10 Facts to Know About Pasar Malam in S’pore Before They Become Part of History

Ah, the pasar malam.

Before online shopping takes over the control of our wallets, pasar malams were our favourite places to get good and cheap products.

Now, with the ease of online shopping, these night markets have lost their appeal to the general public. People who walked the pasar malams no longer reach into their wallets and buy things like they used to, and honestly, even the food has seemed to lose some of their appeal!

Despite the mellow response, there is something nostalgic about walking around pasar malam.

Maybe these 10 things about them will bring some excitement back for you?

They were not invented in Singapore and Malaysia
When we are young, we thought that pasar malams are a Singaporean trait. Then we visited Malaysia and found out that they have it there too. Dream shattered! Now, that dream is further destroyed when we know that there are plenty of pasar malams in Indonesia, Taiwan and even The Netherlands! But of course, they’re not called pasar malams but street markets.

Singapore’s first ever Pasar Malam was held to attract workers of the British military base
Established in the mid-1950s, Singapore’s first ever night market was held near the British military bases. It was organised by hawkers on a weekly basis that coincided with worker’s payday.

They were banned in the 1970s in Singapore
Due to its unhygienic environment that caused health and pollution problems, pasar malams were banned in the 1970s and the stall owners were forced to move into new and clean buildings that we now know as the hawker centres. Later in the 1980s, these night markets were once again allowed, but under strict control and licensing from the authorities.

The Ramly Burger that is sold is a replica
We definitely did not know that! Due to a strict ruling on the source of beef in Singapore, the Ramly Burger in Singapore used beef patties that are locally sourced instead of using the authentic ones from India.

Food stalls rental in pasar malam cost $10,000 per month
Shocking? Yes! Renting a food stall that is 3m by 3m will cost at least $10,000 per month at a pasar malam located in a popular location. This might explain why the prices of things sold at pasar malams are getting really expensive now.

There are fewer available places for pasar malams in Singapore now
The high rental cost is in part due to the limited spaces available for pasar malams in Singapore. Organisers are losing more and more available spaces in Singapore as the current big open areas are slated for building housing for Singaporeans.

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The Trade Fair Merchants’ Association is trying to set up a “Pasar Malam Theme Park”
The idea was announced in 2016 by the Trade Fair Merchants’ Association to set up a “pasar malam theme park” in an attempt to solve the issues of limited places and sky-rocket rentals. While the idea is still in the infancy stage, the leaders of the association hopes that the authorities can help to make it into a reality.

The “theme park” will be funded by 150 pasar malam operators and stall owners
The Trade Fair Merchants’ Association is not looking to the Government to hand them the needed cash for this theme park. The 150-member strong association is committed to raise $5million on their own to fund the project should the authorities approve it.

You don’t find the pirated CDs, DVDs nowadays
In the past, we visited these night markets for one thing – cheap, pirated CDs! A popular CD that was selling at $19.90 at any decent record store will be going at $5 because #pirated! Nonetheless, you don’t see that anymore because of the strict rules in our current legal context, though we think it’s primary because no one else has a CD or DVD player at home.

Uncle Ringo often team up with local pasar malam organisers
Having Uncle Ringo is always appealing to any organisers because it boosts business for the stall holders. These temporary carnivals bring a sense of nostalgia for the adults as we reminisce the days where we would go on those rides. Some children of today however, might turn up their noses at the presumably “dirty” seats as they are more used to Universal Studios Singapore. Nonetheless, these carnivals still bring lots of fun for the children today as they head for the merry-go-round or the Viking.

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Zerlina is a dreamer who wants to become a full pledged author someday. She spends many evenings reading novels and trying to write her own. She has 2 turtles and many fishes to give her inspiration for writing.