The trishaw was a common means of transport back in the olden days in Singapore. The three-wheeled vehicle existed in its earlier form as the "rickshaw puller" in China and was manually pulled by a rider in front of a seat attached to two big wheels. The trishaw made its debut in Singapore in the 1940s and although we do not see many trishaws on the roads now, it remains a strong icon of our rich cultural history.
Trishaw riders began initially as rickshaw pullers. With the evolution of rickshaws to the three-wheeled trishaws, many became trishaw riders often using the vehicle as their own home or for hawking food.
Trishaw riders were primarily Chinese immigrants who had worked as coolies or rickshaw pullers. Many trishaw riders can converse fairly fluently in different dialects as well as a little English. Most of these rickshaw pullers came to Singapore around the period of World War II, with the bulk arriving during the late 1930s. Most of those who took on the job had little skills and needed to earn a living fast. Many modified their trishaws so that it often served as a roving hawker stall as well.
Today's trishaw riders serve mainly tourists and a large proportion of the tourist rides are driven through the historical sites of Singapore, the blaring music of radios boxed into the trishaws' seats and their brightly coloured lights announcing their presence. Pick up point is at Albert Centre Market and Food Centre, off Rochor Road and these tours cost about S$15 per person.
Singapore's skylines are getting higher and higher, and buildings and technology are transforming this island into one of the top holiday destinations in Asia. While the modern aspect of Singapore is gaining popularity year-on-year, it's the less modern areas of Singapore that travellers are starting to forget.
People tend to forget that as much as Singapore is the epitome of Asian development, it is also rich in cultural diversity and the best way to go about experiencing that is through a trishaw ride.
The yellow trishaw that guests will be riding are driven by elderly Chinese uncles who may look quite feeble due to their age. But do not be fooled, these uncles ride the estimated 10km route at least three times a day.
Trishaw is the oldest form of transport in Singapore and gone are the days when a trishaw is made out of wood or thin metal.
Now, trishaws are built to be sturdier and have a touch of technology. Most trishaws are equipped with a modest sound system, so most travellers have their own "trishaw soundtrack".
It is impossible to fully express how a simple trishaw ride encapsules the cultural heritage and diversity of Singapore but the best and only way for a tourist to experience it is to do it. :-)