Hongkonger's daughter inspires 25,000 kilometre Asian motorcycle odyssey

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 11:31am

When Hong Kong resident and former investment banker Morgan Parker wanted to give his nine-year-old daughter a different perspective from her "privileged expatriate life", he hit on the idea of embarking on a motorcycle odyssey across Southeast Asia in the name of good causes and little-known charities.

On March 1 of last year, the 38-year-old revved up his BMW F800GS motorbike. It took him for a 25,000 kilometre ride, from Hong Kong through China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and finally to his home town of Brisbane, Australia.

Parker's 125-day adventure is the subject of a documentary series to be launch next Sunday on National Geographic Adventure Channel.

In each country, Parker chose to shed light on an under-recognised grass-roots charity tackling a critical local issue. In Hong Kong, Parker chose the Clean Air Network - a non-profit organisation that pressures the government to implement policies to combat air pollution. For Parker, the problem was causing Hong Kong to lose its place as one of "the world's greatest cities".

The first episode of the series - which sees Parker pumping iron to build up enough strength to lift a bike that weighs 250kg when fully loaded, and receiving vaccines ahead of the journey - was shown yesterday by the Clean Air Network.

When asked, Parker defended riding a motorcycle to make a point about air pollution: "Motorbikes are very fuel efficient, and my BMW is one of the best. It uses unleaded fuel, the best available."

Parker's mission was given the green light by the Clean Air Network. "They told me that people need to get around, and the message is not to stop people from driving cars, but to do it in the most responsible way that they can."

Parker lives with his daughter Aria, who joined him at several locations along the way. He said his project had an extensive offset programme managed by Carbon Neutral. It planted trees and donated money to environmental initiatives to offset the carbon emitted by the bike, and from the air travel and cars used by the film crew.

When asked about the stand-out moment of the journey, Parker pointed to day 16.

"I had to ride 150 kilometres to open a school in Laos. It was supposed to be the driest part of the year, but instead the temperature was below zero and it had been raining for weeks. I was riding on a dirt road that had long since turned into mud."

A journey that should have taken two hours ended up taking 15. Parker's pre-journey fitness programme paid off: he came off his bike no fewer than 20 times and wound up suffering from hypothermia.

"That day, I wondered how the hell I was going to make it all the way to Australia. I was almost broken."

But the next day brought a change of heart: "I saw how much it meant for those rural schoolchildren in Laos to see the bike, and to have the film crew visit them."