Friday, February 20, 2015

My second time onboard: Secrets of the Red Lantern

Many years ago, I have attended the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour by one of my favourite local tour-providers, Journeys. When I learnt that this tour of the same title now includes a bus ride to the red light districts in Geylang, and a walk through the streets and alleys of Geylang, it was simply a matter of finding the time to fit this tour into my schedule.

The content of this tour, Secrets of the Red Lantern, may not be appropriate for those below 18 years of age. Therefore, only people ages 18 years and above are allowed on this tour.

My motivation to attend this tour is to get a sneak peek into the world of vices that had and could happen right in Singapore and to get a glimpse of one of the sides of humanity.

It was a bit challenging to find local friends who could find the time to check this tour out with me on a Friday evening at 6 p.m. Thankfully, I have a friend who is a resident here who took precious time out of her busy schedule to join the tour with me.

The meeting point of this tour is at Chinatown MRT station, outside Exit A, at the side of the escalator facing Pagoda Street. As I was attending the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour in the month of Jan 2015 and it was nearing the Chinese New Year period, I was greeting by lots of festive decorations that were preparing to usher in the Chinese New Year.

What were the secrets of the red lantern?

Admittedly, I was possibly too engrossed with all the anecdotes and tales that our dearest tour-guide was sharing that I lost count of the total numbers of secrets of the red lantern that had been revealed to me. There were about eight secrets, I recalled. If you wish to be find out what the secrets were, how about join one of the Secrets of the Red Lantern tours?

Anyway, the tour began while everyone in the tour group was preoccupied with finding our bearings about the busy streets of Chinatown. We were very excited about what the tour would entail, at least I was.

A sculpture that we saw along the way that paid tribute to the Samsui Women.

The tour is a rather experiential tour that may not fit your usual idea of walking along the clean streets of Singapore. The tour brought me to the back alleys of Chinatown. I realized that thanks to advancements in our society's sanitary facilities, we no longer have to use the night-soil bucket system that used to be pretty common in the early days of Singapore. Out of sheer curiosity of a past that I have no recollection of, simply because I did not experience it, way after the tour, I did some search on Google and found an online article by Uncle 'Thimbuktu' titled Memories of Smell - Sewerage. My friend and I wondered why the honey-carts were designed in that particular manner with 32 doors?

Back alley of Chinatown.

Now the truth is, if I write too much about my experiences onboard this tour, you may lose the element of surprise when you go for this tour. If I write too little about what makes this tour so fascinating and worth going for even though it costs a considerable amount of $55 per adult (because it includes rides on a chartered bus to-and-fro Chinatown and Geylang), it will be challenging to convince you that this is a tour that I would recommend. So I shall err on writing too little because I think this tour is so interesting that it shall speak for itself?

Whatever it is, any adult who is open-minded enough to find out more about a time in history when vices were common in Chinatown, or just learn something new about Singapore, will find this tour interesting. In the meantime, I shall keep the secrets of the red lantern as secrets then.

Red Lanterns in Chinatown to usher in the Chinese New Year.

Chinatown Food Street.

After an interesting time learning about the days in the past when Chinatown was also referred to as "Bu Ye Tian" (The place of night-less days), a comfortable air-conditioned bus took us to Geylang.

If you know the kind of sightings that we could encounter while walking through the streets and alleys of the red light district in Geylang, you would probably be understanding enough not to expect any photograph taken in Geylang. I was busy paying attention to what went on in real life to bother about taking photographs. Anyway, our tour guide has specifically asked us not to take photographs while we were in Geylang.

Be prepared for some surprise, and remember to stay close together as a group. My friend and I were rather amused when a middle-age gentleman came forward to us to introduce himself. We knew he just meant to be hospitable and friendly.

Friday evening is quite a good time to be out for the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour. If you think you are an open-minded adult with a healthy sense of curiosity, this will be a tour that you will find interesting enough not to be missed.

South Bridge Road.

Secrets of the Red Lantern:
A Chinatown and Geylang Night Tour
Every Friday, 6.00 p.m. - 8.30 p.m.
Meeting point: Chinatown MRT station, outside Exit A (Side of the escalator facing Pagoda Street)

Reservation is recommended for this tour. Please phone Tel: 6325 1631/6 214 2451) or email by 5 p.m. on the day before the tour. Otherwise, places to the tour will be on a first come first served basis.
For more details, please visit:

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