THE over a century-old Menglembu wet market in Ipoh, Perak has helped generations of families earn a living.
The old favourite among locals may be due for an upgrading project to fix longstanding issues concerning ventilation, lighting and cleanliness.
Chicken seller Boon Chah Chin, 42, is the third generation to work at the market.
His late grandfather was among the first traders to set up a stall at the market in Kampung Baru Menglembu, Ipoh.
“This is where I grew up. I grew up watching my grandfather operate his stall on his own.
“He did everything from cleaning chickens to handling suppliers and dealing with customers.
Boon said the market was in need of minor upgrades.
“Given the market’s age, some parts are in dire need of repair.
“There were some electrical poles inside the market that were in bad condition but we contacted Tenaga Nasional Bhd and the problem has been fixed,” he said.
He hoped the Ipoh City Council (MBI) could regularly clean and maintenance the place.
“There are cobwebs, burnt light bulbs and uneven floors that need to be repaired.
“Besides that, the market is still in good shape.”
Boon said major upgrades to the market, however, would affect business.
“I was told that when the Pasir Pinji market was being upgraded, traders were temporarily moved to another location.
“It might have been ideal for them but I don’t think it will be for us.
“The market is located in the middle of town, and an upgrading project might result in an increase in traffic, but this will only be in the mornings.”
Fruit vendor Hee Lee Fong, 51, was worried that renovations might change the market’s ambience.
“I’ve heard some customers complain about the heat and the market’s unsanitary conditions.
“This is something that needs to be fixed but I have never heard anyone complain about how it looks.
“The market is older than me and the look reminds me of the old days,” said Hee.
He added that he has seen customers taking photos of the market.
He suggested that MBI carry out repairs and minor adjustments without having to do major upgrades.
MBI, he said, should look into providing better ventilation and lighting and improving cleanliness.
“Some stalls are a bit run down. If MBI could fix that, it would be better and cheaper than renovating the market.
“Besides, the traders would not need to move,” he said.
Hee was also worried that if the traders were relocated, they could lose their customers to the wholesale market located just a few minutes from them us.
An MBI spokesperson said there were 517 licensed stalls in the market with 396 registered traders selling a variety of grocery supplies such as fresh meat, dry ingredients, vegetables, fruits, cakes and flowers.
“Rubbish is collected once a day from the market. We also carry out maintenance such as fixing the roof, drains and cleaning the toilets.”
A teacher who wished to be known only as Siew said she wished for a cleaner market.
“Although I live in Menglembu, I rarely go to the market because I can’t stand the wet floor and the smell.
“Although it is cheaper to get meat there, I have no choice but to go to the supermarket.
“The floor is uneven, chipped and wet. Ventilation is bad because the ceiling is low and this condition traps odours.
“Some stalls don’t bother to keep clean and there are cobwebs everywhere.
“While MBI is responsible for the maintenance, traders also need to maintain cleanliness of their own stalls,” she said.
In 2011, former Perak MCA Public Service and Complaints Bureau chief Datuk Lee Kon Yin said then Ipoh mayor Datuk Roshidi Rahim had agreed to make a request to the Federal Government to rebuild the market if traders agreed to it.
In 2014, at least five people sustained minor injuries when a portion of the market ceiling collapsed.
In May 2021, Batu Gajah MCA provided food assistance to nine traders after a fire damaged their stalls at the market.
Alicia Tang, 25, from Kuala Lumpur, believed that Menglembu market could be developed into a tourist attraction.
“If people are willing to wake up as early as 4am to visit Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan, why can’t we do the same here?
“Menglembu market might not be known to tourists but if we upgrade the market, it might appeal to tourists.
“I’ve noticed that some markets in countries like Japan, South Korea and Thailand are still located in old buildings but the facilities are incredible – there is no smell, no wet floors and there are facilities provided for the elderly and disabled.
“My grandmother lives in Menglembu and we go to the market whenever we visit her.”
Tang said she did not see the need to reconstruct the entire market but instead, the city council should focus on upgrading it.
She said giving Menglembu market a new look would also help improve business.
“The stalls on the outside need to be more organised and provided with better tables because some traders are placing foodstuff on the road.
“There is also need for a better walkway for visitors. Now the entrance is blocked by a fruit stall so it is a bit congested.
“My grandmother is in her 70s and she walks with the aid of a cane. I worry that she might slip on the wet floor. Something needs to be done to fix this safety hazard,” Tang said.
Menglembu assemblyman Steven Chaw said a proper plan had to be in place for the market to be redeveloped or upgraded.
He said these included a temporary location in which traders could operate, adding that a good plan would involve alleviating issues such as parking and traffic congestion issues.
He said there would be opposition from some of the traders in the market while there would also be those who would support redevelopment.
“Since I was elected in 2018, I have discussed this matter with the traders.
“They do not object outright to the notion (of redeveloping the market).
“The traders just need assurance that they will still have a place to continue doing business,” he said, adding that market-goers would certainly welcome the upgrades.
“Once the market has been redeveloped, another concern would be the location of stalls.
“Most traders would want their stalls to be nearest to the entry point so a thorough discussion has to be held between the city council, Local Government Development Ministry, traders and consumers.”
Chaw said it was high time for the market to be upgraded or redeveloped.
“The market should be redeveloped with a thorough plan that could solve issues pertaining to the traffic congestion, parking and also traders that are operating outside the market.
“I will try to request the Local Government Development Minister to look into this.”
State housing and local government committee chairman Sandrea Ng said Chaw was actively seeking feedback to solve the market’s issues.
“We will get MBI to work with Chaw to get people’s opinion about the condition of the market and what needs to be done.
“The state and city council will do our part to help, including submitting allocation requests to the ministry.”