Friday, April 29, 2011

Singapore to Beijing

I am currently on my flight from Hong Kong to Beijing, slumming it in the back in economy. The flight is probably 80% full and I have an empty seat next to me. The entire day so far has been a travel day. We had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and got a cab to Singapore Changi Airport. I was a bit disappointed that Cathay Pacific flies out of the older Terminal 1; the business class lounge was pretty average. The flight from Singapore to Hong Kong was delayed on both ends so it ended up taking almost an extra hour. Our fearless leader was a bit worried about missing the connecting flight to Los Angeles so I helped bring the rest of my co-workers from gate 24, through the transfer area, and to gate 2. Originally my flight to Beijing was scheduled to depart from gate 522 (I’m not even sure where that is) but ended up at gate 29. The airport was pretty busy today.

Anyway, what I wanted to get down on “paper” was my experience last night in Singapore. One of our co-workers (Caucasian male) told us he walked around our hotel and stopped into a bar Wednesday night. He said he was approached by many fine Asian women. In light of Singapore’s reputation as a strict/moral society (the Marina Bay Sands Casino charges Singaporeans an entry fee to discourage locals from gambling), he was shocked that they were all “working” girls. Me and another co-worker (Asian male) both thought he was exaggerating so we headed out after we got back from dinner Thursday night. There is an underground (i.e., basement) bar/club called Brix right outside the Grand Hyatt; we showed our room keycard to get in. There was live music and it was pretty packed. Not 60 seconds after walking in, our Caucasian co-worker was approached by a woman/girl in a tight dress. The conversation (and all subsequent conversations) went something like this:
Asian girl: Hi.
White guy: Hi.
Asian girl: Are you here on business?
White guy: Yes.
Asian girl: Where are you from?
White guy: Los Angeles.
Asian girl: I can make you happy…
White guy: Excuse me?
Asian girl: I can make you happy for 400 dollars.
White guy (married): No.
Asian girl: OK, 300.
White guy: No.
Asian girl: 250… (etc.)

Over the course of an hour, this scene was repeated many times since most of the girls in the bar were prostitutes (there, I said it). Sometimes the girl skips the small talk and go directly to pricing. However, none of the girls even looked at me and my Asian guy co-worker. I don’t think I’m good looking or anything but I don’t think I’m ugly either. If we were standing next to our White co-worker, nothing would happen. However, as soon as we step away, he would be approached by one of the girls, sometimes within seconds. He sometimes tried to steer the conversation towards his two Asian co-workers but most of the girls didn’t even acknowledge our existence.

The experience was kind of surreal. Sure we look different than the White guy but my Asian co-worker was born in the US and I’m pretty Westernized, even though both of us are ethnic Chinese. I even make eye contact with some of the girls and smiled (but not initiating conversation) and got zero response. I’m sure there is some logical basis for this. Obviously the girls didn’t think we were “foreigners” so maybe locals weren’t as likely to utilize their services. However, we saw lots of Asian guys talking to many of the girls and most were rejected. Another interesting observation (sounds like I’m narrating a documentary) was that most of the girls were not Chinese. Even with heavy makeup, I could tell from their looks and from overhearing their conversations, most were either Malay, Indonesian, and even Thai. Since Singapore’s population is ~70% Han Chinese, this was rather strange.

Anyway, back to the narrative. After a beer (S$17 for a pint of Tiger) we left the club and walked down Orchard Road. Two of us walked around that area during the day on Tuesday but it was totally different at night. Not that many people were out at 11pm and a large percentage were prostitutes. We only walked down a couple of blocks but saw several packs of girls and a few hook-ups. These girls were definitely not as pretty as those in the club and were dressed even skankier. Even though it was night, it was still very hot and humid and I was sweating profusely by the time we returned to our hotel at midnight.

Many many questions. Is prostitution legal in Singapore? It was pretty evident what was going on and yet there were no law enforcement in sight. Are these girls Singapore PR? Other local co-workers said that there were very few illegal aliens since Singapore was an island (hard to get to) and getting PR status was pretty easy for skilled people. Why did they ignore us all night? Is it because we look like locals? Was the club downstairs owned/operated by Hyatt? There’s no possible way that the management not know what was going on. Finally, why is it so dang hot, even at midnight?!

It’s now 8:30pm and I have no idea how long until we land at Beijing. They served us dinner and it was not too good. Actually, business class food was only slightly better.

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