Monday, 10 January 2011

Singapore markets in the 1960s

These two colourful photos appear in the new version of 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans' which should be out some time before March this year. Both photos bring back lots of memories of all the open air markets that once lined the streets of Singapore back in the 1960s. The first photo shows a couple of children looking at the many Chinese lanterns on display. I would have been about their age when I first visited a market back then. I remember the streets busy with shoppers and full of fruit stalls selling all kinds of fruit. I remember the bananas were very sweet, not like the ones you get nowadays in England. Of course, I mainly remember the rambutan sellers. I loved them at the time and haven't had one since but can still remember what they tasted like. Some stalls seemed to sell only rambutans but maybe that's just how I remember it. I also recall that there were coconuts for sale too. They seemed very exotic back then but you can get them just about anywhere nowadays. You can even buy Rambutans in Sainsburys now! I remember the smell also. Perhaps it was the smell of the nearby river or a mixture of the fruit, vegetables, meat and other products. I especially recall the smell of all the wicker work and material. Of course, the sun and heat enhanced all these smells. I can't remember my parents buying any fruit from the stalls although we probably bought bananas for the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens. I used to get given rambutans free from the stall holders as we walked through the market because they liked my fair hair! 
The second photo shows a night market. There was a totally different smell at these markets. The air was filled with the smell of Kerosene lights and heaters which would attract moths and other insects. They would then attract chit-chats who would wait by the lamps for easy prey. There was also a moth ball smell especially around the stalls that sold wooden trinkets. Perhaps it's the smell of the wood? There were allsorts of items for sale that remind me now of Singapore including the Wanchai Burberrys held together by fish glue, the many colourful paper kites, Chinese lanterns, toys and wicker hats. All had a smell of their own and combined gave Singapore its own unique smell. I haven't been there for a very long time now but I wonder what it all smells of today?

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