2 Flea Markets | George Town

2 Flea Markets | George Town

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
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There’s everything for everyone from batteries to cables and chargers for handphones and laptops, this man has it all.

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.

Previously laid out along Jalan Pintal Tali, the petty traders have been relocated to an empty fenced open air car park lot behind the Stadium Bandaraya Pulau Pinang fondly called the City Stadium.

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Like to pimp your ride for a fraction of the price? Here’s where to to get the car accessories and stickers galore for your cars and motorcycles.
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.

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A favourite section is the fruit stall where the fruit are sold at a huge discount and you could pick and choose happily. No need to peer at the plastic wraps to see if these are bruised!

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!

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Fruit that you hardly find at the hypermarkets. These sweet Salak which is sometimes called “Snake fruit” as the skin has a reptilian texture is the fruit of a species of palm tree native to Indonesia which has plump white flesh with a sharp astringent taste and is sweet.

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.

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Not everything sold is old or recycled, there are toiletries, combs, towels and tooth brush without GST. Best part is not going through aisles and aisles and wait to pay at the checkout counters!

Malaysians from all walks of life go the flea market to shop, or browse.

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Mohd Amzah Sultan with his wife and young son happily posing for a family pix.

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.”

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For Ghazali Wahab, a bus driver going to the flea market is a must for his wife and young son.

“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.”

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Bells, bells, bells. These exotic looking brass wear attract many collectors.

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.”

ARMENIAN STREET FLEA MARKET
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The cooler evening Lorong Armenian Flea Market is just plain old someone else’s used stuff lying around.

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”.

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Laid out haphazardly and almost heaped on the pavement, almost everything that looks like a yard sale is here.

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!

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Not exactly the loading/unloading area where goods get to the shop, but over here, motorcycles and tricycles laden with stuff in plastic bags find their way to the being displayed on the pavement.

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!

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The iron horses of Penang are parked as their riders stroll around to shop.

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.

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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.

 

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