When you’ve got the mecca of bargaining as your base, the idea of shopping in Singapore might seem somewhat sterile – pristine shopping malls with fully-functional air-conditioning and nice toilets, the word ‘Sale’ in every storefront, and the trudging crowds who never seem to have an off-peak season. Well then, if Orchard Road is too normcore we suggest you push up those sleeves and get your hands dirty for some serious bargain hunting at these hidden gems. Let the games begin!
Photo: Sim Lim Square/Alex.ch Flickr
Sim Lim Square
1 Rochor Canal Road
You’re bound to meet someone from Indonesia here while you do your rounds. Singapore’s version of Mangga Dua, this place is definitely a lot less cluttered. Tech deals and gadgets galore, Sim Lim Square could very well be heaven to you. The place gets a bad rep for the publicized scams and unscrupulous business practices but here’s a tip: be smart. Do your research first before coming here to get what you want and Sim Lim will be your playground.
145 Syed Alwi Road
The legendary 24-hour mall is the biggest round-the-clock shopping experience you can get in Singapore. This mall has everything. Everything. From bridal jewelry to a soundbar for the ultimate home surround sound set-up, from a batik shirt to fresh chicken, Mustafa Centre has got your back.
On the surface, this place may be the biggest tourist trap there is with the all-year-round Chinese new year decorations and props galore but clock up some walking time and really explore the malls around Chinatown MRT station. Offbeat stores selling crystals, batik, hair accessories, and more will ignite that bargain monster in you.
Photo: Arab Quarters/Luckytomato Flickr
Step away from the overrated Haji Lane and you’ll actually find a handful of interesting shops – and way affordable too. The competitive stretch of fabric shops, stores selling traditional clothing, a Peranakan shop selling pretty teaspoons in the corner, and a shop actually called Rich & Good Cake Shop that has one of the best swiss rolls in town – Arab Street is so much more than one famous lane. Plus it’s actually quite relaxing to check out all the stores knowing that there is a cup of good tea waiting nearby after you’re done.
Sungei Road Thieves’ Market
Sungei Road between Serangoon Road and Jalan Besar
A national treasure, the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market will be closing shop in July for good. Back in its glory days, there would be over 200 vendors hawking their wares on Sungei Road – some even selling illegal or stolen goods, but hey nobody complained (except the police). Nowadays it’s generally more subdued but you can still find a jumble of things like old porcelain dolls, nostalgic electronic products, leather boots and books. Be sure to visit before it’s too late!
Joo Chiat precinct
Joo Chiat Road between Geylang Serai and Marine Parade Road
Pastel Peranakan shophouses, bustling breakfast crowds, perpetual Sunday vibes – Joo Chiat’s great for when you want to get out of the city. Go to Joo Chiat Complex to browse through bales of fabric sold by the yard and bargain a little with the friendly uncles. Head out for a tea break at the many local coffee shops in the area. Resume walking and browsing items ranging from affordable restaurant-approved kitchenware to lounge-at-home outfits in garish prints. You don’t have to spend money all the time, right?
Photo: Sungei Road Thieves’ Market/Jnzl’s Photos Flickr
229 Victoria Street
One must have a lot of patience to deal with Bugis Village but look beyond the tight alleyways, extended bargaining, Singapore’s humidity, you might just find something you like in here. They’ll tell you the cost of everything has risen in the past few years but keep your head in the game and think hard: are you really going to pay more than $20 for a t-shirt with three howling wolves?
2 Jurong East Street 21
Say what you will, sometimes outlet malls are still the best places to go to for one-stop shopping. With mad discounts on sports gear, luxe labels, casual wear, shoes, home furnishing and home to brands like Nike, agnes b, Club 21, Cotton On, Furla and more, IMM is the real deal. Only catch is that it’s all the way in the West so you gotta hike over to Jurong – don’t worry, you don’t need to bring your passports.
Photo: Gallery & Co./Facebook
Gallery & Co.
National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Rd
While this one’s not a bargain sort-of place, Gallery & Co. is one of the best curated stores around. Like all museum stores, it’s filled with offbeat, quirky and very beautiful, aesthetically pleasing items. Unlike other museum stores, walking into Gallery & Co. feels like a journey – there’s a lot of space, every display is inviting, and no theatrics are needed here (means you can’t bargain FYI). Just like a museum, you begin to study and really take in all the items in the store. Only difference is you can now touch and purchase it. It’s therapeutic and lovely and don’t we all want to surround ourselves with pretty things once in a while?
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