I paid my annual visit to the Chinatown pasar malam (night market) last night. Unfortunately year after year, this annual supposedly night-market-of-all-night-markets (in Singapore, at least) continues to disappoint me on all levels. This year, the standard of the stalls and goods available has sunk to a new low.
Now, the standard of night markets in Singapore, especially after they were reinstated back in the 90s, has never been very good. However big a night market is, the stalls tend to start repeating themselves after you have covered less than a quarter of any night market in Singapore. That is unfortunate. What is more unfortunate is when a night market, even along the size of the annual Chinatown one, has more than 15 stalls selling brightly packaged muah-chee candy, “only available in Taiwan!”, as every of the 15 stall owners proudly proclaims. And each and every one of these stalls are huge, spanning at least 3 or 4 normal stall spaces. The problem is, these sweets are….not nice. They taste weird, are expensive and if I wanted candy, I’d buy Hacks or Mentos or Duplex or whatever used to be available for 3 for 10cents at the mama stall, and if I wanted muah-chee, I would eat sticky soft muah-chee covered with sweet finely crumbled peanuts that spew out of your mouth if you even try to talk or laugh.
All the other stalls in the Chinatown bash are just as insipidly boring. Every other stall is gaudily hung up with red and gold everything that hurts one’s eyes selling red and gold accessories and useless what-nots that one would only use once a year (the red packets are something else though, with pentagons and 3-d shapes), and every other stall that is not is selling forgettable tackiness of the ultimate “seen one, seen all” degree.
You would think that TPTB would take more care in organizing this whole she-bang, but nooo, they’re just like everybody else, out to make a quick buck, accepting whichever highest bidder/renter that wants a booth, no matter what they sell or how quickly they would put customers to sleep. I’ve been to it every year for the past several years, much to the chagrin of my mum, who questions the fun in sweating profusely and
rubbing shoving shoulders with every bored father, grumpy mother, sticky whiny child, baby in stroller that trips you at every turn, lost-looking maid, loud chinaman and bangla worker in Singapore.
Is it fun? It’s fun definitely, especially going with miss LF for the past 3 years and enjoying the dubious pleasure derived from watching a roadside auction for plebians, and this year with mama and dd and f, and the even better fun of discovering where to sing KTV cheaply after midnight in Chinatown. (dd, next time, don’t go home so early, ok?
Is it interesting? Well, I miss every single night market and roadside stall in Taipei and Hong Kong.