Off to see the world

Peter Yoong is set to pur­sue his dream of tour­ing the globe on his bike.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@ thes­tar. com. my

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.

Dream trip

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.


— Pho­tos: PETER YOONG

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.

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