Fri, Dec 12, 2008
Vegetarian food haunt now a hookers' den?

By Terrence Lum

Near Bugis, Fortune Centre is one of the places that Buddhists go to for supplies, such as joss sticks and candles. Other than that, it is also a vegetarian food hotspot, popular with many families and the elderly.

Following a tip-off on AsiaOne forums, we staked out the area from 12 noon to 3.30pm. A forumer had complained that Fortune Centre was "seeing a revival in massage parlours offering hanky-panky services".

On entering Fortune Centre, the first floor is filled with vegetarian food joints.

During our visit, people from nearby office buildings were in the complex to get their lunch - nothing unusual it seemed.

Up the escalator on the second storey, a 'lady' in pink at a massage parlour beckoned to me.

The unit was visible from the escalator landing, and the lady appeared to double as a lookout.

There was no signboard, save a small handwritten sign on the floor written in Chinese, stating "Xiang Xiang Bao Jian Zhong Xin", which translated as "Xiang Xiang Health Centre".

When I tried to photograph the woman in pink, she quickly covered her face and ran back into the shop.

Other stores on the floor, named by the forumer, were closed. Many of the stores were also heavily curtained or had their glass panels covered by newspapers.

The shops on the third and fourth floors were similarly closed or blocked from casual lookers. Their interior was also hidden and they too had a woman sitting near the entrance. Most had shop names with words like "beauty therapy", "Chinese physician" or "health centre".

What other tenants say

When interviewed, two tenants selling food in the complex said that the women did not bother them or affect their business. None wanted to be identified as they worked in the building.

However, both tenants added that they were mildly annoyed because many Buddhists ate there, and these women "disturbed" their peace by soliciting.

During our three-hour visit, there was no physician at the four shops which were opened and there were no certificates and other credentials displayed at these shops.

One of the security guards interviewed, who also asked not to be identified, said the security guards mostly ignored the women, adding that "they don't bother" with these tenants.

» Photo gallery

Terrence Lum is an intern with AsiaOne.

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