Friday, 19 June 2015

Bugis Street Flea Market

As a kid growing up in the early 1980s - more than a decades before the web - the impression I had of Singapore was a place where transgenders roaming the streets! That impression stayed with me for quite awhile.

Transgenders, Bugis, Singapore
Source: National Archives of Singapore

Having lived here for more than 5 years, I realise this impression couldn't be more inaccurate (as far as Bugis St goes).

Trannies did roam Bugis Street in the 1950s to 80s, and was the biggest tourist draw. After all, what did Singapore have to offer back then? NYC has dirty graffiti filled metro trains, Amsterdam has De Wallen, Bangkok has Patpong, and Singapore has Bugis Street nightlife.

Well, Bugis Street still here because it isn't going anywhere, but as the whole Singapore's city centre and its fringes has been gentrified through government redevelopment project, Bugis Street is now looking more like Orchard Road (a very short Orchard Rd). Ladyboys are nowhere to be seen.

Bugis Street has lost its colourful past. Although tourists and tourism authority may have very different idea what's colourful. I wouldn't want somebody to describe me as a colourful character, even being so win me more friends. For a man, "colourful" could be another word for "clown"; for a woman a "tart", and for a country "third world".

Movie like Bugis Street (1995), made by HK gay director Yong Fan reminds us of the vanished world of Bugis Street.

Bugis Street movie poster

The only thing remains in Bugis Street today that connects to those nostalgic (g)olden days is the Bugis Street Flea Market. It was here to cater the influx of tourists who came to see the famous Parade of Transgenders. Of course, it's a spruced-up flea market with roof today. But the range of merchandise this flea market sells is still more or less the same: tourist souvenirs, knick-knack, snacks and bargains.

Bugis+ shopping mall, Bugis, Singapore
Bugis+ shopping mall, locates not far from Bugis Street Flea Market

Not long after I arrived in Singapore, we visited this flea market. On weekend, it's quite squeezy. If you can help it, come here on weekday. This crowd getting across the traffic light between the flea market and Bugis Junction can easily break record as the most packed in Singapore on weekend.

Bugis Street flea market, Singapore
The densest intersection's pedestrian crossing in Singapore (taken on weekday)

"Chinese burgers", Bugis street flea market, Singapore
"Chinese burgers"

sish kebab, Bugis street flea market, Singapore

This video takes you a quick tour of the main street of the flea market. There're many side streets branching from the main street. This is taken on weekday. On weekend, the crowd is considerably more.

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