Saturday, April 4, 2009

ASEAN On Wheels, Part 1

For my first adventure, I have decided to cover ASEAN by road. For Part 1 of the journey, I will cover the Indochina countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar, in addition to Malaysia. (See map on left)

I have set aside two months for this journey, May and June. My co-driver of this trip is Sunny Loo, a close friend of mine for 20 years. I am sure we will have lots of fun together. During this trip, I hope to better understand the car (which is really the travel companion), and what it takes to keep it going for thousands of kilometers, week after week.

I hope to complete the ASEAN on Wheels journey by early next year. The challenges will be different, as regular sea transportations will be a key feature for Indonesia and the Philippines. The ASEAN experience will prepare me for longer trips which I hope to make in the future.

I am looking forward to discovering the different places and peoples of ASEAN. When I was at the STB, we worked very closely with all our ASEAN neighbours and we planned tourism campaigns together as well as crafted policies on how we could promote tourism to the ASEAN region.

It wil be nice to explore ASEAN as a traveler this time. I am sure it will give me a
better appreciation of the immense tourism potential of the ASEAN nations and the challenges faced in realising this potential. Hopefully, I can make a small contribution to the promotion of tourism in ASEAN.

I think what’s needed on a road journey are common sense, some knowledge about cars and adequate preparation. It shouldn’t be too hard. More critical, I think, is having the right mindset.

We should expect to encounter problems along the trip. Overcoming the problems is an integral part of the road journey. They allow us to get to know the places and people better, and in process I am sure will enable us to make a few more friends. With the right mindset, problems, while they can be frustrating at times, can also be fun.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Finally, time for my road journey

The idea for a road journey came to me in September last year after I decided to step down as chief executive of the STB.

With more free time and before I take on another corporate responsibility, I decided it was time to do something that I had always wanted to do but never had the time or opportunity – to see and experience the world at my own pace.

The many working trips I had made to several places around the world were often short, in and out very quickly, without a chance to really see or experience anything indepth.

Around that time, I chanced upon Jim Rogers' two books, Investment Banker and Adventure Capitalist, and I thought, wow, what a great way to experience the world. Then in December, a friend and travel journalist, Siew Hoon, passed me two books for my holiday in Kerala, India – Long Wa Round and Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

By then, I was convinced that this was something I really wanted to do, which was to see the world on wheels. In February, I bought a one-year-old Mitsubishi Pajero.

When I first told my wife, Li Hoon, about my plans, she was, not unexpectedly, initially apprehensive. She probably thought I was joking and my dream would fizzle out after a while. She kept asking who would want to travel with me and told me I knew little about the mechanics of a car.

But when I bought the Pajero, she knew I was serious and determined. She is now resigned to the fact that I will make one trip after another and has been very supportive since.

I have always loved cars and driving. It's the freedom to explore that really appeals, to go to places that few tourists would have a chance to explore, at your own pace. Also, it's about getting out of one's comfort zone to do something out of the ordinary.

I have owned many cars over the years the Pajero is the first car dedicated to road trips. My first motoring holiday was in 1994 when we drove around South Island of New Zealand – 4,000kms over two weeks.

In early March, I joined the Singapore team and participated in the ASEAN Family Rally from Singapore to Hatyai. I was one of 11 cars that took part in the rally, organised by SMSA, led by Leslie Chang. Up and down, we travelled more than 2,000kms in my Pajero. Li Hoon came along.

That's just to prepare for the real adventure I know lies ahead with ASEAN On Wheels.