In contrast to its quiet nature during weekdays, City Plaza comes alive on Sundays.
Outside, it is possible to find not less than 100 picnicking Indonesian maids and other foreigners at a nearby field sit under the shade of trees, or on the pavement for sightseeing of the Geylang River. They eat, chat, and also dance to music from portable radios.
Inside the 33 years old mall, that is renowned as the Singapore’s largest fashion wholesale centre, is lively. Over a dozen of mobile phone, travel and halal food shops enjoy a spike in takings.
A supervisor at Indonesian food outlet Es Teler 77, Mr Choo Eng Kim stated that without the foreign workers, there would not be much business at all because Sunday’s business made up almost 90% of their weekly revenue.
In the last decade, City Plaza in Paya Lebar has become a famous gathering spot for maids, especially those from Indonesia
One of the tenants and maids, Ms Yuli who attends the place said that the population of foreigners there on Sundays has been increasing in the recent years. She additionally said it could be the result of more foreigners working there or more maids having a day off.
Since the beginning of the previous year, newly contracted maids have been given a compulsory day off every week or a day’s wages in lieu.
Besides, City Plaza is also famous among the Bangladeshi workers.
Jahid Hassan, a 26-year-old construction worker who was at the mall on Sunday with his Indonesian girlfriend and other two friends said that those who those with Indonesian girlfriends go to City Plaza while those who have Filipino girlfriends go to Lucky Plaza in Orchard.
Shopkeepers embrace the extra business as Rahima Safiee, a Hawa Restaurant supervisor said. She stated that it was good they had more foreigners for business. But they had to inform the foreigners not to bring food from elsewhere to their restaurants but some may not listen.
For about 20 years, Ms Candy Sim, the owner of Lucky Fine Unisex Saloon, has been working in the mall. Her shop front is opposite the park at the junction of Geylang Road and Guillemard Road where many Indonesians converge. She said that they were simply there to eat and party, and many of them are women. She said she was not worried but she even expected more foreigners to visit the area. She said she only got concerned when some people got drunk.
It was a plus for the maids who gather there, the five-storey mall’s nearness to Geylang Serai that is predominantly Malay zone. They said it was convenient to buy Indonesian products and pay at City Plaza. Above all, it is a gathering spot for them to come together.
An Indonesian maid Suyarmini, 38 years old, while on a picnic at the field stated that they were there just to relax, chat, eat, and have fun. And that it was nice that they were able to meet their friends there. She said that she visited the place at least once in a month with her friend Tumiem who also worked as a maid.
“It’s nice to come out here. It’s like having a fresh outlook on life after working for a week. There’s cheap food, and there are many Indonesians here. This is like our kampong,” said Ms. Tumiem, 39 years old.