Good Bye “Thieves Market”

Soon, an important part of my life will be gone. Another sad moment in my life.

The Sungei Road flea market, once known as the “Thieves Market” has been around for more than eighty years. It will soon give way to a modern built environment.

According to the Master Plan 2014, it will be replaced by residential buildings, shops, parks, and a brand new MRT station that is scheduled to be opened in 2017.

Sungei Road will be gone but it will always have a special place in my heart.

I used to work there during school vacations, right from a tender age of 11. I did it to earn extra pocket money as I came from a poor family.

That was the good side of child labour. Without it, I might not be able to have an income to live and study properly.

Money is of no true value unless it’s being used for the good of others and the environment.

I worked for an elderly couple, distant relatives on my grandmother’s side.

My grand aunt cum lady boss was an unforgettable character. For example, during every meal, she would eat a bowl of rice for lunch.

Nothing strange about that – except that my seemingly invincible boss would pour a bottle of Guinness Stout over the rice.

She would make sure it was stirred, not shaken before eating it.

We ran the second dinghy stall at the fringe of Sungei Road, right in front of the defunct ice factory.

Yes, those were the days when many homes did not have a refrigerator. People actually went to buy ice from the neighbourhood provision shop.

Our merchandise comprised  mainly of jeans, shirts, and other clothing. They were targeted at working adults from the lower socioeconomic segment.

The products were generic brands and the only selling point was that I could sell it cheap or cheaper than most other retailers elsewhere.

However, there were many similar stalls. We operated in one of the most competitive marketplaces.

To passersby, our shop was a shack, put together with wooden poles and a run-down canvass. To us, it was a “retail palace.”

It does not matter to us that we didn’t even have enough space to even set up a changing room.

Big dreams always start in the mind.

It may sound funny to you if I tell you that my prospective customers have to strip to their undies to try out the jeans. For female customers, one of us would hold up a dark cloth to set up a temporary changing room.

When you walked into my shop, I would ask you, “What’s your size?”

In our stall, there were only three sizes of jeans: small, medium or large.

If your reply was “Small,” which was the most common size for many people from the lower socio-economic class, I would have given you a pair of medium-sized jeans.

The reason was simple. After washing the pre-shrunk jeans, it would be reduced to a small size.

If you continue to wash it, the long pants would become a pair of shorts.

The last line was a joke that I used to tell my customers. (Please laugh. Thank you).

One of my killer closing lines and it worked most times was, “Wow! You make our jeans look good.”

I could say that with all sincerity because I’ve learned to see the good in every person. There was not a single human I’ve met that didn’t look wonderful to me.

In the old days, the Sungei Road flea market was a huge one. You could buy almost everything you need in your home and at a bargain price too.

It was also a trading hub for petty thieves, pickpockets, and purse-snatchers. Those were exciting times.

If you lose a hubcap, you could buy one at the Thieves Market for a fraction of the price. It would be delivered to you within a relatively short period of time.

After you have fitted the hubcap, when you go to the other side of your vehicle, guess what?

The other hubcap is missing. Lol!

At the Thieves Market, I got to know many ethical and entrepreneurial hawkers. They struggled to eke out a living by offering different wares and services.

Some of them eventually broke the poverty cycle and became very successful. They made a good living for themselves and for their loved ones.

These entrepreneurs persisted in honing their craft to an art. They disciplined themselves and worked hard and smart to secure their future.

It was while studying them that I discovered one of the most important factors for success – grit.

You need to keep pressing on to press on to achieve success.

I remember a 17 year old orphan running a stall opposite to ours. He was a student from Beatty Secondary School who had to support his siblings by selling second hand shoes.

His mind was continually on first gear to innovate ideas to hawk his wares.

He persisted literally through fears, sweat, and tears to achieve success.

He had to do it because he was the sole bread winner and he knew that if he didn’t do it, they might have to stop schooling and go hungry.

Success is not just about EQ or IQ but DQ. DQ stands for desperation quotient.

How desperate are you to succeed?

Looking back, those days at the Thieves Market were some of the happiest days in my life.

The experience was an important part of my life.

That’s why you could take me out of Sungei Road but you could never take Sungei Road out of me.

Deep within me, I was and will always be an original kampung “Ah boy”.

It was there in that tough and highly-practical “business school” that I first fell in love with entrepreneurship and financial investment.

It was a love story that survived the ebb and flow of life. The romance remains strong in my heart and through my life.

Sungei Road introduced me to the world of dreams and opportunities.

I learned that every day can be the start of a new beginning, a new life.

It’s never too late to dream and turn the dream into a reality.

You are only limited by your mind and the stretch of your imagination.

You are born with wings. Learn to fly to to the stars of your dream.

Start now…


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please visit my website,

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


About Patrick Liew
About Patrick Liew Patrick Liew MBA, MSc, BSc is the Managing Partner of Global Enterprise Exchange Pte. Ltd.. He is also the founder and director of Success Resources, arguably the world’s largest personal development seminar organiser and a major shareholder of a company, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. He was previously the Executive Chairman and CEO of HSR Global Ltd., a publicly listed company on SGX-ST. Previously, he was the regional director of the Gartner Group, providing strategic advisory and planning services to governments, banks and MNCs. He was also the regional head of sales and marketing operation for Dow Jones Telerate. Patrick graduated with a BSc in Estate Management from Heriot Watt University, an MSc with emphasis in global business and marketing from The City University Of New York, and an MBA from Henley Business School / Brunel University. He has also earned more than nine other professional qualifications. Patrick is arguably the first person to develop a multimedia e-learning programme on entrepreneurship. He authored a Chinese book on business systems and was also the co-author of a Times Bookshop best-selling book. Patrick has conducted both ‘brick and mortar’ and online lessons for participants from more than 60 countries. He has also conducted keynote presentations in many international conferences, including being the first Singaporean to teach at the National Association of Realtors. Through his team at Success Resources, Patrick has organised educational conferences for prominent leaders such as President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Michael Porter, Richard Branson, Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump, and many other prominent leaders. Patrick provides leadership and advisory services to many professional and charity organisations. He is actively involved in supporting humanitarian, philanthropic and charity causes. He has organised three fund-raising events and in the process, help to set three national records in the Singapore Books Of Records. Patrick won the Entrepreneur Of the Year Award For Social Contribution, the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award, and six other business awards. Patrick believes the best way to live your life is to live your life for others. The more you reach out to bless other lives, the richer and better your life will become. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A Personal Note to my Friends The articles that I post online; or what I term as Love Notes, are written with the purpose of inspiring readers to live at a higher plane in life. They are also meant to motivate those who are struggling in life and help them find handlers to overcome their conflicts and challenges. It is my ardent hope that we will form networks and alliances of like-minded people who will put to right many of the wrongs in our midst. Together, we will leverage on each other's resources and create a synergistic impact in making our world a better home. These articles are written as part of regular reflection about the vicissitudes of life. They are at best work in progress and at worst, grumblings, grouses, and gripings of a finite old man. I have deliberately decided NOT to delete many of the articles and pointers that I may not agree with or are outrightly wrong. This is to keep a record of how my personal ideas, beliefs, and values have evolved over time. In addition, I hope to encourage readers by letting them know that I also make mistakes and am struggling with many of the complexity and complication in life. As long as we hang on to hope and work on finding a solution, there will be light at the end of whatever tunnel we are in. I do not pretend to know everything or for that matter, anything of substance. In fact, the more I study, learn, and think about the vast wisdom and knowledge out there, the more I realised how little I know about life and the ways of life. Hence, I have always ended my article by asking readers to continue to teach me. For I, too, am a sojourner in the exploration of truth and the adventure of finding meaning, purpose, and significance for my existence. I am proud of and make no apology for being a Christian, albeit not the most exemplary one. I believe our Creator can lead and guide us to be the best that we can ever be. I bear full responsibility for the shortcoming and error in my life, including my words. The fault is entirely mine and not due to anyone else. Readers have and can exercise the power of choice. They can discard what will not work for them and adopt those that can propel them further and faster in the pursuit of better performance, outcomes, and fulfillment. If I have disappointed or hurt you in any way, form, or manner, I would like to apologise to you. Please do not hold them against me or whoever or whatever is related to me. There are much to pray about, learn, and do. And I'll work on them with a sense of urgency. I hold on to the belief that 'Anything worth doing is worth doing with passion and excellence'. I'll endeavour to live by it. Life is short. There's no dress rehearsal and neither can we turn back the clock to change the drama of life. Therefore, by the grace and power of our Creator, let's live a full life and live it to the fullest. May God bless you abundantly on the journey of life. Your online servant, Patrick Liew I hope this message will find a place in your heart. By the way, I have also recorded other reflections. Please 'Like' me on Visit my Inspiration blog at For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at Please visit my website, Please read my reflection and continue to teach me. Life is FUNtastic!

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