Outside the 'four floors of whores'

SINGAPORE - It is best known as a hotspot for sleaze.

But among the curious mix of drunken patrons and working girls who congregate at the taxi stand early each morning at Orchard Towers - notorious for its "four floors of whores" - is a man known to the denizens who bother to ask, as Mr Mansor.

The man, in his late 40s, isn't a patron of any one of the 20 pubs located within the complex.

But some people The New Paper On Sunday met recently said he is "the nicest man here".

What's his agenda, you might ask?

None, apparently.

When he was spotted by this reporter last week, Mr Mansor was seen walking around Orchard Towers in the wee hours of the morning.

He was greeted with smiles by some of the women standing on the sidewalk.

He moved from one woman to another, smiling and engaging in light banter.

In between, Mr Mansor would exchange cigarettes with them.

At one point, he was seen passing packets of food to the women sitting by the taxi stand.

One Vietnamese woman, who wanted to be known only as Ah Gu, said in halting English: "He is very kind.

Last week, lost my passport here at Orchard Towers and he helped to find it."

Tall and slender Ah Gu, 26, is here on a social visit pass.

Like many "professionals" who ply their trade at Orchard Towers, she is a freelancer, which means she works independently - without a pimp.

But unlike many of the other foreign women - who come from Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Indonesia and Uganda - Ah Gu prefers not to go into the clubs to prowl for customers.

Instead, she sets up shop near the taxi stand, engaging in light banter with men in the hope of snagging a customer.

Despite her happy-go-lucky attitude, she was all too aware that what she did was illegal.

When a police patrol car drove by during the interview, some of the women standing on the sidewalk quickly disappeared. They reappeared some 20 minutes later.

Being in the open is a risk, Ah Gu admits. But as she tells us, many foreign women will line the roads outside Orchard Towers until the early morning in the hope of snagging a customer.

"I sit here because there are too many women inside the clubs," she says.

"Here, we speak to people who we think are interested (in sex), but I try not to approach everyone - they maybe police," she explains haltingly.

But not all men here are "bad", says Ah Gu.

"Most men here only look for sex, but he (Mansor) is different... He likes to help people by buying medicine when we are sick and food when we are hungry."

Abigail, a waitress at a bar in the area, agrees.

"I have seen him help get people food and sometimes even stop fights among drunken patrons at the taxi stand.

"Some people say he is a busybody, but I think it's good there's a person here who likes to look out for other people," says the slim Filipina in her late 20s, with a smile.

When approached, Mr Mansor - who works as a cleaner elsewhere - says he enjoys chatting with people and "helping in any way I can".

"I get bored staying at home... I like to come here because I find this to be one of the most honest places in Singapore," he says in Malay, his tanned face creasing in an amiable smile.

"There is no pretending here," he continues after a pause, looking around as if to survey the people congregating at Orchard Towers.

"People come here to either get drunk or find a woman. That's why I enjoy coming here to talk to my friends and people-watch."

The bachelor makes the trip to Orchard Towers every other weekend from his three-room flat in Bedok, hanging out with the characters he calls "my friends".

"I think perhaps people have the wrong idea about Orchard Towers," says Mr Mansor.

"I see people from all walks of life passing this place - office workers looking for a place to eat to people buying groceries in the supermarket.

"The women who hang around here don't disturb anyone, so why should anyone fear them?"

Orchard Towers

"People come here to either get drunk or find a woman. That's why I enjoy coming here to talk to my friends and people-watch."

- Mr Mansor

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