Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chinatown Wet Market No More?

The entire Chinatown Complex, consisting of the wet market, food court and sundry stalls, was barricaded for renovations. The bustling and lively part of Chinatown is now at a standstill, another ghostly reminder of the progress going through Bullockcartwater.

Decades ago (ca 1970s), just outside, on the streets, all the way from Sago St through Trengganu St to Pagoda Street, it was a maze of stalls in the morning, selling anything and everything that was edible. Ah, those early morning shows on the slitting of the great pythons or cutting of the giant turtles. These days, demands for the show and the meat have diminished so much that it would be a tough challenge for anyone selling them. Still on a bright morning, the streets were just alive with many marketing activities, the sellers shouting their wares, the buyers - housewives and restaurant chegs - hitting hard bargains. It would also be a breakfast and marketing outing for Mum and her kids. A great place for the old men to gather to yum cha (drink tea) and watched the housewives in their samfoos (traditional Chinese dress with tops and pants, getting rare these days) walking by.

And then, the market went underground to the basement of the Chinatown Complex. It was a great place, away from the glaring sun or the rain, but it was still as wet and dirty. The noises were contained with the space and vibrated many times. Slowly the people adapted to the new environment. Many had to look out for their favourite stalls. Chinatown was still the in-place to shop for fresh food. Chickens and ducks were still bought alive and be killed and defeathered if so desired. In the 80s, it was still the norm to even bring back a live chicken or two to slaughter only on the day, or before, of any festival days. That is now gone, given the increasing standards of public hygiene. Might as well, since the pandemic could well raise its ugly head. But the poor kids no longer have the chance to see a living chicken or duck, save at the zoo. Turkeys and Geese? (^^)

And now, another milestone has been marked with the renovation of the Chinatown Complex wet market. The temporary one is on the grounds of Outram Park.

In the meantime, much of the peripheral activities of the marketplace continues. The old men gathered to play their favourite game of Chinese Chess. Two players per board and many observers and commentators. (^^) One was suggesting a move, but the player explained to him what would happened if he were to move as suggested. "Ah, I see," the commentator said. So, for a game that could last hours, many brains were kept busy. Others idled, reading newspapers, soaking in the atmosphere or perhaps, reminiscing what the place was.

Will this place be the same again when the wet market (or would it be dry?) returns? There will be changes, but hopefully, the same dynamic spirits of Chinatown, or Bullockcartwater remains.

2 comments:

luminousmoon said...

Oh yes! I remember those good old days all right. My late grandma used to have a stall on the streets selling all kind of fancy cloth, before all moved to the then Chinatown Complex (now under renovation)..I am not sure if you know, there was a few street stalls selling the best beef noodles, laksa and fish ball noodles.. yummy!
Yes the street you mentioned selling wild animals.. I remember but that was many many years, I think I was quite little then. How I miss the crowd, the lights, the noise, the folks, the food..Chinatown today will never be the same again..

:-)
Moon

chinatownboy said...

Can you remember the exact location? In those days I did not have much money and so what I had, I would zoom to my favourite stall. (^^)