S'pore's treasure trove

Bargains: Stall vendors display their wares on mats.

Well, at least for this column. I'm sure I'll continue my shopaholic ways.

For this last instalment, I wanted to highlight one of my favourite shopping spots - the Sungei Road Thieves' Market.

Yes, I'm not just about pretty boutiques and malls. This open air sanctuary has been my regular haunt for almost 10 years.

And the best thing about it? The treasure hunting - scouring it for off-the-wall knick-knacks and retro accessories.

Signature style

Don't expect anything fancy here.

Vendors line the street with their mats and variety of wares, ranging from brooches and t-shirts to CDs and kitchenware.

This is not a market you go to with the intention of buying something specific.

The joy is in being surprised at what you find. And you'll have fun, just as long as you bear in mind that everything on sale is old (at best second-hand) or has some sort of defect.

Keep your eyes peeled and you're sure to find some gems.

Among the many things I've bought there is a small, cherry red vintage bag. It had peeled in some places, but nothing a red Sharpie marker can't fix.

I also found a medium-sized, sophisticated black bag in a great condition, perfect for business meetings.

But what I really go for is the vintage accessories. You can often find gold watches, bangles and necklaces on these mats. One that I saw was a long, thin necklace with a simple but beautiful circular pendant with little pink and blue jewels.

I imagined it would be good for layering.

And there were many other gold necklaces that the particular piece could be layered with.

Other than that, the music collector in me had fun scouring through old CDs, DVDs, vinyl (Star Wars soundtrack anyone?) and even cassette tapes. You may even find someone selling a tape deck to play them on.

Price point

Given my reputation as a skinflint, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I like the prices.

I often go there with $20 and return home with at least a bag of swag. Most of it knick-knacks I probably wouldn't need - like badge pins from different schools. I even found a set of lovely vintage waist belts that cost a dollar at most.

There was also a spectacular vintage black belt with gold side panels for $1.50.

It was a little scuffed at the edges but still exuded style.

Plus, if you buy a couple of items from the same vendor, they might give you a discount.

Time to practise those smiles.

Stall layout

Layout? What layout?

It's haphazard and set up outdoors (of course), so it can get hot and sticky, especially if it's crowded.

But I like it. It's relaxed. Just be aware that you'll have to squat on the ground to examine the wares. But hey, shopping and a workout. What could be better?

Service

Well, it's definitely not the type of service you get at the shopping malls. Most of these vendors - mostly male retirees - are genuine.

They'll encourage you to pick and try the items. Maybe the malls could learn from them. The chatty ones will tell you their history, and introduce you to their vendor neighbours as well. Nice.

Verdict

The Sungei Road Thieves' Market is a unique experience and always worth visiting.

While there are no guarantees on getting a good buy, it's extremely fun to look for bargains away from the sterility of shopping malls.


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