Living in Geylang Red Light District



While the term “family-friendly” would not usually be used to describe Geylang, it is a real estate market that should not be overlooked. It is still one of the most reasonably priced and conveniently situated locations for renters — it is just a six-minute drive from the CBD and is densely packed with shops and restaurants.

Furthermore, the URA will not do more rezone residential units for Geylang, causing its existing units a high scarcity value – all of which should be considered by potential landlords or single tenants.

But what is it like to live in such a “notorious” neighborhood? talked with one individual who had leased and lived in Geylang for a year to get a sense of the situation.

Geylang Main Street

A Malaysian, Marcos Teng, who worked in Singapore for three years before returning to Kuala Lumpur, took the risk of renting in the heart of Singapore’s notorious red light district: Geylang Lorong 18 to 20.

He selected Treasures@G20, a 400-plus sq ft apartment with a wonderfully cheap rent of S$1,500 per month.

Despite its notoriety as Singapore’s red light district, Marcos Teng chose to remain in Geylang due to its affordable and easy renting choices.  “I knew it wasn’t a clean neighborhood, but it was just a five-minute drive to my workplace in town,” Teng said. “And when I looked at alternatives, they were all around S$500 to S$700 more per month — and several had less facilities. Why not, I reasoned, since I was living alone? I’m not worried, and it’s inexpensive and convenient.”

He said, “Of course, my mother was upset.” She forced me to swear not to go to the’red lantern’ homes. When I moved in, she purchased a feng shui candle for me to light and stroll around the room!”

Teng, on the other hand, said he quickly discovered a few surprising aspects of living there.


Friendly Neighbourhood

Teng relocated to Tampines after a year in Geylang, but it was obvious which location he favored. “Between the two, I believe Geylang was friendlier. Coffeeshop employees in Geylang know their clients’ names. I once left my phone on the table, and the zi char man – his name is Alex – came to the bottom level of my apartment to get it. “I left a bag at McDonald’s in Tampines, and it never returned,” he remembered.

“And there were these two Chinese friends who I kept crossing on the way home. I ended up seeing them for coffee once or twice a week. People in Geylang don’t put on airs; if you sit at a table with anybody, they’ll include you in the discussion, even if you’ve never met.”


Foreign Workers looking at Prostitutes got chased off by Water Hose

“I believe it was Lorong 18,” Marcos said. “I can’t recall it very well right now. But there was one unique sight: these working girls would line up there, and large crowds of foreign employees would go up and down to have a look. However, there were usually irate individuals in the adjacent homes who would come out and scream at the workers to leave. And every now and again, they’d spray them with a water hose.”

He went on to say, “Probably the ugliest thing I saw in Geylang or in Singapore.” But the picture stayed with me – where else do you see anything like this? Geylang may be a world unto itself at times.”

Teng’s reference to “working females” is, of course, a reference to illegal prostitutes. However, as of the last time we looked, this no longer occurs since the police had cleared the streets.


Rampant Illegal Cigarette Sellers

Illegal Cigarette Seller

While most people identify Geylang with commercial sex, Teng claims that the main vice in the neighborhood was smoking. Geylang was the go-to spot for shady individuals to obtain illegal smokes throughout his stay there. From what he observed, this was a much more serious issue than illicit prostitution or gang fighting.

“There were illegal cigarette dealers all over the place,” Teng added. “They sold illegal cigarettes from large garbage bags. Everywhere along the lorongs, you’d see guys with garbage bags nearby, followed by one man rushing out to vehicles and pedestrians, shouting something like “Marlboro Marlboro Camel, Marlboro Light!”

Teng went on, “If you go down the street at night, you may be contacted by a sex worker, but you’d virtually certainly be approached by seven or eight cigarette peddlers.” They outnumbered the gamblers and prostitutes by a factor of five.”

This culminated in one famous instance in which Teng inadvertently caused a stampede. “I was in a cab halfway down the road when I realized my laptop was still in the home. So I instructed the driver to wait a few minutes, then dashed out and down to my street.

“A few cigarette vendors spotted me fleeing and may have feared the cops were on their way! I heard some of them yell a caution, and the next thing I knew, there was a swarm of people running in the other way. It felt as though I had begun a marathon.”

Of course, things have calmed down since then. The majority of the vendors have moved their operations online, but the odd peddler may still be seen.


Numerous Local Gourmet at Doorstep

cooking Wok

“I gained four kg that year,” he remembered. “And everyone who lives there will face the same fate. Someone is attempting to sell you food every two steps in Geylang. And I suppose the nature of strong rivalry explains why the restaurants that remain are usually the best.”

He also said that food is accessible nearly constantly: “Some of the businesses, like one nasi lemak place, is open 24 hours; as are at least two of the halal coffee cafes.” And, since the food is stationed at both ends of the lorong, you’ll notice them whether you’re arriving or going. The desire to intervene is just too strong.”

Food costs are also remarkably disparate, according to Teng. “When I was there at Sin Huat Eating House, where Mr Anthony Bourdain head over to eat crab, was still renowned. The restaurant seems to be worn down and ancient, so I was surprised when I ate there with two other people and the cost was more than S$200. That was the first coffee shop where I had to use my credit card – and they had the card machine and everything, so it was obviously common.”

He gained weight overall and spent a disproportionate amount of it on food. Both are inevitable side effects of living in an exotic culinary paradise.

Dangerous Triads Still Loitering at Geylang?

Many clan connections, some of which were previously considered violet, remain in Geylang. Teng, on the other hand, pointed out that clan affiliations are not triads, despite the fact that there was some relationship in the past. They are mostly historical groups dedicated to preserving a fading culture.

According to him, the majority of them “seem to spend the whole day playing mahjong or performing traditional arts such as lion dances.” I don’t believe I saw more than a dozen people – and there was never any screaming or cursing unless it was friendly.”

Teng further said that conflicts in the neighborhood are more often than not caused by intoxicated people rather than real gangs. “The few fights I witnessed in the coffee shop were between individuals. A lot of it was simply from drinking, and then someone would say something that irritated someone else at the table. Unlike those perilous triads seen in movies.”

Marcos did, however, recall that some groups of drinkers constituted a danger at Geylang coffee shops. “It’s always the same bunch of gang fighting among themselves,” he added. “So when I see them, I either do a takeaway or sit far away.”


Worth Investing in Geylang Condo?

With all the vibrant lifestyle happening in Geylang, staying here is definitely a good choice. Numerous good food to choose from and also near to city that makes staying here close to everything. Those who wish to explore new development can explore Mori Condo located at Geylang Lorong 24 which is rebuild by Roxy Pacific after they enbloc a row of landed housing. This development set to launch in end of 2021.


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