Tour guides scramble to rearrange itineraries

On the job: Tour guide Ryan Lim,34, pointing out some sights to a Mongolian tourist at the Merlion Park. Tour groups' trip to view and take photos of the iconic Merlion were reduced from the usual half an hour to just 15 mins due to the high levels of air pollution.

SINGAPORE - The PSI hit a new high of 401 at noon yesterday.

But life goes on for those whose jobs require them to be outdoors, like freelance tour guides Ryan Lim, 34, and Desmond Wee, 45.

They had been braving the haze over the past week to conduct city tours.

Said Mr Wee: "We have been doing this for four days straight. No choice, the money has been paid."

Usually, tour groups will be given half an hour to take in the sights at the Merlion Park, a highlight for tourists.

But yesterday, a group of tourists, who arrived from Mongolia on a chartered flight, had only 15 minutes to take photos at the iconic Merlion statue.

Mr Lim felt bad for the tourists.

"It's a pity they were not able to fully appreciate the sights as they came to Singapore with a lot of expectations," he said.

The pair had a headache tweaking the itinerary as many attractions were temporarily closed, and there are limited indoor attractions for tourists other than museums and shopping malls.

Said Mr Lim: "We are scratching our heads for places to take them to. We spent an extra 45 minutes at a shopping mall, which we don't usually do as the itinerary is packed. But today we will just be driving around and ending the tour early."

As freelance guides, they depend on agents to schedule tours for them. Four of Mr Lim's tours this weekend have been cancelled.

He said: "Not only are we working outdoors in hazardous conditions, but we have also suffered a loss in income as a result of the cancellations."

Mr Wee added: "No choice, nothing much we can do,"

For Transnational Group courier Muhammad Danish, 58, spending a lot of time on the road has helped him adapt to the haze.

"After driving for 12 hours and getting in and out of the car, I've got used to it," he said.

Though he was offered a mask by one client, he prefers not to wear one as he does not feel it is necessary.

He felt that those who work indoors will feel the haze more when they go outside.

Mr Muhammad Ayud, 54, a valet at The Fullerton Hotel, stands outside the hotel 10 to 12 hours a day. But he chose not to wear the N95 mask given to him because it was too hot.

"We are in the service line and we have no choice but to stand outside. We can't expect guests to walk in to ask for valet service," he said.

Construction worker Nuralam, 25, who works opposite Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park, gets a new mask from his employer daily but he usually ditches it because of the discomfort.

"In the morning, it was quite hazy, so we wore the mask. But in the afternoon, there's sunlight and it's less hazy, so we threw away the mask because it is hot and uncomfortable," said the Bangladeshi.

Fellow Bangladeshi worker Md Ershadul Rahman, 33, is not worried about his health as "our boss will take care of us".

"Every morning, he gives us masks. And on Thursday, he let us go home an hour earlier because the haze was getting hazardous," he said.