Geylang is part two from the “Let’s Go to Singapore!” series, after a short introduction to the Lion City.
From Changi airport I took the MRT train to the “Aljunied” station where I was welcomed by 14 CCTV cameras!
There is nothing here from the excitement and glamour of Tokyo’s or Bangkok’s red light districts.
You barely notice the houses of sin. The main difference is in the number of the house. The brothels have a bigger and colourful number than a normal house. But some have a name or a photo of a lady, very conservative compared with other parts of the world.
Day and night, freelance prostitutes searching for customers walk the alleys or wait in front of dark entrances. A reminiscence of the past, when Geylang had over 50 lanes of prostitutes – a bustling business with niche services to fulfill any fantasy.
Despite the fame of the area, I felt safe all the time.
Taking photos of the backstreets alleys in one evening, I was politely asked by a fully tattooed guy to stop: “This is a sensitive area”. And indeed it is. Few steps further, groups of people were playing cards for money on big tables, and further away about eight prostitutes were sitting on chairs with their pimp trying to make a sell: “do you want one, two or three?”…
It is an interesting world to watch from a distance. So I ordered a beer (which, by the way, does cost a fortune here) and I aimed for a table near the street. At that moment, the customers and the waiter started to shout: “not allowed, go inside, new law, this is Singapore” – by inside meaning close to the outdoor restaurant counter.
So I got to watch a wall instead of the bustling activity of the street, with an expensive beer and wondering what other laws Singapore has that I don’t know…
You cannot believe how many sex enhancement products for men exist, until you see all these medicines together displayed by ambulant vendors direct on the ground. Some are legal, such as Viagra and Cialis, but others are illegal and potentially harmful for health.
But the beauty of the Geylang area comes from its past. The old shophouses from the beginning of the past century bring a nostalgic feeling.
Even the ads, purposely or unintentionally, match the past. Faded by the sun and helped by design, the Coca Cola ads are perfectly integrating in the décor of this area.
People, mostly seniors, are enjoying a meal and a cup of tea on the patios of the old restaurants.
Small restaurants serve Singaporean, Malay, Indonesian or Chinese meals. Frog porridge, crocodile stew and turtle soups are some of the most exotic dishes you can try.
What did I try? Jelly fish! The chef came with raw slices of the jellyfish to ask me if I really want to eat this. I said yes, thanking in my mind that he didn’t show me the actual whole, so gelatinous creature. The dish was delicious. The jellyfish tastes more like a turnip cabbage. Vinegar was used for cooking.
Next, we’ll travel in time from old Geylang to the futuristic architecture of Marina Bay.