Tourist at home: Explore Singapore with cool local tours

(Clockwise from top left) Solve a murder mystery in Chinatown, learn more about local wildlife, take a Crazy Rich Asians tour around town or view Sentosa from the air. PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN, CHONG JUN LIANG, TAN NGIAP HENG, CLARA LOCK

SINGAPORE - The world may have shrunk for stay-home globetrotters but they can always whirl around Singapore.

Spin around town in a vintage Vespa sidecar on the Crazy Rich Asians route - or explore the hip-heritage Blair Plain enclave on foot.

Try a new murder-mystery game-tour in Chinatown - or step back in time at the last kampung, wide-eyed Gen Alpha kids in tow.

With the phase two reopening of Singapore's economy, tours have resumed since July, this time for discerning Singaporeans curious about hyper-local journeys.

Mr Simon Wong, co-founder of the SingaporeSidecars tour agency and social enterprise, reckons that his vintage Vespa sidecar tours are distinctive enough to appeal to citizens, who made up 25 per cent of his pre-Covid-19 clientele.

"We discovered happily that many Singaporeans have not really explored Singapore,'' says the British-born Hong Konger.

"It's also a human thing. Growing up, I spent my time exploring elsewhere but not London. It is easy for Singaporeans to hop elsewhere."

This is a good time to multiply local tour content, he says, now that most Singaporeans are staying home.

Indeed, Singaporeans remain cautious about travelling: More than a third polled by digital travel platform Agoda say they will travel with confidence only when a vaccine is found.

This figure rises to 44 per cent for the cautious cohort of Gen Zs, Agoda announced last Wednesday (Sept 9).

Agoda's country director for Singapore, Ms Giuliana Riitano, says: "There is so much to rediscover, from exploring different neighbourhoods to simply indulging in that decadent little bit of luxury that hotels provide."

Local experiences and tours listed on Agoda include batik painting classes, photo-walks in Little India and a World War II trail in Changi by coach.

Meanwhile, for team bonding or safe distancing, Airbnb Experiences has a slate of online experiences such as soundbath meditation and curry cooking.

Mr Parin Mehta, director (Asia-Pacific) of Airbnb Experiences, says some Singapore-hosted virtual events have proved popular locally, such as the Boring Indian Curry Workshop and Cocktail Cabinet aka Mix it like a Pro.

"We believe that this trend is a testament not only to Singaporeans' love affair with food, but also their commitment to supporting local businesses."

Companies also book online experiences.

"The interactive nature of the Experiences, conducted from home, meet a real need for companies looking to build rapport and collaboration in remote teams."

Choices abound for urban explorers.

No need to dust off the passport. Here are six local tours - spanning the edgy and educational - that reveal Singapore afresh.

Tourist at home: Be a Crazy Rich Asian for a day

Take a spin around town in a vintage Vespa sidecar on a Crazy Rich Asians tour. PHOTO: TAN NGIAP HENG

I am seeing Singapore in a newer light, just because it is joyfully oddball to go on a Crazy Rich Asians tour of a city I have known all my life.


Tourist at home: A walk on the wild side

Mr Dennis Chan, founder of The Untamed Paths, searching for marine life in the shallows at Changi on Sept 5, 2020.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

It is 5am at Changi Beach. The tide is out and dawn is nowhere in sight.


Tourist at home: Solving a murder mystery in Chinatown

Chinatown Murders, organised by Tribe, requires participants to solve puzzles while walking about Chinatown.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Someone in Chinatown has been murdered and in one of the worst policing decisions ever made, the case has been entrusted to us, a group of five sexy detectives known more for their youth and smouldering good looks than smarts.


Tourist at home: Bird's eye view and historical tales from Mount Faber

One Faber Group launched the Gai Gai Tour, a two-hour guided tour around Mount Faber Park that includes a 30-minute round trip on the Mount Faber cable car line.PHOTO: ONE FABER GROUP

It has been a while since I - along with many other Singaporeans - last took a cable car ride.


Tourist at home: Good food, street murals and modern art in Blair Plain neighbourhood

Indie Singapore's new tour of Blair Plain covers businesses such as Ji Xiang Confectionary in Everton Park, whose ang ku kueh attracts long queues of customers.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

In the heady days of international travel, I used to scour blogs and guidebooks for new ways to uncover well-known cities, delighting in under-the-radar neighbourhoods where local businesses thrive.


Tourist at home: Step back in time at the last kampung

The kampung off Yio Chu Kang Road has all the modern amenities we are all used to. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Like many children in Singapore, my seven-year-old daughter grew up in high-rise, concrete flats and is well-versed in the virtual online worlds of games like Minecraft.


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