Singapore's first motorcycle trip around the world

by Nureza Ahmad

Michael and Sonya Fong were Singapore's first couple to set out on a world motorcycle trip, which they called "Baby Quek's Big Adventure", on 17 September 1995. They travelled for nearly two years, returning on 14 May 1997. Riding their 1,000 cc BMW motorcycle, Baby Quek, their trip managed to raise funds for children's charities through the Singapore Community Chest (ComChest).

Michael Peter Fong, 31, a former advertising account director, had always wanted to travel the world on a motorcycle, but had set into a routine working life. Feeling inspired to fulfil his dreams and break away from his routine, he decided to go on a global motorcycle trip. Accompanying him on this journey was his wife, Sonya, 28, a former Cathay Pacific flight stewardess. Both quit their jobs to travel the world on their 1,000 cc BMW motorbike. They were generously sponsored by Lincoln Cheng, managing director of furniture company Business World Services, who gave S$80,000 to the Fongs, in personal and corporate contributions.

To prepare for the trip, the Fongs fully equipped themselves with essential travelling items, bringing along with them a 10 litre water bag for desert travel, a full set of bike tools and spare parts including brake pads, wheel bearings and tyre valves, cooking utensils and a tent. Expenses were expected to amount to a total of S$60,000, including the S$18,000 bike.

The Fongs left Singapore on 17 September 1995. They were flagged off by Chng Hee Kok, MP for Tampines GRC then, at Rev Cycle Centre in Bedok Industrial Park Estate. They were accompanied to the Woodlands checkpoint by a convoy of more than 100 friends and well-wishers on motorcycles.

They left with the intention of riding through 60 countries through Malaysia, Thailand, the Indian Sub-continent, the Middle east and Europe. From Europe, they had planned to take a ship to New York, and ride all the way down through North America to the southern tip of Latin America. From there, they hoped to travel to South Africa, followed by a flight to Europe before coming home. Along the way they planned to stop at friends' homes or stay at budget lodgings or their tents.

While on the travels, the Fongs sent students at the Canossian School for the Hearing Impaired photographs, letters and postcards of the various places they visited. This sharing of their experiences acted as a form of special geography and history lesson for the students. The students stuck the postcards on a world map for the entire school to read. The Fongs also sent a postcard from every country they reached to ComChest, informing the donors of their location.

Motorcycle distributors Ban Hock Hin and Biker's Junction, and a Changi food outlet called J. M. Makan Corner pledged to donate money to ComChest for every country the couple visited. As of October 1996, their travels raised about S$85,000 for the Community Chest. The Canossian School for the Hearing Impaired was one of its beneficiaries.

The Fongs encountered many memorable experiences along the way. For instance, they endured a riot in India, rode through treacherous mountains in Pakistan on the Karkoram Highway, travelled 700 km through a desert in Iran and avoided land mines in the Western Sahara. In Iran, they frequently encountered men carrying guns, but were not harmed as they were viewed as innocent tourists. For the most part of the journey however, the Fongs encountered friendly, curious but hospitable people. They lived one day at a time with no fixed schedule, and were prepared for daily changes during their journey. Their BMW bike broke down several times but the Fongs repaired it themselves with the spare parts they carried.

It was in Gambia, West Africa, that the Fongs decided that it was time for them to end their motorbike trip. After visiting 29 countries out of the intended 60, the decision to cut short their trip was brought upon by mental exhaustion, the arduous physical demands of the trip, and a yearning for home. Thus, they did not make it across the Atlantic to North America. Instead, from Gambia, they flew to London, after shipping their motorcycle back to Singapore, to make their journey back home.

On 14 May 1997, after 2 years of travelling, the Fongs returned to Singapore on a 14-hour flight from Rome. Their good-luck motorbike, Baby Quek, arrived back in Singapore in October 1997. By the end of the trip, they had raised S$100,000 for the ComChest.

Nureza Ahmad

Fong, M. P. (2000). A tankful of time. Singapore: Raffles.
(Call no.: SING 910.41 FON)

A novel way to study history and geography (1995, August 26). The Straits Times, Home, p. 29.

Couple to raise $60,000 on global m-cycle ride. (1995, September 13). The Straits Times, Home, p. 25.

Couples travels raise $85,000 so far for the Community Chest. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, Home, p. 28.

Leong, C.T. (1995, June 27). Couple quit jobs to go on 2 year trip. The Straits Times, Home, p. 20.

Leong, C.T. (1996, October 21). S'pore biking couple makes it to Europe. The Straits Times, Home, p. 28.

Leong, C.T. (1996, November 11). Motorcycle couple 'an inspiration'. The Straits Times, Home, p. 32.

Leong, C.T. (1997, May 15). Motorbike Fongs return after nearly two years on the road. The Straits Times, Home, p. 1.

Leong, C.T. (1997, May 24). A world trip which could have ended at gun-point in Iran. The Straits Times, Life, pp. 1, 4-5.

Tan, H.Y. (1995, September 18). Off on a 3 year trip around the world on a motorbike. The Straits Times, Home, p. 34.

Further Readings
Friend comes home. (1997, October 18). The Straits Times, Home, p. 51.

The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Fund raising--Singapore
1965-1970 Nation building
Sports and games
Special events--Singapore

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