If you ever happen to be in these part of the woods and heading towards downtown JB (by way of the coast that is), don’t be surprised if you suddenly notice a buildup of traffic after you passed by JB’s City Hall (Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru, commonly referred to by its Bahasa Malaysia acronym, MBJB) and the Post Office.
That buildup of traffic will indicate where the JB Night Bazaar or more commonly known as Pasar Karat JB is located. Part flea market and part bazaar, it is held every night ever since it opened a few years back, circa 2006.
For those who are unfamiliar with JB, the main thoroughfare in downtown JB ie Jalan Wong Ah Fook, used to be very busy with traffic, as it winds through JB’s CBD (Central Business District), passing by the main shopping malls, as well as being in the neighbourhood of several main places of worship eg a mosque (Muslims), a kovil (Hindus), a gurdawara (Sikhs) as well as a Chinese temple.
Add the traffic heading for Singapore via the Causeway, Jalan Wong Ah Fook inevitably gets jammed up, without fail.
For those of us in the know, we always avoid heading towards downtown JB at certain times of the day, and especially on weekends and Singapore public holidays. We avoid it AT ALL COSTS UNLESS getting caught up in traffic to watch the guy in the next car pick his nose is your kinda thing OR that you want to learn (and maybe practice) basic on-the-road sign language (basically, it is made up of the one and only sign of any importance and it involves the middle finger).
That was certainly the case until that is, the new CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) Checkpoint was opened for business, and all traffic heading to and from Singapore were re-directed to maximise the new facilities at the spanking new CIQ.
Maybe it was unforeseen but it was suddenly noticeable that traffic along the main thoroughfare ie Jalan Wong Ah Fook dropped to levels unseen before. There were no traffic jams even at the peak of day and for the driver who just got his or her driving licence, it was suddenly a joy to drive along Jalan Wong Ah Fook.
Before long, there were cries for help from the small businesses operating in the area especially eateries and sundry shops, as business dropped to almost non-existent and establishments began to close.
With the double whammy of having many JB residents losing their factory jobs in Singapore, the situation looked bleak, for there are about as many as 300,000 JB residents having employment in Singapore’s manufacturing, industrial and service sectors, to name but a few.
The state and local governments had to address the two issues, that being generating the necessary volume of human traffic to the area with a view to regenerate business activities within the area in an effort to offset the effect the new CIQ had on these businesses as well as give the newly unemployed the opportunity to regain their self respect and generate some sort of income.
And it was thus that Pasar Karat JB made its ‘debut’. Business permits were made available to budding entrepreneurs on a nightly basis for RM5 per night (USD1.50) per business lot, with no business licences required.
Within a short space of time, Pasar Karat expanded fast in terms of the number of stalls opened for business as well as the volume of people patronising the nightly affair.
The term ‘Pasar Karat’ basically refers to second-hand items. And if memory serves me right, there was already a ‘Pasar Karat’ in existence ever the 70s.
The then ‘Pasar Karat’ was basically an alley, where traders dealing in second-hand items would set up their wares for interested customers. Today, the alley is where over which the sign board ‘Pasar Karat’ now hangs.
In contrast, the ‘Pasar Karat’ of today offers the interested patron many a choice, from second-hand wares to fashionware to handyman services to even, dinner cum supper.
In other words, patrons do not only patronise the ‘Pasar Karat’ to look-see and shop but also to get a meal as well, AND if need be, get their shoes fixed by the cobbler who set up shop in one corner or get their malfunctioning electrical items a look-over by a repairman in the stall nearby before deciding to get a ‘new’ one there and then.
The Pasar Karat today has indeed come a long way. Traders are now awarded licences to operate as opposed to having nightly permits, thus offering the traders security for their businesses.
But whats more important, the Pasar Karat has breathe new life into the area and has put the smiles back on the faces of business owners.
Naturally, this new lease of life for the area has its price for vehicle owners. Just ask the traffic police.
If they (the traffic police) were a business themselves, they would, in high probability, report an increase in revenue from the many summonses issued thus far in areas within the vicinity of Pasar Karat.
Talk about generating business. Talk about irony.
Date : 24 November 2012