Food for thought

This blog is very different from my usual ones. I have reviewed this Vietnamese eatery “Long Phung” in an earlier post. One reason we dine there frequently is that it’s an experience which you don’t get in most restaurants in Singapore. For a long time, we were intrigued by what had been going on around us in the eatery. We would find tables with one or a couple of men having a drink, and a Vietnamese girl would then walk in and join them at their tables. They don’t appear to be friends, though sometimes the girls seem to know the men. Many of the girls are rather young, revealing large amount of cleavage and wearing ultra tight pants or ultra short skirts or dresses, with heels and thick makeup. As for the men, they are either middle-aged or old.

A lot of times, the girls would just sit with the men, having on-off chats with them, while having a drink or occasionally the men would order some side dishes for them. Nothing seemed to be happening much. Another typical scene would be a man walk in with a girl dressed as above, for supper. We know all these girls are Vietnamese because they spoke to the servers in the language, but a lot of them can speak some mandarin and a little English. Yes, I tried to eavesdrop on some of the conversations to find out what the hell was going on. My husband speculated that the girls worked for the KTV bars next door and trying to get the men to go to the bars for drink so that they could earn commissions. Yet, we also saw a lot of men standing around outside the restaurants and the KTV bars. We had no idea what they were waiting for. My husband jokingly suggested that perhaps he should approach one of the men and asked in Hokkien. He also thought perhaps some of these men were there because they were lonely and were looking for companionship.

So a month ago, we were there for dinner and was surprised to find a number of cops around the area. We stood around for a while hoping to find out from the bystanders what was going on. But no luck, so we went into Long Phung, which to our surprise, was packed! We had to share table with this old man who was having beer served by a beer lady. I egged my husband to ask him what the commotion was about, and it turned out there was a raid on illegal prostitution. The old man told us that during the previous raid, about 50 women were caught and 6 of them had AIDS. We were shocked! We finally realized that those women we saw around us in Long Phung or walking around or entering the KTV lounges are prostitutes. These girls approached the men in Long Phung to “talk deals”, and the men would decide if they have “chemistry” with the girls to seal the deal. The going rate is $100, which the old man said was expensive. He told us that the girls at Joo Chiat were not regulated unlike those in Geylang, which means these Vietnamese girls do not go for regular medical check up. Apparently they are freelancers, and are not controlled by the triads unlike those in Geylang. He also told us that there had been many raids in Geylang last year and so the illegal vice trade (i.e. street prostitutions) have mostly gone underground, in the side lanes. Many coffee shops suffer as a result of the drop in business. That explains why when we were there end last year, the place seemed much quieter. During our previous visits, we were amazed at the number of street walkers along the road, many of them from China. I know that place is a whorehouse but seriously those street walkers made it blatantly so.

The old man told us that there are many men playing Russian roulette by not using condom with the prostitutes. He told us of a friend whose Malaysian wife wanted to make extra money and went to Geylang to work as a prostitute for a night. Unfortunately for her, she contracted AIDS as a result. We suspect the the old man was also there for some company. He revealed that many of these girls are here for the money and very little chance of any love. He said that he once brought a Vietnamese girl out shopping and she wanted a Bonia bag which was a few hundred bucks. Apparently he doesn’t just come to Joo Chiat but he also goes to some Thai pub. He mentioned about a Thai girl who is here as a singer to make a living. She is the only breadwinner in the family and has a sick mom at home and a sister who is mentally challenged. He told us he took pity on her and gave her a few hundred dollars. Even though she said she would return the money to him, but he doesn’t think that would happen.

Surprisingly the old man also talked about his wife, whom he said was a Punjab from India, and they got to know each others from the friends’ ad in the papers. He told us that he sometimes brought his wife to the restaurant at Joo Chiat to show her the place, so that she knows where he hangs out. He said he would not leave/divorce his wife because she has put in a lot for the family, and he appreciates that. I was wondering inside me why he has to hang out at Long Phung or the pubs. Over the mostly one-sided conversation, it appears that he didn’t get the attention he needs at home. He said that a wife should put on a little makeup and not nag the husband. Of course this is a one-sided comment coming from the men. I’m sure the women also have their says. I think it takes two hands to clap. If the husband expects the wife to look presentable, he should also put in effort himself. If he doesn’t want the wife to nag, then he should ask why does the wife do it? Women don’t like nagging either.

The conversation did make us wonder at the number of men who are patronizing KTV bars or engaging in extra curriculum activities. Are there many marriages in Singapore where couples are leading separate social lives?

Update on 4 July
A month ago, we encountered a raid on a KTV pub in the area. There were 3 police vans and the cops rounded up the girls inside the pub. When they came out, the girls were led handcuffed into the vans.


Since then, we’ve read reports on more raids being conducted in the Joo Chiat area on KTV pubs and lounges, and the girls were caught either naked or without panties on. They are charged for immigration or vice-related crimes. Strangely, there was no mention of any men being arrested. Makes you wonder.


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