Mr. Ngo Yoke Kwang or more fondly known as Kwang has been an avid biker ever since he was in his teens. At 14, he rode his very first bike and has never looked back since. His passion for bikes was so intense he eventually made a career out of it. He now owns the well-known Welly Sungai Buloh, in Selangor, Malaysia. Welly is not only known for selling second-hand high capacity motorcycles but also brand new ones. Most recently, he was appointed the dealer for Austrian-made KTM bikes.
The year 1999 marks the first of Kwang’s many biking adventures. Joining other Superbike clubs, Kwang covered over 7,000 km in 14 days, travelling to places like Sabah, Sarawak, Indonesia, Brunei and Kalimantan. Having gained enough experience travelling long distance on bikes as well as organising numerous trips to Thailand, Kwang made a historic biking trip in 2001 with a route that would take him and his fellow biking buddies from K.L to Shangri-La, a city located in the Northwest of Yunnan Province (South of China). Kwang was inspired to pick Shangri-La due to its symbolic and luxurious Oriental exoticism and as well as a place showcasing rare female dominance in a country where male dominance prevailed.
The scenery throughout the journey was mind blowing with crystal clear lakes providing some wallpaper-like background. One particular lake called “Lugu” has a visibility of more than 6 metres. The journey took all 12 bikers 18 days to complete, covering a total distance of 15,000km. There was an incident where one of the bikers fell more than 40ft into a ravine due to lethargy. He however miraculously emerged from the ravine unscathed.
The stressful and thankless job of organizing road trips, with endless problems of getting authorities to approve entry permits / visas for both riders and machines added with logistic nightmares which include designated fuel stops, hotels, meals and most importantly, the safety of everyone, did not dampen Kwang’s adventurous spirit. In fact, he took it positively as a challenge to further his adventures into inland China and beyond.
Slightly less than a year after his ride to Shangri-La, Kwang was up and ready for his next journey – Inner Mongolia. Having ridden from Malaysia to China back in 2001, Kwang decided to have the bikes shipped directly to China in a freight container which he bought, and start the journey from there. The Inner Mongolia journey took him and his hardcore riding buddies over 32 states in China in a total of 22 days.
Having been to Shangri-La and Inner Mongolia, Kwang took a 2 year hiatus to plan for the 2004 Silk Road Adventure. Kwang explained that it took such a long time to plan due to the fact that they needed all the provincial heads’ approval for them to ride through, in addition to approvals from the Chinese Navy, Police and city councils. They also needed to apply for temporary bike licenses and registration plates. He further explained that unlike 4×4 vehicles, bikes were not allowed or welcome in certain parts of China due to security reasons.
The Silk Road adventure started in Xi’an to the border of Kazakhstan and it took them to some of the routes used by the legendary monk in the epic “Journey to the West”. Along the journey, they visited jungles which is over 1.5 billion years old, beautiful lakes as well as encountering wind blowing at a speed of 120km/h. There were tales that trains were blown off the track by such wind. Strong wind, hill slopes erosion and other road hazards delayed their journey but nevertheless all the riders made it through safely. Kwang explained that Silk Road actually consists of 3 roads, one to Europe, the other to Kazakhstan and the last one to India. They also managed to visit Shanhaiguan where the Great Wall of China starts.
In 2005, Kwang’s biking group joined some 4×4 vehicles to make a journey starting from London to Malaysia. That journey took them over 70 days. In 2006, he made another trip to China. This time covering the 7 provinces of Tianjin, Hubei, Shanxi, Jiangxi, Gansu, Sichuan and Chongqing. One of the most memorable parts of this journey was visiting the 3 Gorges Dam. Kwang explained that the 7 provinces journey covered more man-made structures than natural beauty and in most parts, it was heavily populated.
Kwang took a 2-year break after his 2006 adventure due to the travel ban imposed in most parts of China for the preparation of the Olympic. The urge to travel proved too great for this humble, down to earth man. Thus in 2009, he and his seasoned riding buddies were off again, this time to Xinjiang, China. According to Kwang, Xinjiang is about four times the size of Malaysia and has one of the longest deserts in the world. The desert route is over 700 km and encountering sandstorms is the norm there. When a sandstorm hits, visibility is sometimes less than 3 feet and they need to break their journey to take shelter. Kwang adds that they will be lucky if they can reach the rest area in time as each rest area is over 300 km apart. An interesting part of this journey is finding out that the locals do not bury the dead as temperatures of over 40°C, coupled with dry air will dry up corpses in a matter of 4 days. The elevation on most part of the journey is over 3900 meters above sea level. With high altitude and thin air, it makes this journey a very challenging one.
At the time of writing, Kwang and his buddies are already on their way to Tibet. This journey was inspired by his 2009 trip to Xinjiang and it is also one of his long time dreams to visit Tibet on a bike. The bike of his choice this time around is the Austrian make KTM SMT. This trip will take them from Chendu to Lhasa and all riders are required to take special high altitude sickness medication as the land is over 5000 meters above sea level. This trip consists of 11 bikes and will take them 23 days to complete. Do stay tuned for the story.
Story by: Justin Hong.
Pictures by: Ngo Yoke Kwang.
©2010.Justin Hong. All Rights Reserved.