Singapore

New Lee Kuan Yew tour highlights his personal life

About Mr Lee, a private tour organised by Tribe, brings visitors around Singapore to see remnants of Mr Lee's personal life

The first anniversary of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's death is on March 23.

Tribe, a local tour firm, has launched a new tour based on the personal and private life of Mr Lee.

Titled About Mr Lee, the tour takes visitors to places significant in Mr Lee's life and includes anecdotes about his food preferences, familial ties and relationships, as well as his political career.

Founded in 2014, Tribe also conducts other tours including the Ultimate Food Journey that brings participants to hawker centres and wet markets, and another about the disappearing trades in Singapore. 

Co-founder Jason Loe said they researched extensively by reading Mr Lee's memoirs as well as gleaning information from newspaper clippings and personal accounts.

Mr Loe and his team — which includes 20 guides — also watched many videos of his speeches.

Each tour lasts for about 3 1/2 hours and proceeds from the March tours will go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

So far, about 50 people have attended the tour since it started earlier this month.

The tour costs $56 for adults, $45 for senior citizens and $30 for children between 7 and 18.

So is the tour worth the price?

The New Paper went for a session earlier this week. Here's how it went.

FOOD

Otah, fried spring rolls, cucumber and french toast at Mr Lee's go-to restaurant for Peranakan cuisine. PHOTO: MAX PASAKORN

One of the stops was Guan Hoe Soon restaurant, a Peranakan restaurant along Joo Chiat Lane, where Mr Lee's love for peranakan cuisine was highlighted.

Participants even had the chance to sample Otah, a dish that Mr Lee would often serve at functions at the Istana.

His daily diet, said the tour guide, consisted of simple and bland items such as beancurd and warm water for breakfast.

What's for lunch? Chicken soup, vegetables and tofu.

"He was a creature of habit," remarked Mr Loe, 42 . "But he also had a love for yummy and sinful kinds of food, like fried chicken."

Mr Lee also had a tendency to give in to sweet temptations. He liked western desserts such as tiramisu, soufflé and caramel pudding.

Mr Lee's wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, would sometimes regulate his food by cutting the dessert in half and telling him, "I'll take that from you."

During the tour, visitors were able to sit, drink in hand, absorbing the Peranakan details of the restaurant.

Soaking in the culture and food and imagining Mr Lee frequently ordering Otah might just be the most rewarding part of this stop.

LIFE

Oxley Road. PHOTO: MAX PASAKORN

Little nuggets of trivia were presented during the tour. For example, Mr Lee's favourite song was Que Sera Sera and his favourite book was Don Quixote.

On the way to Oxley Road, where Mr Lee's house is situated, the love story of Mr and Mrs Lee was retold.

Mr Lee was due to head to the United Kingdom to further his studies. He didn't want to part with his wife. He got his cousin to take a picture of them on a date before he left to study. He said, "We were young and in love, anxious to record this moment in our lives."

Of course, tour participants can only look at 38 Oxley Road from outside.

 

 

POLITICS

The garden area of a HDB block in Tanjong Pagar, where the Mr Lee was an MP. PHOTO: MAX PASAKORN

"Mr Lee was a learner of systems," said Mr Loe. "He knew what was working. He especially knew what was not working."

He went abroad to learn and study many of these systems, often adopting the models of other nations including Britain (public housing) and Israel (defence).

At Tanjong Pagar, where Mr Lee was MP for many years, the contrast between the sleek Pinnacle@Duxton and the old HDB flats is stark. The older buildings dwarfed by the modern, emphasising the difference in eras. 

The old block of HDB flats juxtaposed against the modern Pinnacle@Duxton. PHOTO: JENNIFER DHANARAJ

THE TOUR

He was just like us.

What made About Mr Lee interesting was how relatable Mr Lee's stories were. Behind his mask of politics, he was still a person, a friend, a husband, a colleague, a father.

But while the content was delivered verbally, there wasn't much to see.

The price tag of $56 for adults also seemed a little steep - especially since participants do not gain exclusive access into significant places.

In fact, many of the stops during the 3 1/2-hour long tour are public places - a new-looking estate, a refurbished restaurant and the exterior of his house.

 

DETAILS

The remaining tours will run on the weekends of March 19 and 20, 26 and 27 and Wednesday, March 30.

Tours will continue in April but dates have yet to be confirmed.

On weekends, tours will be conducted twice daily - in the morning and in the afternoon.

Mandarin-speaking tours are available on weekends.

www.tribe-tours.com/​

Tourism