On 7th April 2016, one of Singapore’s most-respected Alfisti sets off on an overland drive trip from Singapore all the way to the heart of China. The AROC China Heritage Overland Tour is the second such event undertaken by AROC Singapore & Malaysia, and supported by Alfa Romeo. The first took place in 2011, which similarly saw the team driving to China via Thailand and Laos in their beloved Alfa Romeo cars.
We caught up with Abdul Rashid Karyeo, founder and President of the local AROC chapter, and the leader of this year’s expedition, to chat about his upcoming adventure.
Q: Hi Rashid, before we talk about your trip, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your role in the AROC?
A: Sure, the Singapore Alfa Romeo Owners Club is the official registered society, established since 2002. I took on the leadership role as founder. It is not about glory or monetary gains as there is none. It’s a passion for me. This role also accords the Council Member a position with the World Alfa Romeo Owners Club under the manufacturer – FCA. When the time comes, I hope to pass the mantle on to another Alfisti, but it has to be someone who really believes in the Alfa Romeo passion, and will treasure what the Club stands for.
Q: Tell us about this trip.
A: Well, this upcoming road trip is a continuation of the ones that I’ve been dreaming of touring since 2001. I want to drive all over China in an Alfa Romeo. Ultimately, I’m working up to make a return trip from Singapore to Milan and back by 2020. The initial program for this tour was actually to go to Shangri La, but I had to cut it short due to the availability of the other core team member – Othman Zainal from AROC Malaysia – and also terrain suitability.
Q: So, this isn’t your first road trip?
A: Of course, not. I’ve toured many sectors of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam before. So, for this trip up to China, even though we’ll be going via these countries, we’ll be zooming past quite quickly. We’ll be taking the least congested and safest routes, and we hope to really enjoy the scenery and any new sectors along the way.
Q: What are some sights you’re hoping to see?
A: There are a few. In Thailand, there’s a winding road from Lam Phun to Pa Yao, with our final destination in Chiang Rai. In Laos, from Huay Xai to Boten, the road was under construction on the previous trip, so it would be nice to see it completed. It’s also the shortest route to cross Laos into China. In China itself, well, there’s so much to see: Mengla to Kunming on the new highway; Kunming to Dali and Lijiang; roads beyond Lijiang heading towards Shangri La; and the stretch from Chuxiong to Pu’er. These are all scenic routes that pass by small towns and markets that give us an appreciation of what we have in our lives, and respect for these communities.
Q: Anything you’re especially looking forward to?
A: Firstly, of course I am very excited to bring Alfa Romeo to every corner of the world that we can get to, and not relying on 4WD vehicles only. This will help to showcase to the Alfa Romeo world what we’ve done on our journeys. Then, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see all these historic and ancient locations in China, and to experience these communities as someone living with them on the ground, and not just as a tourist. All these places of interest, and the local detours, chatting with the people. That’s what makes the road trip much more than just a destination. I hope to expand the core team for future road trips. It would be great to have more Alfisti joining me to greater China and beyond.
Q: What words of wisdom do you have for anyone contemplating this?
A: Haha, well … it’s certainly not for most people in Singapore … our short daily commutes and lifestyles would make the kind of life lived during these road trips quite beyond comprehension. Also, it’s costly. And there are quite a few other negative factors too. But, like I said, the chance to interact with the communities from such interesting places is rare and very valuable. If you like that, go for it!
Q: How do you prepare for your road trips?
A: There’s a lot of excitement in the planning, and a lot of thinking goes into making the trips a success as planned. But, we have to be prepared for moments of despair too. Our biggest fear is always a car breaking down, or an accident on the roads with no one to help us out. Nevertheless, with enough planning and preparation, and the resolve to be as self-sufficient and self-sustainable as possible, we have prevailed. We need to cater for contingencies, and we will organize recovery and support locally wherever we go. Of course, a lot of prayer and luck, too!
Q: What’s on your bucket list?
A: After this trip, the next one in 2017 will be the Classic Car Drive in Europe with EU Alfisti. Then, in 2018, Beijing and Mongolia. 2020: the return trip to Milan and back, and … this is really wishful thinking now … a grand tour of India in 2022. There are so many more destinations in my dream. And each one is very achievable in an Alfa Romeo. The wife and I backpack to new places at least once a year, and we map out the next destination for our next adventure. We have lots of countries to visit through to our 80s – and we need to do that while our bodies can still endure it!
Q: Besides being the Singapore AROC President, we understand you’re quite the obsessed fanatic. Is that true?
A: Oh, absolutely! My ambition is to have a collection of 12 Alfa Romeo cars, one from each era. Currently, I have six cars in Malaysia – 1982 Giulietta, 1982 GTV6, 1990 164 V6, 1991 33 1.5IE, 2000 156TS, 2003 156GTA – and the 2006 Brera in Singapore, which is the car I’m taking on this drive trip. I’m planning to buy a classic in the UK later this year for the Classic Car Drive in Europe. And by the end of this year, I’ll be getting the new Giulia QV in Singapore. I’ve also been collecting miniatures over the years. It’s like keeping and growing a family and keeping them alive and well throughout my life. I can never get enough of them.
Q: Thank you, Rashid! Any final words?
A: Sure! Remember, my fellow Alfisti … with Alfa Romeo, the driver and car are ONE.
We’ll be covering the drive trip from set-off all the way till Rashid and the team return. Remember to check back to follow their progress!