Posted by: David Stewart | January 21, 2009

Solicited in Singapore

When I travel for business in the US, I have never been approached by an… er… “working girl”. I figure in most US cities, you have to go looking for trouble, so I just don’t look for it.

But in Asia, it’s a different story. I get solicited quite directly.

When I’m in China, I can almost guarantee that if I am walking outside my Shanghai hotel after 8PM that I will be solicited.  Sometimes it’s a guy who says “Massage-y?” or “Chinese girl?”  Even once, “Chinese boy?” There was even that time that a woman make a crude hand sign to solicit me.

Take tonight for example. I was wandering through a very nice area called Chijmes across the street from my hotel, which includes a collection of restaurants. I was in the process of leaving, and I was approached by a woman with impeccable English who chatted me up and quickly established:

  • She was from Brunei
  • She just had dinner in Chijmes
  • She teaches massage at my hotel
  • She was lonely
  • Was I looking for a massage?

She behaved nicely (of course), and I firmly but politely told her that I wasn’t interested and headed in another direction.

Now, maybe I’m all prudey here, but I tend to think if they are offering a massage, it’s more likely that they are really offering, as we say in the business world, “a more value-added service.”

When I go for my early morning runs in Asia (or walks, as I’m forced to do this week), I often see working girls exiting hotels while it’s still dark. In Singapore, prostitution is punishable by a stiff fine; in China, it carries the death penalty. It doesn’t seem worth it to me.

I know that a lot of these women are in some kind of enslavement situation. I’m reminded of Nicholas Kristoff of the New York times who wrote about buying two underage prostitutes in Cambodia, literally buying them as slaves, so he could free them and return them to their old village.  Nicky can probably carry it off – I don’t think I could.



  1. In Singapore, prostitution is legal in specific areas. Soliciting and pimping are not. Chijmes isn’t a legal area, but there are many ‘not-strictly-legal’ areas where a large blind eye is shown to nocturnal activities….

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