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Rairua was a 4-level gay sauna along Neil Road, the brainchild of LGBT activist Alex Au. It opened in 2002 and positioned itself as Singapore's first luxury gay sauna, with prices to match. Its reputation for cleanliness was superlative as employees were tasked to clean the dark rooms every hour and the hot pool was completely drained of water and scrubbed once every few days. The name "Rairua", essentially meaningless, was chosen because it was cheaper to buy a domain name on the Internet for advertisement purposes which was not a popular word or words which would be hotly contested by other entrepreneurs.

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Rairua pioneered Singapore's first 'skin nights' touted as 'all nude, all floors, all night', a concept that unexpectedly proved so popular amongst supposedly 'conservative' Singaporean gays that such nude nights spread to all saunas within the span of one year and continue to be the major draw for all local gay saunas today. However, initially, patrons were coy and reluctant to parade in the altogether, so "Sarong Nights" were introduced as an aperitif in which semi-transparent plastic sarongs were handed to customers to wear instead of requiring complete nudity outright. As Singaporeans got used to the idea, it became easier to introduce the classily named "Simply Skin" nights in which nudity on all the upper levels was strictly enforced by an employee stationed at the base of the ground floor staircase. Rairua also organised special events like cultural talks, personalised photography [1] and naturist art sessions, and erotic dancing by showerboys. Unfortunately, due to the expiry of its lease and disagreements with its landlord over maintenance, the proprietor and his business partners decided to close it down without any prior announcement on Monday, 25 April 2005[2].

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This article was written by Roy Tan.

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