The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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February 8, 2020

I note with interest that I am picking up more readers. Thanks to StatCounter. Today’s my Birthday, and I feel like sh*t: I have a frozen knee that needs some attention. I plan to find a doctor today who can fix it!


The arrow points to Singapore


I did not wrote any narrative letter from Singapore, so what follows is from memory. I did write a letter from Singapore, which went to many friends, bringing them up to date on my whereabouts. The letter encapsulates much of what has been written in this blog; I reproduce it to close this part of the trip. Apparently I borrowed a typewriter there.

On November 13, 1968, I departed Johore mid-morning bound for Singapore . I had readily at hand the paperwork for my motorcycle, as I figured this is where it would be necessary to go through some importation routine. However, I simply drove across the causeway, presented my passport for a chop, and drove on: someone crossing into Singapore on a motorcycle was nothing unusual—there were dozens of others doing the same.

Not far into the hills, I spotted a construction site where a pile-driver was in operation. Now, I have always enjoyed watching a good steam pile-driver: there’s something quite sexy about them. But I was in for a surprise: this was a diesel pile-driver, the first I’d ever seen. The really weird thing was though, as I watched, the pile was coming out of the ground, rather than going in! This was the first friction-pile construction I had ever seen: a hollow steel tube with a sacrificial point is driven into the ground; it is filled with concrete and re-bar cages, then the tube is pulled up and out. The vibration brings the wet concrete into intimate contact with the surrounding soil, creating a much higher degree of friction (hence much greater resistance to further movement), and the steel tube is used again and again.

SIngapore Construction Site

Building new apartment-blocks in Singapore

I continued on into Singapore, stopping often to take photographs.

Approaching Singapore 01

A fancy villa in the foreground with a swimming-pool

Approaching Singapore 02

I had not expected the lushness of the hills

Approaching Singapore 03

Red tile roofs everywhere

Approaching Singapore 04

Getting closer to the city center

Approaching Singapore 05

Looking like the Singapore I expected

Once in the city, I found a 5-floor walk-up hotel just a couple of blocks from the famous Raffles Hotel. I had stayed in a number of these chinese hotels, mostly because they were dirt-cheap. Generally, they consisted of a large space broken up into cubicles with open wire mesh stretched over wooden frames, with plywood panels attached for a modicum of privacy. There was a space of 18 inches or so from the floor up to the bottom of the panels, and from the top of the panels all was open to the ceiling or (in the current case) roof-rafters. The point was to allow air circulation, but any sort of real privacy was difficult to achieve! There were communal showers and so forth nearby. However, since I rarely did anything except sleep in places like this, they served their purpose just fine.

On my first night in Singapore I hailed a taxi which took me to Bugis Street, about which I had heard from someone way back in Saigon. It was gaudy and commercial; a procurer finally agreed to find me a mate, but that turned out to be a transvestite who only wanted to be—erm—”approached” from behind. I bailed out: I can manage (if sufficiently enthused) to screw a guy so long as he looks like a guy, but a guy that looks like a gal just doesn’t do it for me! I’m queer that way.

The next day, naturally, I lingered around the part of Singapore called Queens Walk, expecting that there surely would be some sort of action there. But, there was none. It was mostly families and amahs walking their kids, and few if any single folk. Elsewhere, wandering the streets, I found plenty of eye-candy, but most people were going about their daily routine: a foreigner in their midst was nothing unusual. There was another caucasian hanging around my hotel, though I wasn’t sure if he was staying there. After a couple of days I was getting horny, and having no luck whatever finding anyone to provide relief.

Queens Walk, Singapore

Queens Walk: I think it is still there

It rained one afternoon, so I repaired to my cubicle and fell asleep. However, I was awakened by the unmistakable sounds of two males having vigorous sex in the cubicle next to mine. It was easy to deduce that one of the pair was local, and the other was not: beyond this, I could learn nothing, but listening to someone else having sex only made my condition worse. In time, their tryst over, the lovers departed, and not long afterwards I did so as well, since the rain had stopped. Some hours later, once again frustrated by lack of contact (and now I knew it was possible) I returned to my hotel: I had seen an advert for a movie I wanted to see, and figured maybe a theater might offer some opportunities. As I reached the top of the stairs there was an old sofa and a couple of chairs there; on the sofa sat the fellow I had seen around the place, and a nice-looking, much younger local chap. On a small table were cups of coffee; they greeted me and offered to send someone out for a cup for me. Conversation ensued between we two foreigners: it turned out the fellow was from Australia, stationed somewhere nearby, who happened (as I had already learned) to like boys. He was interested to know about my trip and so forth: it was a very polite and stilted conversation such as any two strangers might strike up. The coffee arrived, the conversation lagged, and so this fellow explained that he knew his way around the Singapore pretty well: was there anything I wanted to know that could assist me?

I replied, “Yes: where does a gay guy go in Singapore on a Friday night?”

The Aussie turned beet-red, and his boyfriend smiled knowingly. It turned out they had been speculating about me. The Aussie was sure I was straight, his friend sure otherwise. Now, of course, they both knew, and the conversation became more relaxed. I got the “skinny”, and was assured if I showed up there, I would find someone. I resolved to go, after my movie, since they explained things got underway pretty late.

At that time, the local “watering hole” for gays was the Pebbles Bar in the Intercontinental Hotel! I’d have never found it on my own, and it was not obviously gay, except for there being almost no females. It resembled a restaurant in many ways, with booths and so forth. Soon enough, I was approached (I’m sure my buddies from the hotel set me up); the rest, as they say, is history. Andy and I got along famously, and, riding two-up, he showed me many of the more famous places in Singapore.

Meanwhile, I had to dispose of my motorcycle. I took it to the local Honda cycle agency, where one of the mechanics bought it for half what I’d paid for it in Saigon. He explained that registering a bike that was without importation papers would be troublesome (though I am certain he knew exactly how to do it). Thereafter, Andy & I travelled by bus.

Singapore Bus Ticket

The most amazing things show up in the collection of "stuff" from my trip.

Of course, we took in the famous Tiger Balm Gardens. Since they are still there and little changed, there’s no point in putting in the few photos I took: a google search brings up many pictures and descriptions. Here’s just one photo of the entrance gate:

Tiger Balm Garden 01

Entrance to the Tiger Balm Garden

We also took in the lovely botanical gardens, where flowers and orchids were spectacular. Here’s just a few pictures I took there.

Rare Orchids

I had never seen such a shade of green on an orchid

Botanical Gardens 03

More unusual blossoms

We spent some time in the House of Jade, an accumulation put together by the same brothers who built the Tiger Balm Gardens.

House of Jade

If you like jade, this is the place to see it!

And the national monument:

National Monument

Note the lack of sky-scrapers (which now surround this plaza)

But the most entertaining event we took in was the opening ceremony for a new Hotel: this involved more fire-power than I’d seen even in Vietnam!

Hotel Opening 01

Everything is made ready

Hotel Opening 03

More Lion Dancers, more fire-crackers

Hotel Opening 02

Lion Dancers, fire-crackers on the streets

Hotel Opening 04

The strings of fire-crackers from the flag-poles have been lit

Hotel Opening 05

There they go!

Hotel Opening 06

Air thick with smoke: what a racket!

Here is the two-page letter I wrote describing my trip.

Letter from Singapore1

Letter from Singapore2

(Click to enlarge)

Still three degrees north of the equator: I decided to fly to Bali. That’s next.



Written by Editor

February 8th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized