Six wheels, five countries
Three Mumbaikars complete a 50-day fun journey making friends along the way
The entrance to Panch Kutir apartments at Juhu is crowded with women, men and children bearing garlands, boxes of laddoos, plates filled with samosas, and tetrapacks of lassi. You would easily imagine that a wedding procession is about to arrive. However, this welcome party is hosted by the families and friends of Vivek Khanna (46), Samrat Kapoor (32), and Rajaram Sonagra (47), who are back from a motorcycling trip that began in Mumbai on February 3, and ended on March 28. The trio travelled from Mumbai to Imphal via Indore, Jhansi, Kushinagar, Siliguri and Kaziranga, and then further onto Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Armed with their sense of adventure, the trio decided to travel 19,000 km, across five countries in a little over 50 days. Planning for the expedition, dubbed “the South East Asia (SEA) ride”, began in October last year.
Why South East Asia? They had seen most of the Indian countryside, and Khanna, a restaurant owner, and Kapoor, who runs a furniture business, had travelled from Mumbai to Singapore and back by road. Accompanying Kapoor on his motorcycle as a pillion rider was his wife, Chetna (30), who is a lawyer by training. Sonagra, a surgeon, joined Khanna and Kapoor from Mumbai to Singapore on his motorcycle, but flew back from Singapore to Mumbai, and reached here on March 3, 25 days before Khanna and Kapoor.
During the first leg, Sonagra’s wife, Deepa (44), a hospital administrator, joined him as pillion rider in Bangkok, and accompanying him back to Mumbai after three days in Singapore.
“Myanmar was the most dreaded of all destinations,” says Khanna. “It was also the first country outside India on our itinerary. But within a day, our impression of it changed completely. We had expected horrible roads, people with guns and grenades, a lack of law and order. But the people we met were respectful and peace-loving.”
In Myanmar, they travelled to Tamu, Kale, Mandalay, Old Bagan, and Naypyidaw. “People in Myanmar have a great road sense,” says Sonagra. “They do not come in your way when you are riding. That doesn’t happen in India. But the road from Kale to Mandalay was quite challenging. There were two big passes. When we were 3,500 feet above sea level, it was a bit scary.”
For Sonagra, this trip counts as a personal accomplishment. He had a hip surgery six years ago, and that had placed tremendous restrictions on his movement. However, with exercise, physiotherapy, and regular training, he has been able to run marathons recently, and was also able to complete this trip successfully without any health problems. He met Khanna and Kapoor in 2010 as part of a bikers’ community dedicated exclusively to owners of Harley Davidson motorcycles. All three own a Harley, and have gone on several biking trips together. However, the South East Asia expedition was the most thrilling of them all.
“We got lot of love and support from fellow bikers,” says Kapoor. “We did not face any discrimination based on our nationality. The people we met on the way made us feel at home. They took us to local eateries with authentic local food, and showed us places that regular tourists do not get to see. In Bangkok, especially, where immigration can be a complicated affair for bikers, the locals helped us with all the formalities, and made things much easier.”
His wife too enjoyed the experience, and calls it “a life-altering one”. However, she is happy to be back home. “I have seen so many places, but there is nothing like your home, your country, and your people. I am proud of my India,” she says.