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When British expat Andrew Jones tells Singaporeans he lives in the heart of Geylang, some react with a leering smile or giggle. But the executive coach is unfazed by people who associate Geylang with its infamous red-light activity. He recalls: "When I first moved to Singapore to work for DeutscheBank in 1998, I liked almost every place I saw. But someone invited me to dinner in Geylang - and I instantly knew this was the place to live. It is so alive and different from anywhere else in the country. I fell in love with it and, eventually, bought a private apartment here." Mr Jones left DeutscheBank five years ago to work as an independent executive coach, giving advice to top business leaders on their management skills. He's also a career coach for MBA students at the Singapore Management University and INSEAD. The one job he doesn't get paid for but happily undertakes is being a casual ambassador of Geylang: "When friends from abroad visit me, I'd take them around the neighbourhood and show them its architecture. I'm drawn to the older, decaying buildings that haven't been remade. They have original plasterwork from a century ago and give you a small peek into what Singapore once looked like." Mr Jones thinks that the Geylang demographics is changing: "When I walked around Geylang in the 90s, there were few Caucasians like me. So people might be surprised and say hello. Nowadays, you'll find lots of expats living here - especially the French in the area opposite Aljunied MRT station. I call it the French Quarter."
TEXT HELMI YUSOF. PHOTOS JULIANA TAN