Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Go Local :: Sungei Road Thieves Market

One man's junk is another man's treasure.. and there's no better place to find these "treasures" in Singapore than at Sungei Road Thieves Market.

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.

The way the peddlers sell their wares has not changed much since its early days as a market to sell stolen goods- hence the origin of its name!

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.

We went on a Sunday evening and it was filled with mainly locals and foreign workers looking for a good bargain.

Old glassware, drink cans, cooking appliances...


Used shoes, army uniforms, fan and their parts...

Chinese amulet pendants, watches...

Pots and pans...

Wooden kueh moulds and Chinese bronze coins..

Electronics, camera and mobile phones...

Here's a very inspiring story I heard from my parents about the market which I think would surprise many Singaporeans since the company is HUGE now...

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?? :)

The end of the market is imminent since it will soon be closing down completely to make way for the new Sungei Road MRT station. Actually, a large part of the market space has been shut down already.

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.

I feel a tinge of sadness that another part of olden Singapore and our unique culture is disappearing again, but glad that we're able to go with Lil Pumpkin at least once.

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.

I love enamel ware and bought this pot, which was in pretty good condition, for just S$5 from the market!! Such a steal! Sorry, couldn't resist that pun! :P

A few of my friends thought that Sungei Road Thieves Markets had already closed down completely. No, it's still there. I'm not sure for how long though since the new MRT station is expected to be completed by 2017.

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
Free Admission

Other Singapore heritage places:


Masshole Mommy said...

Here we call that a flea market - or if people sell their junk in their yards, it's called a yard sale.

An Apel a Day said...

I bet that was fun. Yep it's called a flea market here, yard sales, and garage sales. I used to go to flea markets when I was living in Savannah, Georgia. Here there aren't any close that I'm aware of.

Theresa Mahoney said...

That's like one huge yard sale! I would be in heaven to sift though all that second hand merchandise. You got such a cute pot too!

Small Kucing said...

Interesting place to visit. would love to see those kuih mould more

mail4rosey said...

That is a pretty pot you purchased. It's a shame for those being displaced that it's shutting down. I hope they find a new area to thrive again once it's completely gone.

Sweetday said...

Thanks for your post! I am not aware that such a place existed. I love your buy too! It's a pity that many of these places are going away due to development! Sigh! I hope I would be able to bring Little One there soon.

SengkangBabies said...

Thanks for this post Ai, you reminded me that I should bring the kids there before Thieves Market close down.

Do pop by the famous Sungei Road Laksa (s200007) too, Johorkaki say the Best in SG :p

If I am not wrong, TuesdayReport (Ch8 14Oct 10:30pm) will feature this market.


Stacy said...

Oooh this kind of place cannot take me there one. Will buy up half the market one.

Delphine said...

Thanks for sharing! Used to go very often as a kid because I lived nearby. Can't wait to revisit! :)