I live in the heart of Geylang. For the uninitiated, the SIN in Singapore probably comes from Geylang area, specifically Sins carnal in nature. But for me it is the most interesting place in Singapore. What I like about Geylang is the stark contrast of glossy-magazine version of Singapore you see in most places. The streets are dusty, the back alleys are dark, the walls are smelly and people actually sleep on the paved sidewalks.
This is not to say Geylang is a slum area, there are no slum areas in Singapore mind you, and neither it is neglected. It just emits a character of its own that keeps manifesting in spite of the government effort to clean it up. During day time it is merely a collective rows of colonial style shop houses, either renovated or rented but looks dilapidated. Traffic is always heavy at the main road, but the back lanes are always lonely. At night though, is a different story. Neon signs begins to flicker,flashes and eventually flares up, the scent of talcum powder and perfume mingles with the sweat of foreign workers coming back from hard days work.
Geylang is the epitome of split personality. At the background, Buddhist temples and religious associations line one side which is juxtaposed with love hotels, massage parlors and KTV clubs just across the street. I once bumped into a monk and a Chinese girl in skimpy skirt on the same street (but not at the same time) both of them eyeing me as I utter my excuses, the former with irritation and the latter with flirty intents. Now the lanes are lined with foreign workers. contractors from India and Pakistan idling in the corner, eye-fucking the street walkers.
These street walkers are not your usual prostitutes in Malate or Angeles, these are world class quality that can pass as models in any country. With their long legs, smooth skin and fake eyelashes. Different Lorongs (lanes/street) represents different countries. Lorong 10-12 have Chinese nationals, (SGD100.00+) in their cocktail dresses lined up like fruit stands ready for your picking. Lorong 14-16 have the petite but aggressive Indonesians and Burmese (SGD50.00), pulling you and rubbing their bodies to your elbows. Lorong 18-20 are Vietcong territories, some say they're budget meal Chinese (SGD 50.00)
Street walker: "come with me lah"
Me: No thanks (shyly)
Street walker: "Don't thank me lah, fuck me lah"
One can see rows and rows of houses with odd number houses at Lorong 20-24 these are the massage parlor territory, where the pimp's sales pitch is "shower, massage, blowjob,f uckjob 80 dallah onli!" Prostitution is legal here, it is like the Amsterdam of Asia. Like ice cream the best sellers depend per season, sometimes it is Thai, on some days Chinese or Vietnamese.
In the darkest backstreets with no name are the tyrannies, bigger than you and me but with exotic beauty that can rival the Thais. Even Indian girls in sari joins the fray on some nights.
But that is not all at Geylang. There are lots of hawker centers and eateries scattered all over the the district, most are open 24 hours, and will readily cater to the different cultures working overnight with their alternate careers. The main road is a delight of gastronomical proportions for one with exotic tastes. Herbal Chicken soup? Fried Frogs? Sautéed Snails? Turtle Soup, anybody? How about Durian, the pungy smelly spiky fruit which is native to the Malay peninsula? They say it is creamy and sweet but it is also an acquired taste. It smells like a drunk man's puke.
The night usually ends at 2Am for the massage parlors, and at 4am the street walkers take their breakfast (or perhaps dinner) at the eateries. I was once approached while eating my cheesy fries at the eatery below my apartment. She speaks limited English and we managed by hand signals;
Streetwalker: (opens the mouth, miming blowjob) 30 dollars, can?
Me: No, I live upstairs.
Streetwalker: (pulled my hand) I tell you fortune (then speaks rapidly in Chinese)
Me: I don't have money
Streetwalker: Buy me coffee
I bought her a cup and retired upstairs.