A Wrinkle in time - The lost Sungei Road Market vendors
Have you wondered where the Sungei Road Thieves Market vendors went after the closure of the popular market?
A Brief History
The Sungei Road flea market began in the 1930s as a rent-free hawking area and was in its heyday known as a place to trade stolen, smuggled or illegal goods, hence its alternative moniker – “Thieves Market”.
In more recent memory, vendors and bargain hunters haggled over a kaleidoscope of used wares and gems hidden in plain sight. These ranged from used household appliances, knick-knacks to the odd Rolex and first edition books.
Eight decades of this urban oasis came to an end in July 2017 to make way for the opening of Jalan Besar MRT station as well as future commercial and residential developments.
The closure of the Sungei Road Market meant that vendors had to look for alternative sites to ply their trade. They moved from place to place setting up makeshift stalls including at the itinerant Pasar Malams that operate only for a few weeks out of the year.
A number of these displaced vendors found solace at the Kreta Ayer weekend market. This respite was however short-lived, with it eventually closing in 2018 for improvement works by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB).
These vendors have been since on the move without a permanent hawking place. Some continue to hawk illegally.
The current situation
Today, a handful of ex Sungei Road vendors have found a permanent home in the Sungei Road Green Hub, a 2-unit shop at the void deck of HDB blocks in Kelantan Road. These units are supported by The Saturday Movement, a volunteer group comprising volunteers proactively reaching out the elderly and The Peranakan, a popular Peranakan restaurant in Singapore.
This initiative aims to give these vendors an opportunity to "own" a permanent hawking space with a roof over their head. Vendors contribute a nominal amount towards the monthly rental and maintenance of the shop under the guidance of The Saturday Movement.
In addition, a group of individuals coming together as the “PG4PGBefrienders” (Pioneer Generation for Pioneer Generation Befrienders) have chipped in with their "Kampung Spirit" by providing meals and moral support.
Keeping in line with our ethos of channeling leisure dollars where they matter the most, we have teamed up with the wonderful folks at SingExpress Travel to create a little experiential tour where you get to meet these vendors and learn about this dying street culture.
This experience costs $25 per person and runs every Sunday in October and November.
10.00am – Meet and greet at the original Sungei Road Market site. Your host, the incredibly knowledgeable Eunice Chua, Director of SingExpress will share about the history and stories seldom told about the Market.
10.15am – Visit Chinatown where you may get the chance to cross paths with some vendors hawking illegally. We will otherwise point out the locations where you may chance upon these vendors from time to time.
10.45am – We drive to Woodlands to visit another group of vendors currently hawking there. Have the chance to browse a number of these stalls reminiscent of the makeshift stalls in Chatuchat Market, Bangkok, hidden in an industrial area, catering to the foreign worker crowd.
12.00pm – Proceed to usual Pasar Malam grounds at Farrer Park area where hawking spaces were previously rented to another group of vendors. This land is now barren and awaiting redevelopment.
12.30pm – We end at Sungei Road Green Hub for interaction with the vendors and for the opportunity to browse their vintage wares. You are bound to find treasures, both physical and through the stories told here!
11/ 18/ 25 Oct 2020
01/ 08 /15/ 22/29 Nov 2020
10AM - 1PM
How you can help
Join our tour at a cost SGD$25 per person!
All proceeds go towards the maintenance of the Sungei Road Green Hub. You can also bring along your hand-me-downs and items to donate to these vendors; you'd be surprised at how they can breathe a new leases of life into them!
Go to the following link to book a spot! Contact us if you require more information!