In the mid-1980s, Bugis Street underwent major urban redevelopment into a retail complex of modern shopping malls, restaurants and nightspots mixed with regulated back-alley roadside vendors. Underground digging to construct the Bugis MRT station prior to that also caused the upheaval and termination of nightly transgender sex bazaar culture, marking the end of a colourful and unique era in Singapore's history. This change helped improve Singapore's international image as it began to be globally recognized.
In 1980, Parisian photographer Alain Soldeville visited Singapore and discovered a legion of androgynous beauties at Bugis Street. The photos can be viewed on his website. And here's a selection of some of interesting shots, as well as Soldeville's captivating description of the experience:
"In December 1980, I left Paris for a two-year trip to Asia and Australia. I had limited experience in photography. After spending a month in Bangkok, I arrived in Singapore where I checked in at a hotel located on the fourth floor of an impersonal tower. A few days later, around midnight, I headed for Bugis Street in a neighborhood of old Chinese houses from the colonial era. Within an hour, strange androgynous creatures arrived by taxi. Dressed in sexy, tight-fitting dresses or satiny pants, wearing heavy stage makeup and high heels, they took over the territory. The street seemed to belong to them and their dramatic entrance was followed by scrutinizing eyes. It appeared that most visitors were there to watch the show that had just begun."
(Photos © Alain Soldeville, via Coconuts Singapore)