All I could see was the mountain range. It just went on and on. It was really tranquil and I felt a sense of calm wash over me
The Guest Editor of our Journeys issue Terence Tay tells us about the motorcycle journey that changed his life forever
Singaporean motorcyclist Terence Tay left his job as an economics lecturer and chose to spend 83 days on the road travelling solo through Southeast Asia. The journey took him through Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. Now his journey is complete he has set up his own motorcycle tour holiday company in northern Thailand to help inspire other young Asians choose a life of adventure.
WHY CHOOSE TO RIDE AROUND SOUTHEAST ASIA?
Being an economics lecturer, I was always curious about the economic, and social development in Singapore’s backyard. Broadly speaking, we’ve heard so much about being part of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) family from the press and government but what did it mean for the man in the street? I was hoping to find out for myself.
THE BEST DAY OF THE EXPEDITION
That’s the day I left home. After the long wait, it felt great to finally get going and get rid of all that nervous energy.
THE MOST SCENIC PLACE I’VE WOKEN UP
That would be at a guesthouse, up in the highlands of Laos near the Nam Pao International Border. I remember looking out across the courtyard and all I could see was the mountain range. It just went on and on. It was really tranquil and I felt a sense of calm wash over me.
MY MOST CHALLENGING DAY ON THE ROAD
I developed a bad case of arthritis in my wrists and elbows in Vientiane, Laos. I can still remember looking at Google Maps, trying to figure out how I’m going to get from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, which is about 340km, in my condition. Eventually, I had to stop in Vang Vieng, halfway between those two cities. It felt like the longest day of the ride, emotionally speaking.
MY BIGGEST CONCERN
Potholes… and loose gravel. I had some very good Pirelli off-road tyres fitted so that helped a lot, but I did have a terrible scare when I hit a pothole at speed riding from the south to the north of Laos. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience and I had a dented rim to show for it.
WHAT SURPRISED ME THE MOST ABOUT THE JOURNEY
I was really surprised by the kindness of strangers all across Southeast Asia, especially in the rural areas. That was my biggest takeaway. The village people I met really made an effort to make me feel welcome. They often plied me with free drinks, food and shelter. I would always be greeted with a warm smile and they would try and help give me advice on the best way to get to the next town.
THE FIRST ITEM I THROW IN MY LUGGAGE
Flip-flops. After being in the saddle all day, there’s nothing like changing into a pair of flip-flops to explore the town. I would get annoyed if my riding gloves were stolen, but I would get really mad if someone pinched my flip-flops.
THE ONE PLACE I’D LIKE TO GO BACK TO
That’s a difficult question to answer, really. But if I really had to choose, it would be Laos. The town of Thakhek, in particular, is very charming with its mix of colonial buildings, cafes and shophouses along the river front. And just further out of the town you’ll find padi fields, caves and a mountain pass. It’s a great place to elope to for the weekend.