The helpful homeless: Kuala Lumpur’s humble tour guides

Travel Wire Asia
By Travel Wire Asia July 3, 2018 01:00

The helpful homeless: Kuala Lumpur’s humble tour guides

BEYOND KUALA LUMPUR’S stunning skyscrapers and glittery city skyline, sprawling shopping malls and trendy cafes is a dark secret that can only be seen late into the night.

It’s the city’s homeless community.

According to a survey conducted by Kuala Lumpur’s City Council (DBKL), the number of homeless people rose by three-fold, from 600 in 2014 to at least 2,000 people in 2015.

Some efforts have been made to help this mysterious bunch, from transit homes to soup kitchens. However, ultimately, the goal is to help the homeless find a job.

And one local organization has found just the right fit.

Dark secret no more

Founded by Shyam Priah, Yellow House KL is a volunteer hostel and multi-project volunteer organization that aims to offer sustainable help to the homeless.

The organization recently launched a programme called Unseen Tours Kuala Lumpur, which hires the homeless to provide tourists with unique tours in and around Malaysia’s bustling capital.

“I believe in sustainable help. If you want to lift people off the streets, we need to first treat them like humans. Ask them what they want, give them dignity,” Malay Mail quoted Priah as saying.

And who better to guide travelers around Kuala Lumpur than the people who spent the most time on its streets?

Safe or sinister

Trusting a stranger to guide you to the nooks and crannies, and some unchartered territory in a foreign city seems hard enough, what more a homeless person who has probably lived a hardened life.

That having said, you may rest your worries as the tour guides have undergone a grueling interview and training session before being picked out as suitable candidates.

They also have to possess a certain education level, passion, commitment, discipline, be able to speak English and be free from substance abuse. In fact, chosen candidates are subject to a random urine test every month to ensure they are substance free.

During their initial training sessions, the tour guides are paid a small token to keep them motivated. This helps them understand the pride in earning money for their work as well.

The tour guides earn an average of RM500 (US$123) monthly.

To date, more than 100 tourists from Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Germany and the UK have bought the walking tour packages.

“We really enjoyed our two-hour conversation with Josh, who took us to several sites and buildings in Kuala Lumpur where strange noises and sights have been linked to recent/historical murders. More than the ghost stories, we enjoyed walking through this busy city with someone who knows it well and had lots of local knowledge to share about what living here is like,” reads one review on TripAdvisor.

“I’ve heard that these tours have only started a few months ago, and the guides have just started also. I didn’t detect any nervousness or teething problems. I thought the guides were competent throughout. I would highly recommend this tour if you want to see Kuala Lumpur from a different perspective, get closer than other tours do, and want a smaller tour experience,” reads another.

The new age city tour

There are three categories to Unseen Tours KL’s offerings:

The haunted tour: Tourists are taken to buildings and places that are reportedly haunted by mystical beings and spiritual presence. If you’re a thrillseeker looking for creepy places to explore, or simply someone who wants to have a different perspective of the city, this one is for you. The tour takes two hours and 15 minutes.

The street art tour: Those who want to understand Malaysia through art will be hardpressed to find a more enriching experience. Unseen Tours KL’s street art tour guides tourists to 10 locations where local and international artists have left their message of independence, unity, multi-culture, and love. The tour takes two hours and 45 minutes.

The multicultural tour: Tourists are brought to locations which will showcase with rich cultural diversity, such as numerous temples, mosques, and churches. The tour takes three hours and 15 minutes.

There are currently five tour guides running Unseen Tours KL. All tours are priced at RM55 (US$13.60) per person, and bookings can be done online.

Interested? Visit Unseen Tours KL here.

The post The helpful homeless: Kuala Lumpur’s humble tour guides appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Source: Travels

Travel Wire Asia
By Travel Wire Asia July 3, 2018 01:00
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