We visited the 80-year-old Sungei Road Thieves Market before it closes for good on 10 July. Here’s what made this bargain hunter’s paradise so unique
The time has come – come 10 July, Sungei Road Thieves Market will shut for good to make way for a future residential development. Situated off Sungei Road, the oldest flea market in Singapore has been a haven for bargain hunters and the less well-off for the past 80 years. Watch the video below for a closer look at the market:
Originally a bazaar of mostly stolen goods, the market is became a treasure trove of random knick-knacks – think household goods, car parts, shoes and accessories, and even rare antiques if you were lucky. Vendors are mostly rag-and-bone men, who peddle their wares entirely rent-free. While you can bargain as much as you wish here, I’ve always done so reasonably, lest I offend the stall owner or deny him a decent income.
Despite the market’s closure of half its space in 2011 for the construction of Sungei Road MRT, it’s continued to thrive through the years, drawing in crowds of families, the elderly and foreign construction workers on weekends. Its closure – another indication of Singapore’s gentrification of heritage neighbourhoods – is a devastating time for both vendors and visitors. Assistance has been given to hawkers to help them find alternatives to continue their trade, while permit-holders will be relocated to other markets, including Upper Cross Street Market and North Bridge Road market. Others have been given financial aid, or are in the process of finding other forms of employment.
For long-time visitors like myself, it’s also a sad time. I will be hard-pressed to find a market in Singapore as unconstrained as this. So be sure to say your final goodbyes this weekend before it officially closes on Monday. And if you’re new to the market, don’t miss out on this piece of history either – join a tour organised by Save the Sungei Road Market. It may also be your last chance to let your voice be heard – help decide if the market should stay.
Thank you for the memories, Sungei Road! You’ll be missed.
Join the Save Sungei Road Market’s 14th tour of the market on 8 July. To participate, the meetup will be held at 3pm at Block 31 Kelantan Lane coffee shop.
All photos by Darissa Lee.