Orchard Towers is a nondescript concrete block, studded with neon signs, beaming out of ugly bars, advertising buckets of beer and “drunk sit”, overlooking the north end of Singapore’s main shopping artery. During the day it fades into the background: a dated mall among a cluster of newer chrome-and-glass developments. By night it throbs with weird energy as patrons from the bars sidle out into massage parlours on the upper levels. Known locally as the “Four Floors of Whores”, Orchard Towers is an oasis of negotiable morality at the heart of a notoriously conservative country, its survival a mystery following the purging of the low-rise brothels of Sungei Road and the streetwalkers of Geylang.

“Is it literally that they were daytime and horizontal, versus Orchard Towers, where they are nighttime and vertical? What made [the others] have to go?” wondered the writer Amanda Lee Koe.

Read more in the Times Literary Supplement