AttractionsFormer convicts turned tour guides to uncover the murky world of old Singapore.

Triad tours go into Singapore's dark underbelly

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Triad Trails unpacks the lives of Singapore's historical Chinese immigrant workers, where ex-offenders have been hired to lend a dose of reality in explaining brotherhood gangs and opium dens.
Triad Trails unpacks the lives of Singapore's historical Chinese immigrant workers, where ex-offenders have been hired to lend a dose of reality in explaining brotherhood gangs and opium dens. Photo Credit: Mei Lin

In the first collaboration of its kind, two social enterprises Actxplorer and Architects of Life have teamed up to offer a walking tour of Singapore’s Chinatown guided by ex-offenders.

Called Triad Trails, the tour uncovers the dark secrets of a past where Chinese immigrant workers played an instrumental role in the island’s economic history and found a comfort in brotherhood gangs and the opium dens.

Guided by ex-offenders Bruce Mathieu and Alvin Chiong, the hour-long tour spans five pit stops, with both guides examining the area's history through visuals while sharing about their past with personal anecdotes of their former drug addiction and gang involvement.

Said Chiong: “With this project, ex-convicts can contribute too. I hope to mentor and pass this on. Instead of asking for help all the time, I want to break this cycle. We can help ourselves, contribute and help others too.”

The tour concludes with a ‘no-holds barred’ lunch at Genius Central, the flagship city campus for Entrepreneur Resorts & Genius Group. Over the interactive lunch, tour participants are encouraged to ask questions and learn more about their personal stories at length directly from Mathieu and Chiong.

Guides examining the area's history through visuals while sharing about their past with personal anecdotes of their former drug addiction and gang involvement.
Guides examining the area's history through visuals while sharing about their past with personal anecdotes of their former drug addiction and gang involvement. Photo Credit: Mei Lin

“Looking at the current local tourism trends, we thought this would be a great way to introduce Singaporeans to the dark untold history and also take them through the whole journey of how Singapore is such a safe country today. As citizens and a part of this society, it is important that we know all the efforts and hardships that have gone behind in making this country what it is today,” said Aditi Rao, project manager, Architects of Life.

She added: ”We also thought that this is one great opportunity to generate employment amongst ex-offenders and youth at risk where they are involved at different levels.

Travel-based social enterprise Actxplorer was picked as a partner due to its extensive experience in conducting impactful tours for schools, universities, corporate clients and churches.

More than just allowing travellers to engage in unique and fun interactions, Actxplorer hopes to engage in meaningful work with local groups, social enterprises and NGOs, hence leading to Triad Trails.

According to Melvyn Mak, co-founder of Actxplorer, “Architects of Life came up with the concept of dining with ex-offenders. When we were discussing this collaboration for the SingaporeDiscovers (SRV) campaign, we added a walking component so we'd be eligible for SRV, but also to ensure the tour would be more interactive and have a more visual aspect.”

There are plans to train more guides for the tours and prepare them for international visitors when borders open. Mak hopes to replicate the tour to the rest of Southeast Asia in the future.

The tour is priced at S$70 per person (US$53) for 2.5 hours, inclusive of a meal and a pledge certificate for a souvenir.

Contact Actxplorer by emailing [email protected] or visiting the website link here.

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