Tourist in my Own Country: Walking the Streets of Geylang

This red light district in Singapore is transforming. It seems like there are many authentic restaurants with cuisine from China now and the staff are also from China. Loads of people jaywalking and bicycles dangerously crossing over from one lane to the next so it’s quite a challenging place to drive. Luckily I’m not the one driving or I’d be scared out of my wits.

B pointed out a Szechuan Hot Pot restaurant to me which you should try when you’re up for a challenge as it’s super hot. Just looking at all the chillis on the signboard is an indication. It’s very interesting to walk the streets here – there’s just so much to take in. We even saw an air-conditioning unit being fixed, with the service guy perched precariously on the second floor of the shophouse. And I was tempted by the tons of durians and rambutans I saw – pure tropical fruit heaven to me.   Also tickled by the shop selling super tight and skimpy dresses and hotpants.  Didn’t stay till very late, and I hear Geylang is a whole other place late in the wee hours.  I’ll leave you with the photos for a little taste of Geylang.

photo by bookjunkie


photo by bookjunkie


photo by bookjunkie


photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

In Geylang you’ll spot quite a number of stalls selling Economic Rice, Teochew Porridge and exotic dishes that I won’t be trying, like Frog’s Legs and Turtle Soup. I tried frog’s leg once, but it freaked me out. If you pressed me I would admit it tastes like mushy chicken, but I couldn’t get the image of the frog out of my mind.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

A unique place to hang the Singapore flag. There was even an outdoor ‘stall’ where men’s shirts were sold. I also spotted a cigarette seller from China, who was selling them from a plastic bag for S$5 each, who called out to us. Do I look like I smoke? And I suspect it’s illegal for those prices. A tad shady, but definitely added colour to our little tour of Geylang. Truly felt like a tourist myself.

photo by bookjunkie

Since it was not very dark yet, there were only some obvious signs that this was the red light district. Like this shop and sleazy looking motels with hourly rates.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

If you want to see the real Singapore, you have to include Geylang as part of your must see places. It will dispel a bit of the Disneyland, squeaky clean image that we have.

photo by bookjunkie

B told me this was a Tibetan Temple. I had no idea, but thought it was great that we have so many different places of worship in Singapore.

photo by bookjunkie

The wonderful part is no parking charge after 5pm, so keep away those coupons. It’s a bit hard to get here if you’re not driving.

photo by bookjunkie

About bookjunkie

Blogging about my daily life in Singapore helps with my mid life crisis.
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21 Responses to Tourist in my Own Country: Walking the Streets of Geylang

  1. I’m sure every big city has its “wrong side of the tracks”, but not everyone would be as honest as you and show it. I am laughing at the items in the window of the “Romance Shop” In the USA these kinds of stores all have blacked out windows (but we’re a bit more uptight about that sort of thing here) and in the state I am in, there have been police raids on these places (certain “things” are illegal here).

    • bookjunkie says:

      I think the authorities close an eye on Geylang. Wish they would close an eye on more things. Our government tends to be very strict and uptight, so it’s a bit weird and kinda refreshing to come here.

  2. i accidently stayed in gelang when i was there, (didnt read up enough) and i found it pretty uncomfortable but i was on my own

  3. Pingback: Ecoffee: Knock-Off Starbucks in Geylang — Singapore Actually

  4. whatsaysyou says:

    Interesting post on Geylang. Have you ventured the whole of Geylang?

  5. bittersweet says:

    Your posts make me miss home so much. The thought of getting to eat durians and rambutans is making me drool!!

  6. conrad says:

    “tip of the iceberg”. gross understatement. Geylang in the night is a whole different animal from Geylang in the day.

    • bookjunkie says:

      any insights about Geylang after midnight? What is it like?

      • conrad says:

        hm, i’m no words wizard. describing it in words does no justice to experiencing it first hand.

        there’s food, and there’s fooood. here’s some fooood.
        shady lorongs illuminated by the orange hue of the lamps overhead
        with the distant red lanterns beckoning visitors to indulge in heaven
        ladies, dressed to kill, lining the streets drawing unapologetic lascivious
        from blue nissan lorries, corrollas & civics to mercedes and BMWs cruising along the roads
        amazingly without bumping into any one or any cars
        once a deal is struck, couples fade into the pink hue oblivion of the hotel lobbies
        and to reappear, singles or paired, for a post snack at the food eateries across the road

        its uncomfortable to the uninitiated. and don’t be surprised to draw looks if you’re the fairer sex
        as if reflecting a greater part of singapore, it’s a cosmopolitan mix too
        by that, i mean, men and women
        if you ever venture, there’s always a safer option of touring in your car, much like night safari, only with more hustle and bustle.

      • bookjunkie says:

        fantastic description Conrad 🙂

        ….I think I saw maybe glimpses (1%) of what you described……a van filled with women who made a deal with some old man at a coffee shop or somethin’…..I didn’t want to be rude and stare.

  7. notabilia says:

    We went by bus (no car), had durian, and wandered around at night. It was fine. I wouldn’t walk around any of NYC’s red-light districts as safely as I did around Geylang.

    • bookjunkie says:

      I have to admit I was afraid when I was in the meat packing district.

      We are quite sheltered in Singapore when it comes to what we term dangerous or unsafe. It’s one of the main reasons I like it here. Thanks for sharing your journey…….was looking forward to more viewpoints about Geylang. Each person’s trip is always different and that’s what’s so nice. Ok am off to read about it now 🙂

      • notabilia says:

        How long ago was that? The Meat Packing District now is the retreat of party girls and big boutiques. That neighborhood has completely gentrified in the past 5-7 years.

      • bookjunkie says:

        Maybe it was not even that area….but somewhere around there I think….but I was a bit scared as a man went up to a woman in front of me and yelled vulgarities at her. I was so afraid he was going to hit her. She was an elderly woman. The area itself didn’t look scary, perhaps it was just that one encounter. Was about 5 years ago maybe. And it was about 9 pm at night I think.

        My cousin went to NYC and instantly fell in love with the city. Me too….apart from that small encounter…..I was like a kid…completely mesmerized…..there was just so much to take in.

        I would love to read about your life in NY…..that would be so amazing too. Did you have a blog then? It was be cool to hear from a New Yorker. I am sure as a tourist I missed so much.

      • notabilia says:

        (I couldn’t reply below.) New York City, for the uninitiated, can be a little overwhelming and quite a sensory overload. I observed situations like you just described all the time. We just don’t notice those sorts of encounters anymore. (Really, a person has to be REALLY out of this world to gather attention in a city like New York. I could walk around in my pajamas, galoshes, and butterfly wings and no one would blink an eyelid. Try to do that in Singapore!)

        I didn’t blog whilst I was home. I started my blog as a way to document my new life – through my artsy/crafty interests – for friends and family back home. Of course, it’s become bigger than I ever imagined and has led to so many wonderful opportunities here in Singapore. I occasionally blog about snippets of my American life on my blog.

        I love New York City, too, and I know we will go home eventually. We like Singapore very much for now. It’s much easier, much less frenetic, much slower than the Big Apple.

      • bookjunkie says:

        when I was in Timesquare it felt so surreal…..felt like I had entered a movie screen or something…..it was exciting and I really felt like a country bumpkin. There’s definitely a different level of energy and I guess that’s why they call it the greatest city.

        I would love to walk around in pj’s & draw zero attention 😉 that actually sounds quite liberating to me

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