs, local handicrafts or artisan ware..the stalls are permitted to sell only second-hand or used merchandise. However, do expect to have a stroll down memory lane and see a part of Singapore's heritage that will be completely wiped out soon.
I'm not saying that the wares nowadays are stolen, but that like the olden days, the peddlers simply lay mats on the ground and display their products. No fancy table display, shining lights or beautiful signs. It's just all there for you to rummage to your heart's pleasure.
One of the peddler in the 1970s used to be a guy called Pang Lim. He worked hard and saved enough money to rent a coffee shop with his younger brother and uncle in 1990s. They rented out the stalls to other hawkers and grew the business until it became.... Koufu, a highly recognised Singaporean brand with more nearly 40 food courts and various coffee-shops, cafes and restaurants, even one in Sans Cotai, Macau.
Isn't it amazing how with one's determination and tenacity, you can rise above your humble beginnings to prominence?? :)
Most of the peddlers are between 60 - 80 years old, with little education or are illiterate. Although the government is offering help for them to upgrade their skills or find jobs, most just want another area to sell their wares and earn their own keep.
Some have also said that they don't want to be split up because it's the variety of goods that helps make the market thrive and be unique. Also, after being with one another day in day out, bonds have formed and they don't want to leave a familiar area, and their friends.
Indeed, while walking through the market, we saw that many of the vendors seemed comfortable to be there just to while the time away with their old friends, rather than actively sell their wares.
We'll probably be going down again because we had to rush through the last part of the market since it started to rain... and I want to get a better photo of Lil Pumpkin there! :P She just woke up from her nap and wasn't in the mood for photos heh.
If you ever want to go have a look at the market before it closes, now is a good time.
Sungei Road Thieves Market
Sungei Road, between Jalan Besar and Rochor Canal Road
Open daily 1pm - 7pm