Prostitution in Singapore’s Geylang neighborhood


I’ve always argued for prostitution to be legalized when given the opportunity. Singapore is one of the few countries on earth where it the sale of sex is not only tolerated but explicitly permitted by law. This doesn’t mean it’s a land of enlightenment however since a number of specific regulations restrict the commercial sex trade to licensed brothels in an attempt to keep it all under control.

The existence of the so-called four floors of whores in Orchard Towers demonstrates that the authorities are either unable or unwilling to control the trade in its entirety however. There are so many things at play from issues of economics to the politics of immigration that it would be impossible to cover them all here. It seems better than to focus on the aspects readers would be most interested in.

Geylang brothel

One thing is clear and easy to point out. The Orchard Towers bars are without question more popular for foreigners and temporary visitors than Geylang. What is not exactly clear is why that is the case. I imagine some are drawn to the Towers by the presence of women from places like the Philippines who can speak English well enough to hold a real conversation. Others though may orient toward the four floors because it’s the only thing they really know about.

The Singapore government permits brothels to operate in the city state’s Geylang neighborhood. These brothels are located in the Lorongs (small streets) that line the southern side of Geylang Road.

The Geylang brothels could be easy to miss for people who don’t know what they are looking for. At least during the day. Many of the small shops open in the afternoon but the scene doesn’t really come alive until the sun starts to go down. The only thing that indicates their presence are plaques with street numbers on them often colored red. There may also be male managers standing outside to welcome in customers and some of the more developed brothels even have small signs with specific names on them. Some of the houses are so nondescript that residences in the area have taken to putting up signs telling visitors that they are just regular homes.

The government keeps an eye on all of these brothels. They do spot inspections, put up posters reminding customers and service providers alike to use condoms for every single act (including oral sex), and make sure requirements that the sex workers are regularly tested for diseases are met.

The women who work the brothels come from mainland China, Thailand and Malaysia (though the latter are ethnically Chinese). Certain houses hire only Chinese women while others hire only Thais. The Chinese women tend to be in their early twenties and at least moderately attractive. Few if any have been married or had children. The Thai women can be in their twenties or thirties and may be a little less attractive. Many have already been married or have children though few are what anyone would call fat. They are often better at speaking English than their Chinese counterparts. Local women born and raised in Singapore are increasingly rare to the point that I think they’ve completely disappeared from the Geylang houses.

Geylang is a very well known area in Singapore and I doubt that there’s a single taxi driver who can’t find his way there. Singapore’s popular public transportation system also makes its way through the area. Geylang Road is a large and busy thoroughfare that is home to a number of shop houses, restaurants, bars, KTVs and small businesses of various types. There are also open coffee shops that serve food on many of the corners. A number of generally older and larger freelancers tend to hang out in these places trying to find locals to take them one of the many short time hotels in the area. This is not legal but it goes on right out in the open.

The aforementioned Lorongs are numbered. The area is generally open, clean and safe as can be expected in Singapore. Perhaps a person who actually grew up in Singapore would think that it’s a little scary at night but people who have been to places like Jakarta and New York would almost certainly think otherwise.

While there are  brothel houses in many of the Lorongs, there are especially large concentrations of shops on Lorong 16, Lorong 18 and Lorong 20. A string of houses starting with number 26 on Lorong 18 have traditionally been some of the better places in terms of quality and service though these things can vary from one day to the next. House 66A on Lorong 8 has been around for some time with a rotating staff of Thai ladies.

Locals interested in the area often discuss the shops online at websites like the Sammy Boy Forum. The lingo can be a little difficult to understand but the basics are easy enough to sort out. Houses are described by their location, so that “L8 H66G” is used to describe house number 66G on Lorong 8. The rates at the houses are set by management. Locals break them down by category. In their lingo houses are described as being “Cat 50” or “Cat 150” depending on whether they charge 50 or 150 Singapore Dollars ($40-$120 US). There are other options too. Some houses charge 80, some ask up to 200 for certain ladies and regulars can negotiate the rates a bit almost anywhere.

Most houses will have a staff of women working. They often sit on benches of some type while they wait around for customers. Some of the seating arrangements look like Thai fishbowls but others are just regular rooms with chairs. Women work a particular house for a set period of time but those available can change as women go to the back to sleep or get busy with customers. Punters are under no obligation to chose a lady just because they’ve entered a house. It’s easy enough to politely leave or to ask if anyone else is available. Many of the brothels can call women in from other houses in the area based on descriptions or requested services though this could be tough for someone who only speaks English to manage. Most of the managers and some of the women speak a bit of English but it’s usually limited.

It seems that most foreigners who enter any houses except the most expensive will be asked for 100 Singapore Dollars ($80 US) upfront even at places like some of the Thai houses where locals are given lower prices. I guess this “foreigner tax” has escaped the previously discussed regulations somehow. Since few foreigners visit Geylang I’m sure most simply pay up. It could be a pain trying to negotiate if one was unfamiliar with the area and the language anyway. Considering that Singapore is such an expensive place in general even a hundred isn’t too bad a price. Obviously the ladies who go with locals for 150 or more would require higher payments from foreigners too.

Once payment is rendered the customer will be led by his lady back to one of the rooms. These rooms are usually quite clean considering what goes on them. They are also well stocked with lots of clean towels and even more tissues. Things like lube and condoms are also on hand in large quantities and non-alcoholic drinks may be provided for free.

The typical procedure is for the client and the service provider both to strip down and head into the shower. The lady then washes the the client before sending him to the bed and cleaning herself off. Soon after the woman joins the punter in bed and goes through the motions. The quality of the service always depends. I’ve said that so many times about so many places and it’s true in Geylang too. Nearly all the women are good at what they do but some are excellent. Complaints about terrible service are rare though mechanical service is not. That can be expected considering the setup. A guy who gets something great should consider himself lucky. As previously mentioned the law states that condoms must be used for oral and vaginal sex though some women will occasionally do the blowjob without.

I’ve never heard about any official time limit for a session but rumor has it that the ladies are told to try to get customers to finish in 30 to 45 minutes. I think this is usually about right and I don’t imagine many hardcore marathon sessions go down in the Geylang houses even if special services, extensions and expensive overnight stays are available at some.

After the deed is done there may be a bit of brief chat, massage or even cuddling before the punter is instructed to shower himself off while the lady cleans up the room. In many of these houses the women sleep in the same room they work so it’s understandable that they’d want to keep things tidy. The women will typically wash herself up while the punter dries off and gets dressed. After that goodbyes are exchanged and the transaction is complete.

Some shops managers like to introduce themselves to guys and work on getting return customers. Some others appear to not even notice the guys who are leaving even though they may be calling out to guys passing by on the street like they’re stranded at sea.

The streets themselves deserve a mention. Each and every night the Lorongs come alive with women looking for customers outside of the legalized houses. These women typically stand in groups with pimps hanging out nearby. Most come from countries like Indonesia and Vietnam and they range in looks and attitude. They are not very aggressive at all though they may call out to guys who pass by and more than a few are surprisingly sweet. They stand in the even-numbered Lorongs where the brothels are located, the roads in between (like Talma Road between Lorongs 8 and 14) and sometimes across the road in the odd-numbered Lorongs. Indian women can sometimes be found in the higher numbered Lorongs.

The women that work the streets specialize in short time romps in the hotels scattered all over the area. The price depends on the lady, the punter, the pimp and any number of other circumstances. Some guys claim to get this kind of action for as little as 20 Singaporean Dollars ($16 US) though a more standard rate would be anywhere from 40 to 100 in local currency. Sometimes the price of the hotel room is included but other times the guy is expected to pay it. The same goes for condoms which may or may not be provided though they can always be purchased nearby. The service level varies as it would anywhere else but there are stories around of speed demons and clock watchers. Some guys negotiate with the pimps while others insist on negotiating directly with the women. Some guys pay the pimps up front while others insist on paying the lady after the deed is done.

Even though these ladies and their “managers” show up in Geylang like clockwork its clear that their activities aren’t permitted by law. When people in law enforcement make one of their occasional sweeps through the area the streets empty out faster than you can say “police.” They usually stay that way for a brief while before things are back to normal though they can sometimes remain empty all night if The Man remains on the prowl. Here’s a report on a Geylang crackdown that put almost 200 people behind bars.

As regular readers know I don’t suggest that anyone do anything other than continue to read. This website is meant for the entertainment of adults and nothing more. With that in mind I can say that the street workers and freelancers of Geylang are clearly more dangerous than the women in the fully legal brothels even though they don’t compare in the least bit to some of the desperate and often drugged out street walkers in major cities in the United States.

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