Yes, even gleaming Singapore has its grimier side. Here too, uniquely in the region, corruption in public life is not tolerated. And yet there are also places where Singaporean spotlessness gives way to dirt. I thought writing about the four floors would make an interesting change from writing about tamer aspects of life in Singapore.
Telling myself I was motivated solely by journalistic endeavour, I rocked up in the early evening, before business had really got going. I trusted there must be plain clothes policemen around if anyone came at me with a cleaver for asking too many questions My general intention was to wander around talking to solitary Western men — so either expats, or tourists — and assorted Asian babes.
Too late I realised this plan had its snags. Who was I kidding? I was just being nosy — or worse, voyeuristic. The four floors have inordinate numbers of beauty parlours. I reasoned that perhaps the working girls liked to get their nails done between jobs? I did notice that all the beauty parlours had a pretty girl perched on a stool outside, but never mind. I approached one sporting a short, low-cut bandage dress; I thought her outfit a bit much, but what she wore was up to her.
So I asked what services her beauty parlour offered: I happened upon a British expat, and I asked him if he knew the reputation of Orchard Towers: Getty My next target also admitted to knowing the reputation of Orchard Towers. I come for drinks. Then it was a myth men came here to buy sex? I asked him what was going on with all the beauty parlours. He rolled his eyes. Massage parlours need a licence. Inside, I found a grim little lobby. The chairs and the reception counter were cheap plastic; the only decoration was an A4 laminated picture of a Western woman having a facial.
The girl followed me in. She too turned out to be from mainland China, and she too spoke Mandarin. I asked her what services her beauty parlour offered other than facials. There was a closed door behind the reception desk — I could just imagine the massage bed behind it.