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From Sungei Road to Chinatown Market and Golden Mile Food Centre

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After hawking his wares at the open-air Sungei Road flea market for 40 years, Mr Tang Kong Yuan, 89, is heading to his own stall at Chinatown Market in the next few weeks.

On Thursday, the hale and hearty senior citizen received the keys to his new lock-up stall, where he will be selling watches and jewellery. He has informed his customers about his big move.

“I don’t want to hawk illegally and be summoned by the authorities. I don’t want to rely on others as well.

“So I got a stall to try out. If I lose money after six months, I will stop and find other means to make a living,” he said.

Mr Tang has four adult sons. He said he also has a 10-year-old daughter with his Indonesian wife whom he has to provide for.

As one of the original 11 permit holders of the Sungei Road market, he will rent the hawker stall at subsidised rates.

His rent is $184 a month but it will be effectively free for the first year, as it will be fully subsidised. The subsidy will be halved for his second year.

The 11 vendors are from a pool of 31 rag-and-bone men who, “because of their chosen trade”, were excluded from a government programme to resettle street hawkers in purpose-built markets and hawker centres in the 1970s and 80s.

All 11 have been given the option of renting stalls at selected hawker centres in the city area at subsidised rates.
Fellow vendor Chin Kim Bon, 70, will be relocating to the second floor of Golden Mile Food Centre in June after spending two decades in Sungei Road.

Sungei Road vendors
Mr Chin Kim Bon is among the Sungei Road vendors who will rent stalls at hawker centres at subsidised rates. Mr Chin will sell vases, jewellery and books at Golden Mile Food Centre.PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

He sells goods such as vases, jewellery and books. The monthly rent of his new stall is $400 and he had been making about $1,200 on average each month in Sungei Road, which was rent-free.

Mr Chin said: “The authorities gave me my stall on Tuesday, the same day I had applied for it. They were very fast. It may not be easy to sell my goods there so I’ll have to see if they will appeal to the people who shop there.”

Mr Chin, who has two grown- up sons, said he would feel restless if he did not work. What he would miss most are his friends and the Sungei Road flea market itself.

He said: “There’s freedom at Sungei Road.”