Disappearing Places: Sungei Road Thieves’ Market

Aerial View of a section of the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market.

Shortly after World War II, the area around Sungei Road grew to become a flea market. It eventually known as the Thieves’ Market due to the many stolen/contraband goods sold there. The saying goes that if your belongings got stolen, chances are that you can buy it back from there.

In the 1930’s, there was a ice factory—Singapore Ice Works—which is why the area is also known as Gek Sng Kio (literally Frosted Bridge in Hokkien.) Like most old things, the factory was torn down for redevelopment in the mid-80‘s.

I remember visiting the market with my parents when I was younger, and it was abuzz with activity. The peddlers would sell anything from used electronics to other knick knacks like vinyl records, toys and watches. There were also shops in the nearby shophouses if you want to buy stuff that is less dodgy than the ones sold on the streets.

Fast-forward to today, with the development of the Sungei Road MRT station due to be completed in 2017, and with the Singapore government’s penchant for erasing all things old and historic/heritage value, the market will soon cease to exist. As it is, it’s already a small fraction of its original size. Most of the shophouses are also gone.

Inspired by a documentary on Channel 8 about the market, I decided to make a trip down to document it, before it’s gone forever. The photos were taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 18-55mm kit zoom, an ideal combination for covering this. Some hawkers doesn’t like to be photographed, and being able to shoot discreetly helps.

Here are some of the shots.

A customer chats with the street vendor at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market.
A street hawker at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market takes a rest while waiting for customers.
A selection of clothes on sale are put up on a fence for display. Not sure why the flag is there, though,
Customers inspect the watches for sale at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market
Street hawker and his “fans”.
Street Hawkers
A customer checks out a radio at one of the stalls at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market
A street hawker at his stall selling various antiques.
Selection of used comics for sale.
One of the alleys of stalls at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market
The stalls along Larut Road


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