Death for Drug Traffickers: A Festival That Mocks Singapore’s Narcotics Law

All across South East Asia there are ominous warning about smuggling drugs.

Singapore seems the most severe, a country with a reputation of holding no prisoners, a country where chewing gum is outlawed and bribery is non-existent. Jefferson Taylor reveals Zouk Out, a festival and experience that suggests the strict laws aren’t really working.

Is Zoukout a once in the year chance to get off your head in Singapore? Or does the underground culture run deeper?

Is Zoukout a once in the year chance to get off your head in Singapore? Or does the underground culture run deeper?

Ominous Crystal Meth Arrival in Singapore

Death for drug traffickers. It’s there in big bold black letters on the customs arrival card you have to complete, something curt and aggressive, clearly implying that drug trafficking equals death.

I’d seen the warning elsewhere in South East Asia but It was the first thing me and Kleberson discussed, neither of us able to recall exactly what it said as Faruq prepared the pipe of ice and turned the hotel room into a warren of inescapable evidence.

His eyes glowed, his bald head shone in the slither of morning light, and his mouth passionately explained the treats he’d supplied for our entertainment (everywhere in the world there are people like Faruq, people with connections and massive balls, people who would travel to Singapore with a load of pills up their arse).

A Japanese girl wakes with the smoke, coyly slipping out from under the duvet to puff away on the crystal meth, her large black eyes permanently playful. She enthusiastically prepares the hotel room, bagging up last night’s empties and putting the champagne bucket outside. If anyone entered there would be no chance of concealing, especially after a Japanese man comes out of the bathroom and smokes four joints in an hour.

Paranoia in the Hotel Room

Satoshi has this look of pure innocence, almost like a Buddhist monk, but he’s filled the room with spicy marijuana fumes. Geoff is shoving towels in the gaps under the door, but he can’t open the window as it has some sort of security devise (perhaps designed to prevent people from jumping out in the event of a meth overdose). So he sits on the bed, paranoid beyond belief, staring at the peephole in the door and anticipating an unwanted arrival. This is understandable as the room is in his name. Only Geoff, the mid forties investment banker living in Tokyo, could afford such an opulent hotel room. After three messy divorces, he now devotes all his money to chasing obscurely brilliant parties across the globe.

To mask the smell we decided to smoke as many cigarettes as possible. Now Geoff can’t control the paranoia and he’s ringing reception asking what time they finish cleaning the rooms, sounding perceptibly culpable. They can here my laughter in the background.

The group's state suggests one thing only...

The group’s state suggests one thing only…

Death to drug traffickers. We decide to hit some bars on the beach, taking passports with us just in case we return to a room surrounded by police tape (Geoff has hidden everything in the Japanese girl’s bag, a move I interpret as resentment because she refused to sleep with him even after 24 hours on crystal meth).

Kids are everywhere. Am I gurning? It’s too much to take in and we return to the sanctuary of the room. Except the keycard doesn’t work and we have to ring reception to let us in. Is that your room sir, the one with tin foil and pipes all over? No sir I’m down the corridor in 324. Geoff grabs the card off the concierge and gets rid of him with a $100 tip.

More Gear Arrives and Everyone at the Festival Is Clearly Guilty

More people arrive. They all have supplies. A big English Indian bloke brings a stash of ecstasy. Two Chinese looking girls bring a few bags of powder. And this is supposed to be a strict country? The anxiety slowly dissipates but I have visions of returning to a room surrounded by police: what happened in there officer…really?…well they were playing fast music very loud, sorry have to dash, got a plane to catch.

We hit Zoukout, an annual dance festival that attracts a good 30,000 revelers. The stories aren’t good. Apparently, the police raid clubs and take urine samples from everyone inside. Anyone with a trace of illegal drugs gets a prison sentence. So when we first arrive at the festival I think people are trying to stitch us up. I’m hearing Gui Boratto launch into the deep melodic sounds of his new album but keep seeing these bright shining police uniforms hanging around the outskirts of the blossoming dance floor. What kind of party is this going to be if you have to wear a face mask to get high to techno?

The crowd is international; Westerners, Filipinos, Indians, Malays, Indonesians, everyone but Singaporeans. Every time you turn around you’re talking to somebody with a different accent. And they’re all completely off their face. Chins wobble sideways after too many pills, teeth chatter with speed induced repetition, and joints are passed around the beach. The crowd has swelled so when you’re dancing you feel safe. It all makes a mockery of that arrivals card. Every toilet mission is torture though, and you have to stand there in a portaloo imagining the undercover cops outside ready to pounce.

The festival is still pumping at 9am

The festival is still pumping at 9am

It goes on until 8am and people end up in more and more delusional states. The sun has come up and there’s no hiding the debauchery. Even now the party doesn’t stop. We head off down the beach to the after party, downing tequilas, a few hundred people dancing on the beach and looking as wrong as can be.

There’s men wearing bunny ears, women in bikinis and face paint, white rings around nostrils, and we’re laughing our heads off, me and Kleberson and Satoshi and Geoff and the Japanese girl, eyes bulging, taking in the scene, thinking about how ludicrously inaccurate that arrival card is: Death for drug traffickers…