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At 10pm last Friday, Geylang was bustling. People streamed in and out of eateries, a crowd flocked to the Sheng Siong supermarket at Lorong 15 and durian-lovers were handling and sniffing the thorny fruit. Yet a regular of the area, who wanted to be known only as Tim, actually described the scene as "sterile" - he feels that today's Geylang is a pale shadow of its colourful past.
Tim, who has lived near Geylang for the last 30 years, remembers a time when crowds thronged the area, eating the food and drinking at the bars, while many also made the trek to the licensed brothels there. Others just gathered at Geylang to gawk at the many scantily-clad freelance prostitutes in body-hugging outfits prowling the streets. Said Tim: "Much of that has disappeared. Greater policing efforts in the area have driven many of the streetwalkers away, and online.
Pointing to an open-air carpark between Lorongs 21 and 23, Tim said: "This area used to be lined with freelance prostitutes hungry for customers, to the point they would grab your arm when you walk past. The New Paper visited the area over two nights last week and spotted nine women touting their services during the time, which Tim said was a far cry from five years ago. Many who live in the area are grateful, though, happy that the seedier side of Geylang is slowly disappearing.
Even the licensed brothels, which are marked by red lanterns hanging outside the units, appear to have been affected, as a row of abandoned and shuttered brothels were seen along Lorong Brothels have to be licensed by the police, and licensed prostitutes in these brothels have to go for regular health checks, said criminal lawyer Josephus Tan, who volunteers at the Law Society's trial clinics to reach out to sex workers.
Now in her mids, she says that when she started 10 years ago, she had up to four clients a night. Now, she can go four days at Geylang with no business. She said: "Some clients know it is hard for streetwalkers to get business now, and they think we are in desperate need of money.