Sunday, December 4, 2016


Today I would like to share with you on a humble collection of street photographs I made of the Thieves' Market in Sungei Road. Coming 2017, this flea market has to make way for the new Jalan Besar MRT station which will be due completion soon. No exact date is announced by National Environment Agency (NEA) at the moment of posting this blog.

Make the jump to view the last glory days of the flea market scenes.

Sungei Road is located between Jalan Besar and the Rochor Canal Road. The Singapore Ice Works, built in the 1930s and situated near the road, was formerly an important supplier of ice blocks, which is why that area is also fondly known as Gek Sng Kio, which literally means Frosted Bridge, by the local Hokkiens and Teochews. The factory was torn down in the mid-eighties after its land was acquired by the authority for redevelopment.

But it is the famous Thieves’ Market, instead of the ice manufacturing factory, that gives Singaporeans the deepest impression about Sungei Road. Established since 1930s, the flea market sells almost everything that ranges from second hand clothing and shoes, audio/video tapes, books, old coins and notes, watches to used cameras, handphones and other electronic items.

The glory days of Sungei Road Thieves’ Market were perhaps in the fifties and sixties, where there could be more than 200 competing peddlers and a huge range of old products. By the seventies, the flea market declined as the government tried to remove vendors and peddlers off the streets.

In 1994, the market was once again cleared by the government who intended to develop the region around Rochor Canal. Somehow, the market was able to make their second revival, and became even more thriving as time went by.

By 2011, its size has been reduced to facilitate the construction of the upcoming Jalan Besar MRT train station. Today the flea market operates largely on Pasar Lane, Larut Road and Pitt Street, which are the minor roads off Sungei Road.

Deadline was given by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to the vendors, or hawkers there, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s, to cease operations by the end of 2016. The hawkers’ predicament has left them in the lurch, with an uncertain future, and for the past three years they have been trying to seek clarity from the authorities, to no avail.

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