Sungei Road Thieves Market
Sungei road is situated near Sim Lim tower. There, elderly locals set up small booths, selling second hand antiques and keep-sakes to tourists and locals alike. Rumour has it the raod is going to be closed down. So antique hoarders and junk lovers should head down as soon as possible.
The streets are lined with peddlers and karang guni men selling interesting trinkets. You will be able to find anything and everything here, from clothes to vintage collectibles to electronics. There are also CDs galore, and I got myself a newly wrapped ACDC Back in Black album at a steal! Also, be sure to inspect the goods carefully before you purchase them. Many of the items have defects so be careful to avoid unpleasant realizations later.
Sadly, the thieves' market is going to be demolished soon to make way for a new MRT station. Be sure to pay it a visit before this happens. You will never know what kind of gems you may find. Immerse yourself in what's left of our heritage before it gives way to unkind development.
Many years back, the Thieves’ Market used to be a place where goods that were stolen or smuggled were sold. Bringing it eighty years forward, it is now known for selling second-hand items. At the first glimpse, I thought I landed myself in the middle of some junkyard. Items are either placed on mats or the ground. Do not expect all the items to be neatly arranged.
A trip there today and saw a wide variety of items being sold, ranging from spare parts, and old watches to digital cameras. In Singapore, where can we find watches retailing at two or three dollars each? Especially vintage ones. Yes, there are quite a few stores there with plenty of watches to choose from at that price. On top of that, you can expect to also find watches selling for up to one to two hundred dollars. Not everything there is as cheap as it seems. As I walked from one stall to another, I spotted a couple of ibanking tokens and this actually made me wonder how these items found their place there.
This gem in the East will most likely be another part of history to make way for another train station and the vendors are expected to move. I would say, the Thieves’ Market at Sungei Road will not be around for too long and if you have the time, just drop by and take a look. Take this chance to immerse in the local peddling scene!
• Go with a group of friends, especially during weekdays.
• Remember to bring water along as the sun in the afternoon can get really hot.
• Walk through all the stalls to look at the different items before buying any as the items and their prices vary.
• Bargain and get your items at a lower price, it doesn't hurt to try!
• Don’t be afraid to walk away if you think the price or item is not what you want even after asking about it.
On a few occasions whilst accompanying my friends to Sim Lim Towers for their electronics shopping, I passed by the Thieves Market. I have to admit here that I have to give it to them for their popularity in that the variety of items available here is really diverse and the stall owners are open and amazingly flexible to suggestions. I spent some time there looking through and emerging with a modified opinion.
Even though i did not buy anything, my observations upon completing my surveying were that the junk there is definitely worth something in cultural, if not historical value. The old coins, keychains and discs sold there are ones that cannot be found anywhere else. However, I would not trust the quality of the electrical appliances and phones especially. These items should be bought at a legitimate seller/re-seller with warrantly guaranteed. Moreover, it is hard to tell if anyone has downloaded any undetectable spyware/malware inside which may prey on your personal information upon you starting the use of your phone. There are pros and cons in any place, and the Thieves Market is a place you should go if you don't mind a glimpse at a shoddy side of Singapore.
The old uncles and aunties setting up shop sold an array of items. Old records, coins, broken toys, worn out stuff toys; you name it. It's all there. If you are a vintage collector, here is definitely the place to come to scavenge for cheap antique items.
For those hoping to strike it rich by buying old coins and selling it at high prices; forget it. The coins that they sell there for $1 or $4 are all forgeries from China. Hard to tell the real from the fake but even though I'm just a rookie coin collector, $1 for a 19th century coin is just too good to be true!
However, those old records and CDs might be worth some money. I managed to grab a limited 30th Anniversary edition of the Sound of Music Laser-disc for $2. Found out it sells on Ebay for $20+! Made a good profit :)
In all, this flea market is a unique place. It shows the history of our nation and is a haven for antique collectors. Although it looks like any old junk garage sale, you might be surprised at what you might find. There's a saying: " One man's junk might be another's treasure"
You can still find plenty of discarded items recued by karang guni men to be sold second hand. You name it, rice cookers, drills, mobile phones, army boots, army helmets, the works!
I would probably steer away from bicycles and phones. They are probably stolen to live up to the namesake of the place!
Of course, if you are a foreign tourist the starting price is higher than it should be, and charm and customer care are hardly the order of the day, but then, when did you ever find that in a thieve's market?
IN a word, if you are in Little India or Bugis, pop by and see it. A strange anachronism in a city of plenty.
I stumbled upon Sungei Road Thieves Market when I was searching for a cab within the entire stretch of road there. I was originally put off by it. It seemed like a venue that was stench with desperadoes. I surveyed the road. No signs of any cabs approaching anytime soon. I was drenched with boredom. I glanced back at Sungei Road Thieves Market again. Curiosity began seeping through me. Finally, after pondering for several more seconds, I ventured into Thieves Market compound.
It was like Pasar Malams albeit under broad daylight. There seemed to be a lack of tables. Items were arranged appropriately right smack on the ground. It was a total rare sighting in Singapore. I peered closer at the items sold there. There were shoes, watches. Even thermoses. They seemed to be upholding the same motto as OG; " We've got it all ". Furthermore, the price placed upon the items there were severely affordable. Swarmed by glee, I purchased item after item there. Who cares if there were no renown labels plastered over the items? The qualities were beyond new and nobody will be able to inspect or detect the label-less state those items were in unless they're sauntering nearby with a magnifying glass.
But I always remembered the day we were looking for a small clinic along Rochor Road to carry out an interview, and stumbled straight into Sungei Road Theives Market, what seemed to me like a place lost in time - along the small lane, there were what seemed to be peddlers lining the streets, with old cameras, watches, toys and a hopeful look in their eyes, calling out to pedestrians and holding up some small items as they stopped by.
Being the young and impressionable girls we were back then, we thought we had entered an illegal zone in Singapore, and literally dashed right through the small alley, not daring to make eye contact with any of the peddlers. (Indeed, the "theives" market had lived up to its name!) But even after years had passed, the colours, sounds and somewhat vintage air of the market had a mysterious hook on me that kept me wanting to return to the place.
I was extremely disappointed to hear of the market's diminishing space in view of the new Jalan Besar MRT line. It's definitely a place worth going to for the cultural experience, before it is taken over by redevelopment.
Sure, the stuff may not look that appealing (at first glance!) and the elderly may not be the most accommodating. That is what lends an authenticity to this place. You may not find anything you like, but the experience alone will be more than worth it.
I think the source of the goods there are some dumpsters or void decks of HDB flats. When I was staying in Pasir Ris, I had noticed a guy always coming out at night and going through the bulky item trash bins. He would dig into the bins to try to find some treasures. I am sure he would find no lack of treasures. Singaporeans are more wasteful now and the things they are throwing away would have made a lot of people in third world country envy. A lot of things we are throwing were not because they were not usable but mainly because we had bought better things to replace those. These are the things that may end up in this market. Usable but discarded things, things that have no market value so the sales are either based on the price you named or the price the seller gave.