Geylang's Unlikely Drill Sergeant

A Feast for the Belly and the Funny Bone


Peter Pickering

4/9/20244 min read

So there I was, back in Singapore, the city that never really sleeps, or if it does, it’s got one eye always open, just in case. My cabby, a real character straight out of a Singlish phrasebook, dropped me off in Geylang with a grin and a "Sure not here for the pretty girls, ah?" I assured him, as I always did, "No lah, here for the makan," because, truth be told, Geylang's got this little eatery that's worth every bit of its reputation and the taxi fare. The food? Shiok!

Char Kway Teow in Singapore
Char Kway Teow in Singapore

After satisfying my belly with some of the best dishes the Lion City had to offer, I’d usually take a jaunt around the neighbourhood, soaking in the ambiance. It wasn't long before the local pimps and I were on nodding terms. "Eh, ang mo, you back again! No try, no buy, ah?" they’d jest, and we’d share a laugh. It was all in good fun.

But this one evening, oh boy, did I get a show that still tickles me pink just thinking about it. As twilight settled on Geylang, its everyday suburban facade subtly shifted, revealing an exotic mood as girls plying their trade ventured out onto the streets, marking the night with whispers of intrigue. It was then I stumbled upon a scene straight out of a comedy sketch.

There, in the subtly lit ambiance of Geylang's notorious nightlife, was a sight that stopped me in my tracks—a meticulously arranged lineup of sexy girls on the kerbside, each adorned in crisp, military-style olive uniforms that seemed almost paradoxical amidst the backdrop of the red-light district. At the helm of this curious ensemble stood a man who commanded the space with an authority that was both impressive and slightly comical. He was their drill sergeant, a role he assumed with a seriousness that could rival any of the Queen's Guard's most stern-faced leaders.

Char Kway Teow: Stir-fried flat rice noodles with egg, prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, and Chinese lap cheong (sausage), seasoned with dark soy sauce.

With a booming voice that cut through the ambient sounds of the evening, he issued commands with the precision of a seasoned military veteran. "Attention!" he shouted, and like clockwork, the girls straightened up, their postures perfect and unwavering. "Salute!" he commanded, and up went their hands in perfect unison, a gesture of respect and solidarity. "At Ease!" he barked next, and they relaxed slightly, still maintaining an air of disciplined readiness. "Eyes left!" he cried, and all at once, their gazes shifted, following an unseen target down the bustling street.

The spectacle was mesmerising. Each command was met with an immediate response, the girls moving as one cohesive unit, their actions sharp and deliberate. To the gathering crowd, it was a performance art piece, a display of discipline and unity that stood in stark contrast to the usual nighttime fare of Geylang. For a moment, the chaos of the surroundings faded, and all eyes were on this unusual parade of precision and military grace.

In between the drill commands, the sergeant also threw in questions, with the girls responding in perfect sync. "Are you ready to give it all?” he'd ask, to which a crisp "Yes, sir!" would echo back. This back-and-forth wasn't just for show; it highlighted their unity and wit, adding a layer of interaction to the performance.

Models in military uniforms walking along Singapore street
Models in military uniforms walking along Singapore street

The girls' collective voice, responding to the sergeant's cues, turned the display into more than just a visual spectacle. It was an engaging performance that pulled the crowd deeper into the experience, blending discipline with a dash of playful banter. This dynamic interplay of commands and affirmations, set against Geylang's backdrop, transformed an ordinary night into a memorable scene of coordinated precision and spirited responses.

And yet, amidst the regimented display, there was a tangible sense of camaraderie and pride among the girls. They were not just participants in this drill; they were performers, each playing her part in a show that was as much about entertainment as it was about attracting attention, and drumming up 'business'. It was clear that they took their roles seriously, aiming to impress not only their impromptu audience but perhaps themselves as well, finding a sense of achievement in the perfection of their routine.

This drill sergeant and his platoon of uniformed girls had transformed a slice of Geylang into their stage, challenging the expectations of passersby and creating a moment of unexpected delight. In a world where appearances often dictate perception, they offered a reminder that surprise and wonder can be found in the most unlikely of places, turning an ordinary night into an extraordinary memory.

A large crowd had gathered, and we were all in stitches. It was a spectacle, a marketing genius at play, and the drill sergeant? He knew exactly how to drum up attention. "Left, right, left, right," he commanded, and off they marched, a single file of glamour wrapped in olive drab, turning heads and drawing laughs all the way down the street, back to their 'Palace of Pleasures'.

Leaving a trail of chuckles and shaking heads in their wake, it was clear that the drill sergeant had achieved his goal. Not only had he garnered the attention he sought, but he had also created a moment of pure, unadulterated entertainment that would linger in the memories of those who witnessed it, a story to be recounted with a smile in the days and years to come.

From a business angle, you’ve got to hand it to their boss—thinking outside the box indeed. I just hoped that behind closed doors, the clients weren't expecting to "Fall in!" or "Dismissed!" with their chosen companion.

Here's the moral of the story, folks: Life, especially in places as colourful as Geylang, is full of surprises. And while it's easy to jump to conclusions based on a place's reputation, sometimes you're just there for the delicious food and end up getting served a side of unforgettable laughter. Always keep your mind open, and your sense of humour ready; you never know when you'll stumble upon a drill sergeant running the most disciplined line of "soldiers" you’ve ever seen. And remember, in the grand parade of life, sometimes it pays to just stop and watch the show.