Off to see the world
Peter Yoong is set to pursue his dream of touring the globe on his bike.
In 2004, two cyclists who lived thousands of miles apart crossed paths. They did not speak to each other, but the chance encounter sparked Peter Yoong’s interest to take up bicycle touring seriously.
Yoong was driving near Templar Park in Selangor when he saw Englishman Rob Lilwall cycling uphill. He was curious but did not stop to speak to Lilwall. But he read about him later in
The Star and learnt that Lilwall was on a three- year solo world tour. The cyclist was then in his mid 20s and had cycled from Siberia.
“I saw him cycling up a hill and later read about his tour.
“In 2009, I seriously consider touring the world on a bicycle after reading and following Lilwall on his world cycling tour. I felt excited reading his book four times and watching his video. From then on, a world bicycling tour was on my bucket list,” recalls Yoong, 55, who also befriended the cyclist by e- mailing him and taking a keen interest in his cycling trips.
Today, the nature guide is making plans for his world cycling tour which will take one- and- a- half to two years. He hopes to begin his cycling world tour late next year. He also plans to raise money for charity on his trip.
Although Yoong’s plans are not concrete yet, he has never been closer to realising his dream.
Uphill and downhill
Yoong has always been an adventure and outdoors lover. He loved cycling and did so whenever he had time. But it was his scoutmaster Najib Abdullah who introduced him to cycling expeditions in the late 1970s. Najib planned and organised cycling trips for his scouts during year end school holidays. When he was 18, Yoong told his father he intended to cycle from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. His father threw a fit. “He said I was either stupid or crazy or both. Being a loving father, he was willing to buy a bus ticket for me to go to Langkawi and back. I declined his offer,” Yoong recalls. He understood that his father was concerned about his safety but he was still disappointed he could not go touring. But the setback only made him more adamant to take up bicycle touring, which he did eventually. “I was studying in the Malaysian Institute of Art for my diploma in commercial art. During my third year, I did some good freelance work for a small agency doing airbrush illustrations, interior design and logo designs,” says the freelance illustrator and graphic designer. Soon, he saved enough to buy his dream bicycle. He even had pocket money for his tour.
“I bought a second hand 10- speed road bike for RM110 from my scout friend,” he recalls with a tinge of sadness for that trusty old bike is long gone. But Yoong now has six bikes.
Three bikes – a Polygon mountain bike, Surly touring bike and Brompton folding bike - are strictly for his own use.
On his tours, Yoong insists on keeping his bike with him in his room. His guesthouse hosts sometimes find that problematic. “I told them if they don’t allow my second wife – which is my bicycle – in the room, then I will go somewhere else,” he says.
After he bought his first dream bike, it would still be another three years before he joined a cycling tour.
“In 1982, I was assistant convoy leader during a 20- day bicycle tour from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. After that tour, I became even more passionate about bicycle touring,” he recounts.
But soon other priorities such as building a career and raising a family took over. Cycling was relegated to the back burner.
He brought up three sons – now aged 17 to 26 – and took care of his ageing parents.
Six years ago, he started touring on his bike again. Yoong relished those experiences.
On his Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok solo tour last year, Yoong had to look for accommodation in Bagan Serai, Perak as it was late. He located two nearby churches on his smartphone but one was locked. But in the other church, he was allowed to spend the night in the backyard.
He was settling down for the night when a man came over to chat and told him what lies beyond the fence.
Yoong wished the man had kept the information to himself.
“I kept the light on until morning. I only manage to sleep after 1am and woke up at 5am.”
Well, behind the fence and hidden by the bushes was a graveyard.
Three years ago, Yoong had the opportunity to realise his dream of touring in the United States. He had also gone on cycling expeditions in Thailand and Singapore.
His opportunity to cycle in the US came when he went to attend
his eldest son Paul and his niece Tracy’s graduation ceremony.
“So off I went for a long overdue cycling tour after their graduation. I took a few days off cycling around Laconia and around the White Mountains in New Hampshire in the United States. What an awesome spring tour!”
He was blown by the freedom of riding past flowering trees and beautiful lakes. He enjoyed the solitude with cold breeze blowing.
Yoong also had some scary moments during his US tour.
“I was cycling to my next host’s house and it had been raining almost all day. I was cold, wet, miserable and hungry,” he recounts.
As he pedalled on, he saw a police patrol car cruised past and stopped 150m up the road. The police officer then alighted from the car and seemed to be waiting for Yoong.
Yoong got nervous, wondering what offense he had committed. Yoong slowed down, hoping the cop would get bored waiting for him, but that didn’t work.
When Yoong reached the policeman, he was friendly.
Yoong told him that he was cycling to Scott Thompson’s home. “I’m Scott Thompson,” replied the policeman who proceeded to escort Yoong to his home and fed him a generous dinner.
It’s positive experiences like this on his trips that inspire the avid cyclist.
“It made me want to go on more bicycle tours,” he says.
His US experience was so memorable that he plans to spend Christmas with Paul and his sister Trace Hubbard at the end of 2018 during his cycling world tour.
During those three winter months, Yoong does not plan to go cycling. He will stay with Paul.
He also hopes that his sons could join him at some point during his world tour. Yoong wants his wife, Alice Low, to join him when she can get away from work.
“Then I can indulge in a bit of luxury during her hotel stay,” he says.
Also on his bucket list is camping out in the snow.
Yoong chuckles: “It’ll be right outside my sister’s house. If the weather gets too cold, I will just move into the house.”
The time is finally right for Yoong to embark on his world tour. He is now free of his commitments to seek the adventure of a lifetime.
Yoong and his bicycle crossing from Tanjung Pengelih in Johor to Singapore on a ferry.
Yoong enjoying the breathtaking sight of White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire while on a short biking tour in the United States.
Ann Burkov, six, was the youngest biker Peter Yoong had hosted. She rode with her Russian father Andrey from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in July.