He once saw a masterpiece scrawled all over the bedsheet. That happened because the guests' kids had got their hands on coloured markers.

This is one of the sights that make Mr Ken Gao sigh.

As a housekeeper at Orchard Parade Hotel for over nine years, he has seen it all.

Soiled underwear strewn all over the rooms? Check.

Alcohol-fuelled parties leaving super drunk partygoers lying around? Check.

Wrecked TV sets and furniture?

Yup, Mr Gao has seen it too.

"You never know what you will see when you open the room door," he told The New Paper on Sunday in Mandarin.

His job requires him to enter hotel rooms to clean and replace soiled items while the guests are out.

Every bedsheet and towel, used or not, will be replaced and sent to the laundromat. Toiletries will also have to be restocked.

Every day, he has to maintain the 16 guest rooms at the hotel's ninth storey, with each taking up to half an hour.


The 29-year-old, who hails from China's Fuzhou, finds plenty of pleasure in his job.

"You meet so many people from all over the world. That is the wonderful thing about being in the hotel line."

He has been working hard to improve his English, not only to make a better fit here, but also to talk to hotel guests.

Indeed, Mr Gao takes special effort to find out about the interesting sights here when talking to his Singaporean friends.

"Not only do I learn more about the place I have lived in for so long, I can recommend them to hotel guests too," says Mr Gao.

His favourite go-to spots are hawker centres, which to him, are a "cultural explosion".

When guests ask, he knows which are the best places to have good, cheap food, he reveals with a smile.

Mr Gao sheepishly confesses that sometimes guests don't put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign, and this has led to him walking in accidentally on them on a few occasions.

When that happened, he excused himself quickly. He refuses to reveal, despite our prodding, if he saw something more.

"It was awkward. Once, my intrusion made a guest go on a raging tirade. All I could do was apologise," Mr Gao recounts.

He thrives on the occasional "Thank you" he gets, even though he admits it is hard to come by.

He has had a few hard knocks too. Once, he faced an accusation of theft, only for it to be cleared up when the guest realised she had kept the money elsewhere.


It is especially bad for Mr Gao if guests leave bad reviews of the hotel online, criticising the cleanliness of the rooms.

He shrugs away the tougher days though, noting that there are regular guests who remember him and strike up conversations.

He says that he tries to get Singaporeans friends to help him with his conversational English so that he can talk to guests.

He also attends community events with his fiancee, saying: "I need to integrate into the culture to be able to live here. It has to come from my own initiative because I want to widen my social circle.

"The more I converse with Singaporeans in English, the more I learn."

Mr Gao hopes to settle down here because after living here for nearly a decade, Singapore feels like home.

"I am from China and life is expensive here," says Mr Gao, who earns around $2,000 a month.

"But I identify with the people and the culture. Singaporeans are polite, and life here is stable and good," he adds.


1 Practice, practice, practice. Only by committing your work routine to memory will you be able to clean rooms quickly and diligently.

2 Keep some ointment handy, especially when you have to change the bedsheets of a super king-size mattress, which weighs about 100kg.

3 To prevent awkward intrusions into occupied rooms, ring the door bell thrice and check for clues such as snoring sounds or a key card still placed in the holder by the door.