Orchard Road after dark: the seedy side of Singapore’s exclusive shopping district

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Orchard Road, one of Singapore’s main shopping and tourist attractions because of its ritzy, exclusive stores, has long held an open secret—it’s also home to a longtime sex trade for both locals and foreigners.

It comes to a surprise to many that Orchard Road is not only full of bespoke and family-friendly venues, but also of places of vice and human trafficking, since the country has areas legally designated for brothels, as well as tight anti-vice laws.

The center of Orchard Road’s seedy side is Orchard Towers, which has been around for more than 40 years, as it was erected in 1975. It’s an office building that houses massage parlors, girlie bars and other questionable night spots among 4 of its 18 stories, which are commonly known as the “Four Floors of Whores.”

Orchard Towers is just a stone’s throw away from the tony hotels where Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un stayed during the June 12 summit a few weeks ago—the St. Regis and Shangri-La hotels. Taxi drivers outside Orchard Towers regularly offer to bring male tourists to places where they can have a good time.

Aside from Orchard Towers, there are other places in the area that take part in the sex trade. One example is Far East Plaza on Scotts Road. Thai and Vietnamese prostitutes offer their services at the three massage parlors where they work. All this happens in the midst of families dining at the eateries there, with the two groups keeping their distance from each other.

One possible reason for the proliferation of sex-trade establishments in the area is because the rental rates in Far East Plaza are low. Orchard boulevard has not seen as many visitors recently as in the past, and the current rate of retail vacancy, 8.4 per cent, is greater than the national average of 7.4 per cent. It is probable that because restaurants and retail establishments have left the area, owners of buildings have become willing to rent out their spaces to just about anyone.

The other reason why sex-trade places have flourishes is because, simply put, sex sells. There is a lot of money to be made in the trade. For example, in Lucky Plaza, one establishment faced a lawsuit for charging their clients a S$300 fee, which then gave them access to sexual favors from Philippine prostitutes.

Older malls in the area are also a common location for seedy businesses, including Ming Arcade across Orchard Towers. Hostess bars and massage parlors on the upper floors of Ming Arcade employ women who offer massages with happy endings to men after dark.

Orchard Plaza, Cuppage Plaza and the Concorde Hotel form what locals call the “Bermuda Triangle of vice,” where female hostesses offer themselves primarily to Japanese tourists, and where Japanese restaurants and bars abound. Filipino and Vietnamese prostitutes greet male visitors in Japanese, and invite them into the establishments.

In yet another hotel near Orchard Road, this time a five-star one, Caucasian men are the customary clients of Thai and Russian women, who frequent the area in the early morning hours, only to disappear into the night before the sun comes up.

Some people may still be surprised that Orchard Road has a seedy side for sex trade, but for locals who have known about this for years, the vice that exists in the area has become part of every day and every night, life.