Singapore: The other side of Singapore

Having lived in South East Asia for many years, I  visited Singapore via Malaysia on many occasions that I had lost count. I will mention two of the more significant and memorable occasions I experienced in this small nation state.

Each time I visited Singapore the first thing that I always experience is the high humidity mixed with heat. With a tropical climate like this one might expect a slow, laid back, laissez-fare locale with happy and easygoing people. The public image Singapore seems to want to portray is a contrast to all of this, as it's city is a hustling and bustling financial centre for Asia. Complete with strict rules and regulations on just about everything; even chewing gum is prohibited in Singapore as an example. 

However, like many very conservative societies with strict rules, there is, behind all the veneer of clean "showcase" streets, and busy work ethics which they want you to see, there are also, hidden in the nooks and crannies among this multicultural society more diversity which I got the opportunity to celebrate.

Shopping isn't one of my fortes, so I stayed clear away from shopping paradises like Orchard Rd and the like, and experienced  different occasions with two very different friends on the "off the beaten path" areas.

My first Singaporean friend whom I will mention would live in a high rise building built by the government, similar to the photo below. It is not his building but would look similar.

I will call him " Chan" for his anonymity. In public, he looks like the usual family man, doing a banal forty hour week job, utilises Singapore's excellent public transport, as cars are prohibitively expensive, and blends in with the norms of public Singapore society. Chan met me at the MRT station nearest his place, and we went for dinner at the small food centre where many food hawkers  sold wonderful local food. Cheap and informal and delicious. I got to try Chinese foods from different regions. I felt like I was an expat just enjoying my local community.

I stayed for two nights at his place. Near the top floor of his unassuming building, with the shabby looking apartment door blending in with all the other apartments on his humid floor, but once you enter his two room apartment the situation changes completely. Photos of Asian nude men on the walls and sculptures of the male body smartly decorate his air conditioned, plush gay guy flat. One of the rooms in the flat was made into one of his favourite fetish role play venues, a doctor's clinic. Complete with examining table with stirrups for putting up the legs, spectroscopes
 and every kind of probing instrument, enema bags, and a metal table with ominous looking medical instruments. 

It was a fun to experience kinky examinations and enemas at his fetish doctor's clinic, something which I would almost never get in a real doctor's office visit. Another quirky situation in his flat was that he had still the traditional system in which there would be two WCs, one small room being exclusively for the toilet and the other small room for the sink to wash up. The shower was also located in that same room. Imagine my anxiety trying to find the right room for the toilet as I needed to urgently relieve myself from being full from an enema! I was treated to some delicious durian, my favourite fruit and some sweets at the small food hawker shops afterwards, I suppose for being a "good patient"? 

The second significant Singapore experience I will share is when I came to know that my long time Polish friend would be coming to Singapore from Warsaw and both of us were invited to stay with his friend and hang out in, what he called, his guy palace. Located in a very up scale neighbourhood, we had our "guys together getaway" in a posh, oversized house which he lived alone in. Complete with lovely gardens, heavy fancy gates, a fancy driveway, it was like staying at those houses which the movie stars have in Hollywood!
"Adam" as I will name him, was the epitome of Singapore's multicultural face. He was able to speak Tamil, Dari, Malay, and also claimed to speak some Thai. Very distinguished looking, in his fifties and with a still excellent physique, he had the "Alpha Male" personality.

Aggressive, very confident and at times cocky and would always be the "top". I found that amusing as my Polish friend always portrayed himself as the "top", but when relaxing together he became an affectionate bear cub. The photo is not my friend's but looked similar to it. Adam dressed  in very fashionable clothes which accentuated his body, and his house was decorated very tastefully and luxuriously with Hindu curios and paintings suggesting a Hindu temple, accentuating his beliefs. He told us after he had left Islam he had become free in his life.  He had a nice car which he whisked us around to his favourite places in the city, which were, like my other Singaporean friend, local informal food hawker places, eating fabulous Indian food, with one place not being enough but needing to eat at many of them, finishing off with exotic desserts!

Being more "out", he took us around to some of the gay establishments in an area of the city where the gays were at. It was funny to see all the queens swoon around him like bees to honey.
Mustafa's, a large shopping complex, had a whole floor dedicated to selling package foods from all over South Asia. He knew exactly where to run around to quickly collect what he needed while I was still in awe from what I was seeing.

I really enjoyed experiencing Singapore from a South Asian gay guy. He initiated an interest in things Tamil as well as other cultures around South Asia for me. I am hungry to learn more. Singapore lends a convenient location to experience many cultures in a compact location.

 I also heard that Singapore is slowly becoming one of Asia's gay entertainment hubs, I suppose to compete with Bangkok? The conservative stance which Singapore was defending is slowly evolving towards a progressive acceptance of people irregardless of their sexual interests. Important for a very diverse and multicultural society that it is. More fun stories are here! 


  1. What a good patient! My my :) Definitely a homophobic coutry if you look at the laws - similar to India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other former British colonies that haven't repealed the draconian old laws. The difference I found with Singapore was that because this tiny state is so heavily reliant on the financial industry to keep it afloat, these big names (like Google, Goldman Sachs etc) have ploughed lots of funds into supporting their LGBT communities there and awesome groups like Pinkdot have arisen. Did you come across them?

  2. A very interesting side of Singapore that you have given others insight into. We see that the gay scene is developing but have not experience anything like your medical anecdote. Keep us all updated.