CNY bazaar goes global

CNY bazaar goes global

You cannot go wrong with the yearly festive fair in Chinatown if you want to load up on Chinese New Year goodies, from waxed duck meat to nuts to Chinese couplets inscribed with auspicious greetings.

Amid the standard fare, however, you can also find some unusual offerings at this year's Chinese New Year Festive Street Bazaar, which is spread out across Pagoda, Smith, Temple and Trengganu streets.

It kicked off last Friday and runs until Feb 18, the eve of Chinese New Year.

For example, Shalom Orphans in Temple Street peddles colourful leather pouches and intricate woven bags made from the fibres of the baobab tree.

Stall owner Mariam Idd Makame, 48, who is from Tanzania in East Africa, says the products are mostly made by widows from her hometown.

A full-time clothing designer, she volunteers at the orphanage and the shop, Shalom Orphans, is a charity arm that helps raise funds for the orphans and widows there.

It is the second year that she and her Filipino husband, Mr Ruel B. Laranjo, 44, have set up shop at the bazaar. They live in Tanzania and often travel to places such as Dubai, India, Singapore and the Philippines to peddle their wares.

"My products are very different compared to the rest here," says Ms Makame, who was dressed in African garb when Life!Weekend visited the bazaar on Sunday.

Her bags are priced from $3 to $100, and 40 per cent of the proceeds go to the 150 orphans living in Shalom Orphanage in Tanzania. Hers is one of the 440 stalls at this year's bazaar, down from the 480 last year.

The bazaar's organiser, Kreta Ayer- Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, says the drop in the number of stalls is due to the fact that some stall spaces in Sago Street had to be removed "due to fire safety reasons".

Rentals, however, have gone up, with vendors shelling out $500 to $2,000 more for a stall. For example, Ms Makame paid $3,200 this year, a jump of nearly 80 per cent from the $1,800 rental last year for a stall of the same size.

This, she says, is because she had to rent the space from a re-seller as the organisers had run out of suitable vacant shops.

Despite the higher costs, Ms Makame says she has a "good feeling" about the bazaar this year, as she has regular customers who have come back to look for her.

While she says it is too early to tell, her stall saw healthy sales over the weekend with about 100 customers.The organiser says rentals for stalls located in front of existing permanent shops, which make up roughly 90 per cent of the total number of stalls, remain the same. Life!Weekend understands that the rent for one such stall costs about $3,500.

The remaining stalls are involved in a bidding tender. The highest bid for a shop this year is $12,200, up from $10,288 last year.

Mr Lim Gek Meng, 63, head of the bazaar's organising committee, says: "The top bid varies each year. The amount depends on the bidders involved and the value that these bidders peg to the location of each stall space."

The committee hopes to attract one million visitors, up from last year's 870,000.

"We have been seeing more visitors to the bazaar this year. We can sense that most people are in high spirits and eagerly preparing for Chinese New Year," says Mr Lim.

He cites the popularity of Chinatown as "the place to be for Singaporeans and tourists alike" during the Chinese New Year period. The street light-up, which features goat-shaped and gold coin lanterns this year to usher in the Year of the Goat, is also a crowd puller.

Though the bazaar's official opening hours are from 6 to 10.30pm daily, many stalls open earlier and close later, especially on weekends. They will close at 1am on the eve of Chinese New Year.

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