by Doris Lim
For weekend shoppers who shun the trappings of air-conditioned cookie cutter malls with its anchor tenants and familiar outlets but want to browse in the open air, the flea market is THE place to find just about anything and everything!
LORONG KULIT FLEA MARKET
The bustling morning Lorong Kulit Flea Market may be miniscule in comparison to Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok; nevertheless it is the biggest flea market in George Town that’s open daily.
CRACK OF DAWN
At the crack of dawn, lone mini vans and motorised cart trickle in to park side by side at their usual spots, puncturing the morning air with their oversized umbrellas and their goods laid on ground sheets or low tables, leaving a narrow maze for shoppers to pick their way through without tripping over the triangular umbrella bases.
The flea market has gained quite a reputation with the locals and tourists for its bargain prices and sheer variety of memorabilia and other collectables which the regulars term as “antiques”.
If you love to hunt and rummage or plough through heaps of rubble you might find something of great value that escaped the antique middle men on the prowl.
There’s no need to hang on tight to your wallets and fold your arms across your chest as you shop anymore. Most stall holders are legitimate traders, with maybe just a handful dealing in second hand goods of dubious origins.
GETTING YOUR BEARINGS
For first time visitors, just check out your bearings and walk the narrow aisles systematically. That way you will be able to back track to find a bargain that you forgo initially. The fruit wholesalers hug one side of the fence with the clothing and children’s toy at the short end. The rest of the site has just about everything else in between.
Most shoppers come for the fresh fruits at wholesale prices. It is not unusual to find a small lorry laden with pineapples or watermelons at dirt cheap prices when there is an abundance of crops!
On public holidays, the crowds can sometimes be 6 people thick so it takes dexterity to be able to move lightning quick and to spot a genuine bargain almost immediately.
The flea market not only caters to cost-conscious grocery shoppers but shrewd antique hunters in search that “diamond-in-the-rough” to take pride of place in their home.
Malaysians from all walks of life go the flea market to shop, or browse.
This family comes here every fortnight to shop. “We like the flea market as the prices are low. Can bargain and without GST! The traders are like old friends now and are all very friendly. We get all our necessities here. From shampoo to clothes for the children. My family and I enjoy browsing and help me look for antiques.”
“We take our son here every weekend to shop for new toys or books. I will browse for antiques that tickle my fancy and my wife will look for some plump fruits to buy for our desserts.”
Even Dr Priya Sharda who is a regular is seen chatting away with a Myanmarese trader.
“I collect antiques and make collages as a present for friends. I enjoy the friendly atmosphere and find the collectibles here reasonably priced and of good quality.”
Jewel or Junk, depends on the eye of the beholder.
Shh….. both flea markets have an equally sordid past; reputed to “let go” of stolen goods at a bargain price!
Part of the appeal is there are plenty of rough looking characters around against the sanctified few tourists armed with hats and cameras.
It’s best to power up early before the humidity kills you if you plan to bargain hunt. Not the best way to get into the rhythm of island life if you’re the franchised glitzy coffee guzzler types.
But, if you’re a Type A personality, you’re made to muscle in and stake your claim and sport bargain for a prized antique. Even if it’s a fake, you still get bragging right to the story.
Basically the Penangites will tell you, if you lost something or something’s gone missing and you want it back without coughing big bucks, then head on down the flea markets and to wait for it to “come out”.
Lo and behold, I’ve heard stories of friends who went to “buy” back stolen car stereos or even branded stilettos shoes! Yes, it’s that Malaysian culture of leaving your shoes outside the door that caused it’s so called migration.
Why, inadvertently you’ll be supporting crime but it much cheaper than a spanking new replacement!
The items you find could look like something of a vagabond’s loot from a dumpster dive or the precious unloading of a deceased parent’s lifetime prized collection of vinyl records, vintage Christian Dior perfume bottles or even pop culture artefacts. Anything and everything goes!
So do it island style? Chill. Happy hunting ground, people! From the Armenian Street Flea Market you can easily connect to the heart of the heritage site enclave.
Armenian Street Flea Market is permanently closed now. The has been turned into a park and provides a respite to the inner city dwellers.
Lorong Kulit Flea Market start 9.00 a.m. and packs up by noon daily with the fruit stall closing in the evenings around 6.00 p.m.