Sunday, 19 February 2012

Buy Me Drinks Girls

Often I am asked why I don't write more stories about my life in Singapore. The straightforward answer is, "because I am boring." I do exactly what you do and no one wants to read about how I buy groceries, albeit, I don't have a car so I schlep a grocery cart like an octogenarian and dicker the fish mongers in the wet markets for the freshest catch. I trod carefully because in the markets you better believe that isn't water you are sloshing through.

You and I do housework the same with the exception of I tend to clean in a bikini because no matter how much I run my air con, 25C is as low as I can cool our spacious condo.  I have surprised more than one delivery man when they ring the bell of a 40 something, sweat covered, crazy lady in a fuchsia bikini.  I refuse to get a maid so "Sweat, Swimming Suit, and Sweeping" is going to be my newly released exercise DVD.  Look out Billy Banks because my workout regime is going to go Tae-Bo on your spandex ass.

Finally I have a story worthy enough to share. R2 and I made a pact to try new clubs, restaurants and sites at least two times per week, and so far, we have overshot this target. We are always on the go, whether to Haji Lane in the Arab area, to Clarke Quay to watch the tourists, for walks on the beach or exhausting bike rides on the hundreds of kilometres of bike paths in this country. Each day is a mystery; sometimes I am screaming when I see a rat, sometimes he is annihilating cockroaches before I discover them and sometimes we are just enjoying not wearing toques and mittens, in our rooftop hot tub.

On this particular night, we decided to take in the Year of the Dragon festivities in Chinatown. I am not certain why this area is called Chinatown when the country is eighty per cent Chinese but who am I to argue? It is a cool, entertaining area to hang out and people watch.

We got rockstar seating at a quaint seafood restaurant and dove into a delicious helping of Chilli Crab - one of the local dishes made famous in Singapore. While digging out the meat we began to play our favourite people watching game, "Gay or Straight," "Real or Fake," or "Why is that Gorgeous Girl with that Homely Guy."

Once we devoured the final shred of crab, wiped the sauce off our faces and licked our fingers clean, we decided to see what else was happening in C-Town. We ventured off Pagoda Street and wound our way through the dim, semi-deserted streets. It wasn't long until we happened upon a section of CT unbeknownst to us.

We discovered antique shophouses that had been converted to trendy restaurants, luxury condos, gay bars, and eclectic boutiques; boutiques I will return to with R2's Platinum card, but not R2.

We heard a band playing some mean blues in a run down tavern so we decided to investigate. We walked into a funky bar with Led Zeppelin, Stones and Hendrix adorning the walls from end to end. We grabbed a drink and the last table in the joint.  It was full of white guys, Asian women and us.

"Hey, wait a minute. Why is that attractive, young lady dancing with that overfed, clammy Englishman? Why am I the only pasty, white woman in this bar? Why is that same Asian lady snogging the old fossil on the dance floor?" These are questions racing through my mind as we enjoy a little blues and rock 'n roll for the first time in months.

On my last visit to Singy, I read in the paper about clubs that hire men or women to chat up, flirt, and get boozy clients to buy them drinks, so it was all coming back to me, except I was seeing it happen before my eyes. These ladies, it turns out are from the Philippines, at least in this particular bar. I am not certain they are used to dressing in such a come-hither manner because I saw one lady fall off her platform shoes at least three times while grinding on a Indian who resembled a dancing Elaine from Seinfeld.

After a little research I found the ladies are hired to come to Singapore to either freelance in a bar, or the owner flies them over, holds their passport until they pay back their flight, charges them for room and board and they often never make enough money to send home. They can only stay a short period of time and then must return to their own countries or face deportation from Singapore. Many times, the women are much older than they appear but inebriated, dense, cheating blokes can't usually tell the difference.

The ladies are paid to liaise with the men and get them to buy their drinks, but the catch is, the man's drink is $10 while her same drink can be anywhere from $30-$100.  She will try to convince the man to buy the most expensive beverage because she gets a commission.  Her target is to have him buy 15 or more drinks and if he quits buying, she just moves to the next sucker. Often two or more of her friends hit on the same man so he buys more drinks for everyone.  At the end of the evening, he better have a lot of dough in his pocket when his tab in in the hundred of dollars. Even with this many drinks in her system, she gets so used to drinking, it barely affects her.

At first I felt sorry for the women but after more research, I learned many of these women make more cash than the tourists and ex-pats they dupe. Often the old men fall for the young women, but the truth is, they are hustling you only for the money.  They can't stop working because they have a debt to repay to the bar owner and if you become their "boyfriend," they have five more behind you also paying her bills.

These women are not prostitutes but if the money is right and you spend enough on drinks during the night, anything can happen. If money is no object, neither are their actions. There are different levels of "Buy Me Drink Girls,"and it is all over the internet on what they do and don't do, if you are so inclined to research this, as I was.  This activity is prevalent in Asian countries, but I thought Singapore was too puritan for that, boy, was I wrong!

Generally the women are from China, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia that are brought for men to "adore" and buy drinks all night.  Sometimes they are strippers in their own country, often they don't know what their job will entail until they get here, and by then, it is too late to turn back. They do learn quickly and their "selling" skills are far better than a used car salesman in a polyester leisure suit.

For me, it was a captivating time observing the ladies in action. Because I was sober, I could tell they had been around the block several times. I could see the tell-tale signs of baby mamas in their figures, their lack of polish in their cheaply made clothes and shoes they had no idea how to walk in, but to the fifty-something, desperate men, it made no difference. All the men think is they have a young, pretty girl acting like they are all that, and not some drunk-as- a-lord, pathetic tosser. Believe me, you are just a dollar sign to the women. These women, more often than not have husbands, and children back home that they are supporting and you are just a cash register to them.

We didn't stay long because the action in the bar was getting too much for us. One of the funniest things we saw was when a hammered Aussie kept giving me a boozy, sloppy winky-smile. From my location he couldn't see R2. I think he was pissed as a newt and thought I was 8 inches shorter, my curly red hair magically turned into black, straight, long, flowing hair and my skin colour changed from the white tone I sport year round to a Filipino shade. I was so disgusted by this sloth, I would have to be blind drunk on tequila and hopped up on any drug (which aren't legal in Singapore) to even find this guy mildly hideous. Guess I would make a horrible "Buy Me Drink" hostess girl.

We have booked for Thailand in the near future, I wonder what will be in store for us there?

(Follow Layna in Asia on Mexico on My Mind site for her perspective of travels in Mexico)


  1. Make no mistake, these girls make money; some of them probably make more money than a well paid IT executive, ex-pat in Singy. But hey, who am I to judge? we IT consultants are also like mercenaries, selling services to the highest bidder... without the explicit crotch frothing.

  2. HHHHMMM, iI think it was IT executives in the hostess bar. I noticed computer bags and pocket protectors, plus they seem to be speaking Geekanese. I need to find me a high paid IT Exec, so I can get some of those 5 inch platform shoes the young lady kept falling off.

  3. Hello Layna,

    I checked out your blog and ~ wow! What an adventure you & your husband are having. I read quite a bit of it, but really want to take the time & read it more thoroughly. Your blog is very educational and I enjoy your writing style (I feel like I'm almost there, right alongside you). I will have to continue to follow along if you don't mind? Take care and enjoy your adventure!
    Moose Jaw

  4. Thanks Moose Jaw,
    I have been called many things, educational is rarely one of them, but thank you for that. Now I have to bring my writing up a notch and not write naughty things.

  5. Chilli Crab is awesome, ate as much as I could while I was home. Their passports usually last 2 weeks :)

  6. You are right - two weeks I what I read so that is a lot of drunk hustling. I have a few friends that could do this because they can drink 10 drinks in a night with no problem!

  7. funny.i know someone who could buy one of those ladies and have a baby with a young girl.who might this be???????????????????????

  8. Loved your blog Sweetie. Great stories.

  9. Great story Layna. Keep educating the rest of us prairie kids - love the stories and the photos. Quite the adventure.

  10. God, I LOVE YOUR STORIES!!!! So funny and entertaining. Keep 'em coming. You should write for a paper or magazine!

  11. At least they get to listen to some zeppelin while theyre getting hustled! - luc

  12. I wanted to pass this along - a very nice email, indeed!

    My mother had cataract surgery on her worst eye about a week ago Tuesday. I spent the night with her to ensure that everything was okay. So, long story short, as she was not feeling up to reading, watching tv, or anything like that, I was telling her about you, your family, and your blog. I read the whole blog to her. She enjoyed it as much as I did. She thinks you should have it published into a book, not just the Leader Post.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog. Enjoy your adventure and I will continue to "check up on you" ;-)

  13. The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

  14. the IT guy must have been me:)
    I am a self confessed loser, and the highlight of my dreary life is spending a 100 bucks a night once a while just to feel like a winner for once.
    Never got the girl in school, college or after college. Always the loser, the BMD girls give me some self worth.
    So do i know they are using me......of course. i'm not dumb. But i am using them also. Its a like for like exchange.
    Anyway thats my 2 cents. just needed to get it out there. :)


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