Porn and Prostitution in Geylang

Singapore has a problem, la. And this time it’s not even the haze from those dodgy rubber merchants in Sumatra. Nor is it the counterfeit shit from Sim Lim Square that our Aunties across the island have been warning us about. Believe it or not, Singapore actually has a prostitution problem – and it is in the district of Geylang where you can find it for yourself.

Two icons of Marina Bay: MBS, and the Merlion.
Two icons of Marina Bay: MBS, and the Merlion.

As a tourist to Singapore, you must be familiar with the sights and sounds of Marina Bay, Orchard Road, or Sentosa. For me personally, as I visit the Little Red Dot many times each year, I have favourite bars/hawkers and places to meet friends pretty much anywhere near the CBD, including Bras Basah, Raffles Boulevard, the Nicoll Highway, Shenton, and Fort Canning (great for an early morning run to burn off last night’s Tiger Beer buckets). Heck, I even like shopping in Jurong, these days! However, the more you visit, the more you’ll realise that behind the glass skyscrapers and stupid Merlion statues, you will find a seedy and dirty side to Singapore. In fact, there are some buildings in the Geylang district that have been dubbed by the locals as “Four Floors of Whores”.

Geylang in all its glory
Geylang in all its glory
Not often you see this kind of thing in Singapore
Not often you see this kind of thing in Singapore – OMG what would our Aunties say?!

I have never ever visited Geylang for anything other than to take innocent photos (then again, isn’t that everyone’s excuse?), yet I have done enough research and heard enough stories from local friends (and some expats) to know what happens on these “4 Floors of Whores”, supposedly referencing the building known as Orchard Towers. But, while what goes on in Orchard Towers is discreet, there are also sex shops on public view in Geylang, so anybody that walks past can get an eyeful. I didn’t think this kind of thing existed in Singapore; it is a very conservative country where the older generation lord it over the youngsters with an iron fist. After all, according to your Aunties, sex wasn’t advertised in the 1960s during Independence, so why should it be spoken about now? All this may be true, and it makes me wonder just why sex shops are so prevalent in Geylang – don’t the authorities care?!

geylang8

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I learned from reading on Virtual Tourist that prostitutes in Geylang typically charge around S$150 for a “session”, which is around £85. What surprised me a lot was the kind of prostitutes you can find around here. Apparently, there are Thai, Filipino, and Vietnamese hookers plying their trade around Geylang, all seemingly competing with each other for punters. But isn’t it illegal for such nationalities to partake in such work? Perhaps if they were Singaporeans it would be more understandable that the authorities would turn a blind eye, but since when does Singapore’s Immigration Department grant Vietnamese prostitutes a work permit? I am an English teacher and even I do not qualify (yet) for a work permit in Singapore. Maybe I’m in the wrong business? Clearly, the hookers must be practicing their sexual exploits illegally, and none of the money turned over on the “4 Floors of Whores” will ever go back to the Government, so why has the area not been cleansed by Police?

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It is true that prostitution itself is not illegal in Singapore, yet certain laws exist such as “thou shall not solicit in public” and “thou shall not live off a pimp’s wages” which are actually illegal. Seems a bit complicated to me – even contradictory. Still, it is perceived that the hookers do indeed live fairly comfortably from their night time sex job. A study reported in The Straits Times showed that prostitutes pick and choose their clients, depending on race, and charge some more, others less: Caucasians are typically asked to pay most because they are perceived to be more willing; Chinese are charged less than Caucasians, while Bangladeshis pay the lowest amount because they are seen as less wealthy. Wow – racism and prostitution! Who’d have thought it could get any worse?!

When backpacking in Singapore, it could be tempting to find a brothel hostel in the Geylang area because it will almost certainly have the lowest price. Please do not be tempted by these cheaper prices. It may not even be safe around here at night, and even if it is, I wonder what your pillows would smell of…

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8 thoughts on “Porn and Prostitution in Geylang

  1. I stayed in a Hotel in Geylang once when passing through Singapore to extend an Indonesian Visa. I travelled with my partner and the Hotel we stayed in was clean, smelled fine and the staff were lovely.

    I found walking around the streets of Geylang fascinating. I felt like I got to witness the heart of Singapore, the working class. The food was so diverse as was the people and if you are able to look past the few prostitutes you may have walked past at night then it really wasn’t that bad. I’ve seen worse in Kings Cross, Sydney.

    Sometimes to get a honest feel for a country you need to see the real, even it it seems ugly side. I would definitely go back to Geylang.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. this still exist in singapore? i know geylang area is known for this for years, but i thought they have revamped the whole district to make it ‘neutral’. plus, don’t people now a days use phone applications to meet ‘new friends’? but i guess in any big city there is always a dark side that many people may not realise. i’m actually going to be in spore again this weekend, to welcome canadian friends visiting asia. i guess best to stir them away from this part of town.

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