Nestled in between construction sites, half-built apartment buildings, and high rises are two tiny streets and one fenced in, decrepit, abandoned lot. This is what remains of the Sungei Road Thieves Market, a patchwork of a flea market with vibrant characters and a colourful history.
If you find yourself in Little India or in Kampong Glam, a stop by the Thieves Market is obligatory, especially if you want to see the remnants of a past that has been obscured by skyscrapers, Louis Vuitton, and Mercedes Benz.
The tiny intersecting streets are lined with “vendors,” their mats spread on the ground, shaded by tattered umbrellas and tarps. Their wares; indefinable. You’ll find everything from thirty year old unopened bottles of coke, to bundles of wires, broken electronics, ten year old cell phones, CD’s, a plethora of watches, rusty nails, fake coins, and, if you’re in the market, a collection of lonely, solitary shoes.
Since the 1930s, Sungei Road gained its notoriety as an unregulated market for fenced goods and disreputable characters. A history of opium dens, poverty, and sales of stolen, smuggled and illegal goods have not garnered much favour from the Singaporean government. As such, the state has slowly been hemming it in, with property sales and gentrification of the area pushing the market into two small streets.
On 10 July 2017, the market saw its final day, being closed for good to make room for redevelopment.