Geyland – Singapore Unofficial Red Light District and Food Paradise
[Updated 23 Jul 2012: The Singapore police has conducted several raids at Geyland over last one year to clean up the place, the place is now like the Little India where droves of Chinese immigrants congregate and vices have been driven underground temporary. The place now looks like the biggest Chinatown I have been to anywhere in the world, it may very well be the new and biggest Chinatown in the world. It is a sad day to see the vibrant life in the area which I have seen a few years back reduced to just an eatery place, the legal brothels (with the red lantterns) are still there, but the hookers and illegal street peddlers on the street are largely gone for now.]
When people think of Singapore, a few things tend to come to mind: squeaky-clean malls, an iron-fisted government, a ban on chewing gum, but like in any countries, there are also the dark sides: prostitution, gambling and gansterism. While prostitution has never been legalised in Singapore, the government has adopted a practical approach of containing the vices instead of letting them go underground. The sex workers need to go for regular medical screening to prevent the spread of the sexual transmitted diseases including AIDS.
Geylang (pronounced as Gay-Lung) is the unofficial Red Light District in Singapore, one place which you will never find in the official Singapore tourism website. The most interesting thing about this place is that it is also a famous spot for good, good local food and cheap lodging (thanks to the poor image of RLD which is otherwise quite safe place actually). The traffic here are characterised by hugh traffic jam and chaos after 6pm. You are likely to see many foreign workers (mainly mainland chinese and indians) gather in groups, many disregard the traffic rule by dashing aross the traffic clogged roads. Locals are not much better, many illegal park their vehicles, worsening the traffic conditions. Geylang lately has also been touted as the new Chinatown due to the recent influx of the Chinese immigrants attracted by the low rent in this area. The mushrooming of many local chinese eateries in this area has certainly made this place more chaotic but definitely more lively after dark.
Geylang is a neighborhood that has been a well-known red-light district for decades, the even-numbered lorongs (which means “small roads” in Malay) which starts from about Lorong 8 and ends at about Lorong 22 are where you’ll find the red-lanterned houses, while the odd-numbered ones are for unrelated enterprises and residentials. In a recent trip to Geylang (2008), my Taiwanese friend couldn’t believe his eyes: many make shift stores selling x-rate DVDs and potency drugs, gambling stores doing a roaring business and many call girls lining up to solicit business. He lamented that even a more liberal Taiwan does not have a place that even come close to what he saw in Geylang. Having said that, the government’s approach has so far worked well over the last few decades. The place is still relatively safe even at night, some street-smart cautions still apply. It is a pity that Geylang was not on the official Visit Singapore website, it is indeed a unique place that is worth a visit for both men and women, much like the infamous Amsterdam’s RLD. Be warned, do not go before 7pm, there is nothing much to see in the day time.
More report: Sex and The (Singapore) City
- More pictures of the vice activities can be found here
- An excellent article on what to eat in Geylang
- Expats, don’t play or you’ll pay
- Click here to see a report by AlJazeera
- Warren Carter has a few excellent well researched articles on Geylang and the RLD
- Lunchtime ‘specials’ at some Adelphi spas
How to get there?
The nearest MRT stations are Kallang and a short stroll to Lorong 8 is about 5-10min walk or from Aljunied MRT and a short stroll of 5-10min to Lorong 22.
Last Updated on Dec 2009