The Sungei Road Flea Market has been around before I was born. And I guess I have to speak up as I have had great memories there, shopping for random things and then going to Jalan Besar hawker center to have lunch.
In Singapore, I do feel that many things have been destroyed and there is no after thought and simply regrets. Many places I cherish is gone. The old National Library, Victoria Concert Hall, even my primary school building. There are so much memories which brings communities together, and in the name of progress and profits, they are all gone.
When a 30 year old house is destroyed, all that remains are the memories. There are often regrets, but such regrets are irreversible. Clearing of the jungles, removing of kampungs, I do believe that some of which have brought progress and improved quality of living, but today, in Singapore, some people may consider it to be already "First world" and I don't understand why heritage is not cherished.
When it comes to the government talking about conservation, even the botanic gardens was once at risk of getting removed and turning possibly into condos and malls as it was sitting on expensive land. Yet 38 Oxley Road -- the home a Lee Kuan Yew -- a private house which LKY himself wants to be demolished and it was put in his will is probably going to be conserved.
As Oxley Rd is a highly restricted place, I would say most of Singapore, >99% of everyone have not been to Oxley Rd, let alone see the building. For something that private, there is not much more heritage value more than seeing it in photos at the National Gallery. If a person wants his house to be destroyed after his death, his wishes should be followed.
Flea Markets play an important role in society. I've been to many flea markets and in Singapore, the Sungei Road Thieves Market is the biggest (and the only) one.
I've often saw vintage items which I've not seen before and talked to vendors to learn how to use it. It is very educational to understand how some of these items were used in the past. As a maker, understanding how and why some of the inventions and evolution of technology is very important as it gives a good context to understand how things were before some technology were created. Its also gives a much hands on understanding more than any wikipedia page or books can provide.
Of course, the benefit of a flea market that sells used goods is for people to find good deals. When Singapore is pushing the "Green movement", we are told to reduce, reuse and recycle. And the flea market is definitely "reuse" of these old items.
I like re-purposing things for parts, and for costumes, the flea market is a great place to buy something, cut it up to fit your needs. It creates a very good way to save money and reduce the waste which we see too often in society today, the whole idea that most things are disposable.
For many people who lost their jobs and cannot find jobs, selling some of their possessions of useful things they find is a good way of making a living instead of begging. Some of the carefully curated items are great for bargain hunters.
Over time, a community is also formed. The vendors know one another, and some of these old people keep each other company and finding treasure and selling it is a great way to stay active.
When I go to Sungei Road, I see familiar faces and a strong community there, and it is actually a tourist attraction, something that was organically formed and quite well known to tourists.
In the US, you do see garage sales, but in Singapore, many things are prohibited, especially putting things on the sidewalk and selling. The only place that it happens is Sungei Road and it is very disappointing that this will go away.
I am very disappointed that street food, even many hawker centers have slowly changed to air-conditioned food courts. Everything seemed so artificial and I would argue that these locations have land use as some of the hawker centers and markets are only open half day and the foot traffic is low. A structure built for such activities seemed a lot more wasteful than an open air market. While hygiene may be a concern for food vendors, I would say what we have left -- second hand items at Sungei Road does not share such concerns.
Bazaars that pop up from time to time are getting worse as even the rents of these bazaars are creeping up and there are only the few that could afford it, and some of them own cafes and restaurants.
I guess when the government does not collect rent, and cannot regulate well, the option that the bureaucracy has trained them is to destroy what they can't control. And with this, it will be a sad loss for our heritage.
To me, the market represents the Singapore spirit:
A harmonious community of people, regardless of race or religion, working hard alongside one another.
They bring value to the nation by showing us all that items we consider trash still has value, and can be reused or resold, instead of consigning them to the incinerator and harming the environment.