More tours offering visitors local experiences

Mr Chee also met birdcage-maker Teng Leng Foo, 72.
Mr Chee also met birdcage-maker Teng Leng Foo, 72.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

At the Kebun Baru Bird Corner in Ang Mo Kio, ornate bird cages hang from poles in a large open field while their owners while away the time chatting under the shade.

Working out of a nearby shop, Mr Teng Leng Foo, 72, is one of the few remaining specialists who handcraft cages for the prized merbok birds that compete in singing competitions every weekend.

The bird corner and the shop are stops in Ang Mo Kio on one of 16 new local tours that made the shortlist of the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) Tour Design Challenge last year. All will be launched by the end of this year.

Among them are a walking tour for tea lovers and several that journey through the heartland. One by operator Oriental Travel and Tours follows the murals of local artist Yip Yew Chong, beginning with a series in Ang Mo Kio that evokes the nostalgia of kampung life.

Other stops in the neighbourhood include the bird corner and a wet market spice stall offering tourist-friendly packaging.

The tour operator's co-founder Jasmine Tan was retrenched from the advertising industry in 2012 and decided, after a few years of freelance work, to put her SkillsFuture credits towards a tourist guide course.

This was where she met Mr Stanley Foo, with whom she founded Oriental Travel and Tours last year. They qualified for funding from STB in designing their heartland tour in Ang Mo Kio, where Ms Tan lives.

 

"For places like Universal Studios, tourists can go on their own. But without a tourist guide to bring them here, I don't think they can find these places," said Ms Tan, 50.

While most customers are from the United States and Europe, locals do sometimes join in and discover hidden gems, she added.

Mr Teng, who has spent 60 years in the cage-making trade, said only a few tourists buy the cages but "it is good that they can come here and learn about the hobbies of Singaporeans".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'More tours offering visitors local experiences'. Print Edition | Subscribe