Singapore—Contrary to today’s expectations that Singapore is completely made up of luxury high-rises and designer stores, there are pockets of, shall we call them, problematic places in the city-state that, if you dig a little deeper, reveal the country’s seedier side.
Today, let’s look at four such interesting buildings that the nation can consider to be problematic, given the questionable nature of the building inside.
Let’s take the architectural wonder known as the Golden Mile Complex, for starters. Today it’s widely recognized as the country’s Little Thailand, where anyone can find anything Thai, including the country’s less savoury imports, within its confines.
Despite longstanding plans from the government to refurbish its use and image (hence the aspirational name) the Golden Mile Complex was, unfortunately, and quite famously known as a “vertical slum” thanks to Nominated MP Ivan Png.
The Singaporean economist and academic called the Golden Mile Shopping Centre a “vertical slum and a national disgrace” during the 2006 budget debate, something that it has never quite recovered from.
But, judging from the way that residents would patch up their broken balconies with corrugated metal or any other material, this monicker seemed justified, painful as it must seem to the people living there.
For anyone interested in checking out the Thai nightclub scene, complete with karaokes, discos, and drunken fights, (without actually flying to Thailand) this is the place to go. Enough said about that, although there is also a big Vietnamese and Thai grocery store, for homesick expat chefs, or those simply looking to improve their South East Asian culinary skills.
If Golden Mile is Little Thailand, Cuppage Plaza is a taste of Japan. The shopping mall houses a number of KTV lounges dear to the hearts of the Japanese, as well as restaurants that serve authentic Japanese food to businessmen and workers alike.
So far so good, right? Maybe not. When the salarymen who have had their fill of Japanese food and sake gravitate to the upper floors for some KTV time, they are greeted by scantily-clad women vying for their attention, and dollars (or yen). After all, business is business, though these women are seldom Japanese, and more likely to be Filipinas, Thais or Chinese.
Cuppage Plaza’s reputation as a seedy establishment has been bolstered by arrests made for public nudity, drug offences, and even prostitution.
Orchard Road is known all over the world as the Tony shopping district of Singapore, but it also has its seedy side in 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 parlours, girlie bars and other questionable night spots among four 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 posh hotels where Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un stayed during the last year’s June 12 summit —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 are famed for its sex trade. One example is Far East Plaza on Scotts Road. Thai and Vietnamese prostitutes offer their services at the three massage parlours 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.
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. -/TISG