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In one of them, located beside the security desk, a middle-aged lady wearing a lime green halter top and beige miniskirt performs a series of jumping jacks in full view of passers-by. A bar hostess outside a bar on the third floor of Lucky Plaza in Singapore.
Photo: C Lee. Her eyes dart occasionally at male tourists, cajoling them to join her. For those who do stop by to chat, she gesticulates towards a partitioned room behind her and indicates that "it's safer to talk inside" while pointing to the CCTV cameras near the unit.
On the floor above, a group of toddlers run amok at the lobby of Concorde Hotel while other hotel guests read, dine and natter. Orchard Road, the barber's pole of capitalism in Singapore, is a conglomeration of contemporary urban lifestyle cliches that is home to world-renowned hotels, Michelin-star restaurants and global brands such as Hermes, Cartier and Apple.
Yet, beneath this well-curated veneer of glitzy malls and high-end living lies a thriving sex trade catering to tourists and locals alike. In a country with strict anti-vice laws and legalised brothel areas, the existence of a covert sex trade in a high-end shopping district touted as the "Milan of Asia" is something of a social anomaly. Built in , the storey office building is notorious for its assortment of girlie bars, massage parlours and seedy nightlife that occupy four storeys, earning it the nickname "Four Floors of Whores".
A visit to the building after midnight on a Friday is illuminating. Four law enforcement officers attend a report of disorderly conduct outside a hostess bar on the second floor, while less than 20 metres away, three massage parlours continue to operate with scantily clad women on high stools calling out to male passers-by. Outside the building, taxi drivers roll down their windows and offer to take male tourists to places where they can have "extra fun" depending on their budget.