The once famous Bugis Street of Singapore was high on the list of 'must visits' for an adventurous sailor. It was probably the hub of Singapore nightlife at one point, especially in the 1960's and 1970's. Among the varied things to see and do in Bugis Street it was the nightly parade of Kai Tais or Beaney Boys which was the highlight of the evening.

They would leave their community in Jalan Geylang just before midnight and magically appear from the street's dark fringes at the witching hour. Strutting their femininity up and down in full view of tourists and sailors alike, as if they were walking a catwalk in Paris. You can imagine the cacophony of wolf whistles and lewd comments from the mostly intoxicated spectators. So what is so unusual about all this? Maybe not much in the new millennium but back then all these glamorous women were in fact men - yes - transvestites. (Known to the regulars as Beaney Boys or Kai Tais.)

 
       
 
 
 

On most evenings there would be hundreds of people in Bugis Street after midnight; Locals, tourists, soldiers, sailors and airmen. This was especially true of the military element as the UK, New Zealand and Australia all had units permanently stationed in Singapore at garrisons such as Nee Soon, Dover Road and Tanglin. This was on top of the thousands of matelots up the road in Sembawang.

As a place of entertainment Bugis Street used to 'fairly jump' and it was literally anything goes until the late 70's when the Singaporean authorities decided to clean it up. From then on it became very sanitised and was never the same again. That's progress I guess.

 
       
 
 
 

The entertainment took many forms including; Boat Races (Drinking competitions usually against all comers.); Singing Competitions (Usually Aussies, Poms and Kiwis.); Drunken games of noughts and crosses against quick witted Singaporean kids; Fights, fist or firework (Again mainly Aussies, Poms and Kiwis.); And of course cavorting with the Beaney Boys. It was also a great place to get a decent feed because the place was surrounded by Makan Stalls which supplied such delights as Nasi Goreng, Mah Mee and Chilli Crab till the wee small hours at very reasonable prices.

 
       
 
 
 

Because the Beanie Boy parade didn't commence until after midnight it was normal custom to drink in the Sembawang bars, 15 miles to the north, until about 11:30 pm when by law they all closed, then hop in a Singapore taxi and take the hair raising ride down Thompson Road into China Town, maybe stopping along the way at Nee Soon to pick up some Dim Sum.

Many a matelot would drink his way into the dawn of a new day and watch the sun rise over 'The Straza'. All around him the the locals would be busy turning off their gas lanterns, packing up their tables and chairs, wheeling away their food and 'trinket' carts and clearing up the street for another day, when it once again would revert to a busy thoroughfare for motor vehicles.

 
       
 

And the Beanies Boys? Once again they would disappear during the hours of daylight, back to their humble abodes in Geylang where they would bathe, manicure and preen getting themselves ready for another night of strutting their stuff along "The Straza".