Sungei Road Flea Market – Singapore Vanishing Trade

The well known Singapore’s Sungei Road flea market, also known as Thieves Market, is counting down to its final day. The Government has announced that 10 July 2017 will be the final day of operation of this oldest flea market in Singapore. Started in 1930s, during its heyday, the place was also known as Robinson Petang or Afternoon Robinson, a reference to Robinson Department Store except that this market caters to poorer people.

Thieves Market aka Robinson Petang

Two men chatting in a narrow lane of Sungei Road flea market.

I first visited this flea market in 2012 after reading about it for some time. It had already moved from its original location in Sungei Road to facilitate the construction of new Jalan Besar MRT station. The (mostly) elderly folks selling various used items now occupy a small area cornered by Weld Road, Larut Road, Pitt Street and Sungei Road. While some set up a simple table with umbrella, most of them sit on both sides of the narrow lanes and have their items arranged on a plastic or tarpaulin sheets.

Sungei Road Flea Market

Customers looking at used sunglasses and handphones at Sungei Road flea market.

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

In the recent years, one of the uncles told me that the place is usually busy on Sunday afternoon when foreign workers on their day off come to look for items they can buy. Depending on what items they have for sale, some of them may not get a lot. Some days, they don’t sell anything at all. One uncle was lucky enough when he was able to sell Ray-Ban’s sunglasses for more than S$100 the week before. He sold a $3 trousers to a man while chatting with me.

Robinson Petang

Robinson Petang

Robinson Petang

Robinson Petang

Thieves Market

Robinson Petang

Robinson Petang

Robinson Petang

Robinson Petang

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

Sungei Road flea market

While many of them may hope that there will be an alternative location provided for them, some of them I spoke to admitted that this could be the end of it for them and they will have to look for other option to earn their living.

Check out my other blog post on other Singapore’s vanishing trades.

"A photographer and a memory keeper (a.k.a junks collector) who finally decided to quit his day job in 2017 after two decades to focus full time on photography. Check out also his outdoor children, family and pet photography work at masakecil.com.

In 2010, this website won the Singapore Best Photography Blog Award."

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