Just a 5-minute walk away from Paya Lebar MRT is City Plaza – the supposed wholesale heaven with 5 floors of cheap clothes, electronics and knick-knacks. Rumour has it that this dingy mall is where fashion bloggers shop and blogshop owners stock up on clothes that they can subsequently rip you off for.
Last week, I decided to go down and check out this promised land for myself.
With dim lights and dirty grey walls, City Plaza looks every bit the 40-year-old mall it is. The vibe is oddly reminiscent of the Far East Plaza I remember from when I was 14, but I expected this – after all, every article I’d read told me to look past its humble exterior. That I did. I spent over 5 hours going to almost every store in the mall, hopeful that I’d find some cheap thing to bring home and boast about.
But at the end of it all, this is my verdict: Rabak, leh. Whoever told you that City Plaza is a treasure trove of cheap, fashionable finds is lying.
Cheap yes. Fashionable? No. Well, not unless you’re into bareback tops, see-through dresses and booty shorts I guess.
That said, while you shouldn’t hope update your wardrobe at City Plaza, there are actually several specialty shops worth your time and money. You can pickup traditional mahjong tiles, retro game consoles, childhood snacks and more.
Here are 7 non-rabak City Plaza shops for cheap vintage finds and more:
City Mahjong Centre (#01-87B)
The first floor of City Plaza is where the banks, money changers and ATMs are. As a mahjong auntie, the first store that caught my eye is City Mahjong Centre. The kick-ass store sells everything you could possibly need for the green game, and for every budget.
When I went down, the plastic-metal tables were on sale, and only $45. If you want something sturdier (and nicer), go for the wooden one ($55). There are really high-end ones that can go up to $300+ too.
You can get mahjong tiles from as cheap at $48 (on sale!), but the better quality ones with nicer designs are around $80. I’d say it’s worth it, because mahjong tiles at other stores can easily cost over $100. In fact, there is another mahjong shop around the corner as well, but the selection is smaller and the prices seem slightly higher.
City Mahjong Centre is a wholesale retailer, which explains the reasonable prices. You can probably find similar items at slightly cheaper prices online, but true mahjong addicts will understand the value of touching and holding your tiles before parting with your cash.
Power Photo Store (#01-42)
True to its name, this camera store is really quite power. In fact, it’s probably my favourite store in City Plaza. Other than Mustafa, there aren’t many malls that still have these retro electronics shops.
Power Photo Store sells cameras, watches and vintage games. The old school brick game console is $12 – that’s cheaper than most online retailers on Qoo10 that sell it at $14 to $20+. If you’re into plastic watches, you can get them for $10 and up.
I’m no photography junkie so I can’t speak about the selection of cameras, but they did seem to have a big range of models from Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm, as well as less mainstream brands like Ranger and Yashica. Every piece had an “offer” tag, which is suspicious, but I’m sure these shops are more bargain-able than say, Best Denki or Harvey Norman.
Xin Titbits Centre (#01-62A)
Sorry, no tits (or any other naughty bits) here – just lots of yummy snacks you’d love to put in your mouth.
Xin Titbit Centre is like your neighbourhood mama shop, but on steroids. There are literally boxes of junk food everywhere, and there’s hardly any walking space. The preserved fruits are from $1.50 per 100g, while the big packs of snacks (pictured above) are $2 to $5.
You can find similar tidbits at your heartland markets and provision shops, but why would you? They’re about the same price, and at City Plaza, you get a free trip down memory lane too.
Arnold’s Fried Chicken (#02-99)
Moving on to the second floor – you’re probably a bit hungry by now, so there’s the famous Arnold’s Fried Chicken to fill you up. In general, fast food in Singapore are all around the same price, and you can get a hearty meal for under $15. Check out the menu:
If you have a tighter budget or just don’t want fried chicken, there’s a famous ban mian store at the level 5 food court too (Poon Nah City Home Made Noodle). A bowl of ban mian goodness will cost $3.50 and up.
Also on the 2nd floor is Blackout, a sandal store. The shoes are made from a unique rubber-PVC mix that is waterproof and durable – perfect for Singapore’s unpredictable weather. You can choose from the stock models (off the rack), or customise your own by choosing the colour of the soles and straps.
The custom sandals cost $20 to $69 depending on the design. You can also add punch-in charms on the straps.
Okay, this one is a bit high SES – but to be fair, they’re bespoke sandals, so you can’t compare them to $5 Cotton On flip flops. However, if you’re looking to replace your bubblegum-scented Melissas or super trusty Birkenstocks, this is less than half the price.
There are clothing stores on every floor, but most of them are “market type” clothes. If you want a better shot at finding something cheap and trendy, head to the 3rd and 4th floor. On level 3 is Refash, the clothing marketplace that gives preloved clothes a chance at a new life.
The secondhand clothes are very reasonably priced. For the discount racks, tops are $6.90, dresses/jackets/overalls are $9.90 and bottoms are 2 for $9.90. For the others, it’s priced around $10 to $18 per piece.
Most of the clothes are in “like new” condition, and are from popular brands like Love Bonito, Zara, Topshop and the likes.
Also on the same floor is Soda, where I managed to spot some Korean-made dresses and COS-inspired pieces. That said, most of Soda’s racks are still mostly auntie clothes.
While you can find some nice designs here, Soda is not cheap. I picked out (and even tried) a plain button down dress, but eventually gave it back because it was $38.
Getting to City Plaza
Directions to City Plaza: The nearest MRT station is Paya Lebar (green/circle line). Take Exit A and walk 5 to 10 minutes to City Plaza. If you prefer the bus, there is a bus stop right outside Tanjong Katong Complex. Buses 2, 7, 13, 21, 26, 40, 43, 51, 76, 135, and 197 go there.
City Plaza parking charges:
Monday to Saturday (8am to 5pm): $1.20 for first hours, $0.70 for subsequent 30 minutes
Monday to Saturday (5pm to 8am the next day): $1.50 per entry
Sunday & Public Holidays (5pm to 8am the next day): $1.50 per entry
What’s your best find from City Plaza? Share it with us in the comments below!