November 18 to 24 will witness two Ipohites, 54-year-old Ernest Balasingam and his 20-year-old son, Nathanael, embarking on a gruesome 800-km cycling journey for reason of charity. Their road journey from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai through the Golden Triangle (Laos-Burma-Thailand) will take seven days.
“This year every ringgit we raise will go to Yayasan Sultan Idris Shah Ipoh which, since the mid-80s, has been providing physical and occupational rehabilitation to the underprivileged. We believe our effort and the money raised will be the first step in helping stroke sufferers to gain some mobility in respect of their activities for daily living,” said Ernest to Ipoh Echo.
Since 2011, the Ipoh-based lawyer has taken part in eight charity rides in Thailand. When asked what motivates him to do so, he replied, “To live out a dream as a father to be able to cycle 800km with my son in a week. This is our third outing together. The first was in 2015 from Bangkok to Phuket and the second in 2016 from Bangkok to Phitsanulok.”
“It’s also to bring change and meet my friends from the four corners of the globe. It’s not where we ride or when we ride but who we ride with is important,” he posited.
Here is Ernest’s advice for beginners: “Don’t think about it, just do it. Ipoh is the best place in the country to cycle. There is no necessity to put your two-wheelers in cars and drive 50km to cycle. You can step out of your house and the road will take you anywhere in Ipoh.”
He hopes the state government will build cycling lanes and assign bicycle-friendly routes.
The duo is part of the AWOL (A Week of Laughter) team, a Malaysian-based cycling fraternity whose members cycle to support causes close to their hearts.
“AWOL came about because most of us have been cycling as a group since 2011. We’ve developed a very close synergy. Our tour has always been about fun and camaraderie. It’s not a race nor is it a challenge to see who is the strongest. It’s just a leisure ride while enjoying the scenery, culture and food,” he explained.
Members from different nations usually cycle in Thailand during the third week of November.
“Bad days are part and parcel of the tour. You start fresh but eventually you’ll have the common muscle fatigue, backaches, saddle sore, heat stroke and urinary tract infections, but we get through them somehow. As much as it’s a charity tour, it’s also an individual challenge with the weather, terrain and distance,” said Ernest.
“You come with the heart to make a change be it at home or in Thailand. We expect our riders to contribute and serve,” he concluded.
To follow Ernest and Nathanael’s journey, check out the AWOL Riders Facebook page.
Those wishing to donate can visit www.ysis.org.my for details. Yayasan Sultan Idris is located at Lot 158413, Lorong Bercham 11, Ipoh. It can be reached at 05 548 1066. Donations are tax exempted. Receipts will be issued.