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Best Priced Hotel In Singapore
Covering an area of 10 square kilometers (about 3.8 square miles), Geylang is sometimes referred to as Singapore’s “sin city” because of the mix of prostitution, illegal drugs and crime. Among the open-air eateries and shops are licensed brothels, many of which have been closed during the pandemic.
The red light district is surrounded by even-numbered streets, locally known as lorongs, in the southwestern part of Geylang. Geylang has a total of 42 lorongs. It’s a contested area in an otherwise buttoned-down city-state, and those who do it often do so in secret.
I have lived in Singapore for over twenty years and had never visited the area before this reporting trip.
The hotel has an average rating on the Internet, mainly based on the reviews of tourists. Most of Hotel 81’s properties are rated between three and three and a half stars on websites such as TripAdvisor.
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Although the hotel management marketed the chain as a low-cost hotel for budget travelers, many locals did not consider it an “easy” place for one-night stands. Eight of the chain’s 28 hotels around Singapore are located in Geylang’s red-light lorongs.
Several hotel properties have also seen criminal activity. In 2015, a man killed his girlfriend before killing himself at the 81 Palace Hotel. And in 2021, a man couldn’t get into the room where two friends were staying at the Violet 81 hotel, and set fire to their towels.
I was wondering if the hotel is really as bad as people are saying. Since some are located in the red light district, I thought it would give me a chance to explore the neighborhood.
So I booked a one-night stay at the 81 Premier Star Hotel (pictured above) at Geylang’s Lorong 18, one of the available dates in April. Most other properties are fully booked.
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The superior room I booked cost S$75 ($55), which was a steal considering the average nightly hotel rate in Singapore is S$255 ($187). paid for my stay in full.
81 Premier Star Hotel is located at Lorong 18 (pictured above), one of the Lorongs where prostitution is allowed. Although there were about 20 brothels in neighboring Lorong, the Lorongs themselves were very modest – nothing about them screamed “pleasure district”.
My first impression of the neighborhood was that it was unusual, unlike Bangkok’s famous red light district. A few years ago, I stayed in a hotel in one of the streets of Bangkok’s red light district (locally known as Sukhumvit). The street was empty, and the experience was a sensory overload, even in the sun.
Although the exterior of the 81 Premier Star Hotel was very old school, the lobby was modern and spacious for a budget hotel.
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Although it was more expensive than the average budget hotel in the city-state at $US29 ($21) per night, it looked much nicer. I have stayed in luxury boutique establishments with smaller lobbies than the 81 Premier Star hotels in Singapore.
It was empty when I checked in. During my stay, I met quite a few people, most of whom looked like tourists.
One of the elevators was not working well and it was probably the only dirty place I saw in the hotel. Almost every surface is covered in dust (pictured above) and the buttons occasionally malfunctioned.
The room itself was spotless: there were no insects or dust on the walls of the room, and there was no strange smell.
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Although it was only 15 square meters (161 square feet), the room was big enough for one or two people. The room had a large, comfortable double bed, but no desk or couch. I worked at a nearby cafe, across from the mall, and at a side table in a room with a small stool underneath.
The sink is outside the bathroom (pictured above), but it made getting ready easier with the natural light coming through the window. Unlike other budget hotels, Hotel 81 offers dental kits.
There was a 2 in 1 shampoo dispenser in the shower which I used and it really dried my hair out. On the other hand, the water pressure and heater were a huge bonus – they were as good as the ones at home.
I slept soundly: the hotel was quiet. It was soundproof, and I could hear the occasional vacuuming of the carpet, but no strange noises.
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It was only $10 more expensive than the capsule hostel I stayed at in Chinatown, and first impressions were much better value for money.
From my room, I could see a few of the more than 100 brothels in the area, most of which were located in terraced houses. Before settling in the hotel, I had only seen these brothels in photos from a few local reports.
Although most of the houses behind the hotel look inconspicuous, many – like the one in the picture below – are “fishing” brothels.
According to Singapore law firm PKWA, these prostitutes are licensed and regulated by the local government. Only through these brothels can women legally engage in prostitution, PKWA.
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According to Taiwanese news agency SET News, many of these brothels are “fish aquariums” where sex workers are lined up behind glass panels. According to the report, the neon lights indicate the nationality of the brothel’s sex workers. Customers choose who they want to pay for their services.
Prostitutes in Singapore were closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Although city-state restrictions on nightlife were lifted on April 19, many brothels did not appear to have reopened.
When I walked around the neighborhood after dinner, there was only one brothel lit up red. The rest stayed up all night.
Along the main road connecting the Lorongs, I noticed several people selling illegal sex drugs.
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Sex-enhancing drugs are illegal in Singapore under the Medicines Act, the Poisons Act and the Health Products Act. Medicines like Viagra can only be obtained by prescription.
The traders were surreal to me because I only knew about them from the local government crime show Crimewatch.
Most of the traders were there from noon to evening. In the afternoon, one dealer, whose table was full of illegal drugs, had only a few items left when I saw him after dinner. Several men in their 50s and 60s looked at dozens of pills on offer.
The streets were as quiet at night as they were during the day. Only budget hotels, most of which are love motels and are close together, well lit.
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If you don’t mind staying in Singapore’s red light district, Hotel 81 Premier Star is a great choice for travelers looking for an affordable hotel in an expensive city.
Even though the neighborhood is a bit wilder than in Singapore, I still felt safe when I was out and about. The only thing that caught the attention of the locals was my SLR camera with a fat zoom lens – I spotted a policeman with a similar camera to mine. I used my phone for the rest of the trip.
The Red Light District is the stuff of legends, and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface. But as far as Hotel 81 goes, it really wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was so good that it was worth the low price.
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