On Dec 15 and 16, The Sunday Times visited seven clinics offering traditional Chinese medicine treatments to investigate if the services were legitimate.
Six of them, located in Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, Jalan Besar and North Bridge Road, were registered to the same man - a licensed TCM practitioner, ST learnt. The seventh clinic was registered to another name.
This clinic, located along a row of restaurants and travel agencies in North Bridge Road, listed services sometimes offered at TCM clinics. They included aromatherapy, body scraping and "twin body therapy".
The clinic was tucked away from prying eyes, on the second storey of the shophouse.
On Dec 15, this reporter visited the clinic on the pretext of needing a shoulder massage for an old motorcycle injury. An old scab was proof of that injury.
To get into the clinic, patrons would first have to ring the bell at the locked glass door that was further protected by an overhead security camera.
This reporter was then led to a lounge area about the size of a housing board living room.
The therapist, clad in a black dress, spoke in halting English. She later claimed to be from China.
The therapist, who looked to be in her 30s, pointed to a menu at the reception table. It showed the types of massage available and their respective prices.
After picking a 30-minute shoulder rubdown for $35, this reporter was led to a room with an attached bathroom.
Patrons at this clinic are told to remove all their clothing for the massage. In contrast, patrons are told to change into shorts provided by the establishments at legitimate spas.
No more than 10 minutes into the massage, the therapist offered sex for money which was immediately declined. She only stopped pushing the "special" services when this reporter promised a tip of $50 on top of the $35 charged for the 30-minute massage.
She was unaware that the conversation was being recorded. A similar routine was experienced at another TCM clinic in Tanjong Pagar Road.
ST also approached five other clinics registered to the TCM practitioner besides the one in Tanjong Pagar on Dec 16.
When asked if they offered "happy" or "special" massages, four of them admitted to offering sexual services, as captured by a hidden camera. They were all fronted by women in short dresses rather than uniforms, as is required of staff at legitimate TCM clinics.
At one TCM clinic in Chinatown, a therapist said the doctor was not in, adding in halting English: "Here, all is (sic) girl masseuses." When asked about "extras", she said: "(For) other things, (there are) other fees." But the clinic was unable to take any more clients. It was full for the day.
This article was first published on Jan 1, 2017.
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