Pasar Malam

Singapore Night Market

3. Jan 2020
Pasar Malam

1. Definition and History

Pasar Malam, which translates to "Night Market" in Malay, is a traditional open-air marketplace that operates during evening hours in Singapore. These markets trace their roots back to the mid-1950s when they first emerged near British military bases, catering primarily to workers on payday. They became widespread across various neighborhoods as a convenient shopping venue for residents due to the scarcity of shopping facilities outside the city center.

2. Evolution and Regulations

In the 1960s and 70s, pasar malams flourished but also faced significant regulatory challenges due to health concerns, traffic congestion, and pollution issues. The government implemented licensing requirements for hawkers, phased out many pasar malams, and relocated street vendors to hawker centers. By the late 1970s, most pasar malams had been closed or restructured.

3. Revival and Modern Format

Pasar malam experienced a revival in the 1980s with the establishment of a government-organized night market at Sentosa Island. This was part of an effort to boost tourism and nightlife. Present-day pasar malams are typically organized once a year around festive periods such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, and Deepavali, often serving as fundraising events for community groups and grassroots organizations.

4. Characteristics

Modern pasar malams in Singapore are known for their vibrant atmosphere, featuring brightly lit stalls, loud music, and a wide variety of affordable goods. Food stalls selling local delicacies like roasted chestnuts, steamed corn, and snacks are a major attraction. Non-food items range from clothing and accessories to household items, toys, and handicrafts.

5. Rules and Regulations

Organizing a pasar malam in Singapore requires obtaining necessary permits from the National Environment Agency (NEA). Stallholders must adhere to strict hygiene standards, with food handlers needing certification and licensed sources for precooked food. Pasar malam operators are subject to frequent checks to ensure compliance with fire safety, hygiene, and other regulations. They cannot sell live animals or tobacco-related products without proper authorization.

6. Challenges and Impact

Despite their popularity, pasar malams have faced challenges over time, including competition from malls, rising operational costs, and complaints from nearby shopkeepers about loss of business. Unlicensed operations have been targeted by authorities to maintain order and ensure adherence to rules.

In summary, Singapore's pasar malams are an integral part of the country's cultural fabric, offering a unique shopping experience while adapting to evolving urban policies and community needs.


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