Whoever said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has certainly shopped at the Thieves Market along Sungei Road in Singapore.
In addition to being the oldest flea market in Singapore – this riverbank between Little India and Bugis has been a site of casual commerce since the 1930s – the Thieves Market is the only spot where people do not require a license to set up shop. This means that anyone with a closetful of junk can play salesperson and try to make a buck off their secondhand goods.
Many of the vendors at the Thieves Market don’t even bother with folding tables and dump their wares right on the ground. On my recent shopping trip the offerings included rotary dial telephones, yellowed paperbacks, sports equipment, watches, laser discs, used army gear, and tacky ornaments the seller will insist are actually valuable antiques – I did lots of looking and no buying. If you have the patience to sort through it, there are undoubtedly some gems within the junk and you might get lucky with retro electronics or a Michael Jackson cassette tape with Chinese writing for a few bucks. Many sellers have an inflated idea what their used junk is worth so be prepared to bargain. It’s a world away from the offerings of Orchard Road.
If you’re wondering how the market got its name, it’s a reference to the origins as a meeting place for crooks during Singapore’s sketchier era – the only questionable goods you’ll see now though are pirated DVDs.
There are no official opening hours, but the Thieves Market is in full swing from 10:00 to 18:00 daily with even more sellers and shoppers on weekends. Vendors set up in a grassy area along Sungei Road across the river from Sim Lim Square electronics mall.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 14th November, 2014.