Colour Malaysia on bicycle
by Joash Kong
THE early 20s — or at least the period after high school — is often a large crossroad for most people at that age.
But not for Low Ley Soon. The 25-year-old architecture post-graduate student from Taylor’s Lakeside has big dreams for himself and the country.
His mission — to cycle the whole of Borneo from Kuching all the way to Kota Kinabalu and stop by towns, kampungs and plantations in the rural areas and exchange a box of colour pencils for a story for his Colour Malaysia+ project.
“(The idea of this) project was conceived while I was in Taiwan for 15 days,” Ley Soon told thesundaypost.
“I learned to cycle around the island and came to this sudden realisation — why not do this in Malaysia? There are many attractions at home just as beautiful as those of any other place overseas,” he reckoned.
Ley Soon started to travel in West Malaysia, taking a total of 38 days for a round trip — mostly by cycling as he was still a student at the time and mindful that he must not go beyond budget.
Despite being able to see more on a bicycle because of the slower pace, he realised his journey lacked human interaction and most of his photos were of food, scenery and landmarks.
He felt out of touch with people and vowed to do it differently the next time — by interacting more with the local populace. And he did just that, starting with Colour Malaysia in August last year.
He expressed a preference towards people in the interior because he felt children from urban areas had more than their rural counterparts and “tend to take things for granted.”
Ley Soon did a test-run before departing Kuching on his “cycle the whole of Borneo” expedition a fortnight ago, taking Kuching-Bau-Lundu-Sematan route and stopping by the various kampungs along the way.
What made cycling under relentless heat and potential road hazards bearable was seeing the smile on children’s faces — and even their parents’ — when he gave them a box of colour pencils and asked them to draw.
“I realise children are more innocent than adults and can contribute a more candid colouring and communicate without fear whereas adults and teenagers tend to have a barrier,” he noted.
During his brief time in that area, he met some young children in the kampungs who drew and coloured very creatively and he felt very inspired by their creativity.
“I asked them to draw local fruits and while most of them drew standard coloured fruits, I was intrigued when I saw one of them draw a banana that was black, brown and blue,” he chuckled at the recollection.
Another moment of inspiration came when Ley Soon was invited to a few local schools in the area where he gained a lot of clarity viewing the artworks of the students there.
He realised that in school, students were often told things like bananas are yellow or green depending on ripeness but he felt students should be encouraged to express their creativity freely.
He also spoke of an inspiring encounter with a few Malay workers between Bau and Lundu who shared drawings of their dreams — and the oldest among them was 35 years old. Together, they talked about their aspirations for a brighter future.
From these experiences, he realised life in the countryside isn’t as luxurious as life in the city. And he hoped to share such understanding of rural life with especially cityfolk so that they will understand the how people in the countryside live.
Ley Soon also had to constantly remind himself to be prudent since he was travelling solo and had to foot most of the expenses himself. None of his friends wanted to join him on his adventure.
However, he is grateful to well-wishers who heard of his cause and sponsored the colour pencils.
He also thanked those who were willing to share their dreams with him on his journey which he called a real “eye-opener.”
He couldn’t wait to see what the next leg of the journey would bring, and is anxious to explore the colours of Malaysia through the drawings of his journey.
“You must have the courage and perseverance to do the things you want. Dream what you dream and do what you want. Even though the environment is foreign and unfamiliar, go ahead and try it,” he said.
Everyone can learn from Ley Soon that regardless of conditioning or upbringing, there is a black, brown and blue banana in life — if you wish to see it.