SG GOWHERE: RED LIGHT DISTRICT TOURS

Rare glimpse into houses of ill repute

Brace yourself as you are hurled headlong into history, heritage and whorehouses from the 1850s to the present day in the Red Light District Walking Tour from Keong Saik Road to Petain Road

 Tourist guide Chris Ng pointing out an active brothel (above) in Keong Saik Road. The tour also stops at 17A Keong Saik Road, the subject of the 2017 memoir of the same name by Charmaine Leung, about her mother who grew up in a brothel in the 1970s.
Tourist guide Chris Ng pointing out an active brothel (above) in Keong Saik Road. The tour also stops at 17A Keong Saik Road, the subject of the 2017 memoir of the same name by Charmaine Leung, about her mother who grew up in a brothel in the 1970s.PHOTOS: CHANTAL SAJAN, LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE
Tourist guide Chris Ng pointing out an active brothel in Keong Saik Road. The tour also stops at 17A Keong Saik Road (above), the subject of the 2017 memoir of the same name by Charmaine Leung, about her mother who grew up in a brothel in the 1970s.
Tourist guide Chris Ng pointing out an active brothel in Keong Saik Road. The tour also stops at 17A Keong Saik Road (above), the subject of the 2017 memoir of the same name by Charmaine Leung, about her mother who grew up in a brothel in the 1970s.PHOTOS: CHANTAL SAJAN, LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE
A peek at a modern-day brothel in Petain Road undergoing renovation. Sex workers used to ply their trade from tiny rooms - visible by vertical marks on the wall made by partitions about 1.8m apart.
A peek at a modern-day brothel in Petain Road undergoing renovation. Sex workers used to ply their trade from tiny rooms - visible by vertical marks on the wall made by partitions about 1.8m apart. PHOTOS: CHANTAL SAJAN, LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE
A replica of the arch of New World Amusement Park (above), one of the most frenetic venues in Singapore during its heyday from the 1920s to 1960s. One of its star acts was Rose Chan, who wrestled pythons and bent iron bars with her neck.
A replica of the arch of New World Amusement Park (above), one of the most frenetic venues in Singapore during its heyday from the 1920s to 1960s. One of its star acts was Rose Chan, who wrestled pythons and bent iron bars with her neck.PHOTOS: CHANTAL SAJAN, LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE
A replica of the arch of New World Amusement Park, one of the most frenetic venues in Singapore during its heyday from the 1920s to 1960s. One of its star acts was Rose Chan (above), who wrestled pythons and bent iron bars with her neck.
A replica of the arch of New World Amusement Park, one of the most frenetic venues in Singapore during its heyday from the 1920s to 1960s. One of its star acts was Rose Chan (above), who wrestled pythons and bent iron bars with her neck.PHOTOS: CHANTAL SAJAN, LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE

From the get-go, Mr Chris Ng makes no apologies for this unsanitised walking tour of Keong Saik Road.

He is upfront about the terms of reference: "I am not going to mince words. You will hear unsavoury phrases (regarding sex)... but I want you to focus more on the sad stories of these women who, since the 1850s till almost the middle of the last century, lived in inhumane conditions and were subjected to all manner of indignities.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2020, with the headline 'Rare glimpse into houses of ill repute'. Print Edition | Subscribe