Singaporean adventurer, author and motivational speaker Khoo Swee Chiow has climbed more than 200 mountains including Everest (three times), K2 and Kangchenjunga. He is also the first Southeast Asian and the fourth person in the world to complete The Explorers Grand Slam – the South Pole, the North Pole and the Seven Summits.
Khoo says, “Some of my most notable adventures include skiing to the South Pole and the North Pole, cycling from Singapore to Beijing and swimming across the Malacca Strait.”
During this Covid-19 period, Khoo cycled 1,000km around Singapore (eight rounds) to raise funds for foreign workers, and raised more than S$16,000 in two weeks. In between preparing for his next adrenaline-fuelled adventure, Khoo took some time out to share with us his favourite travel memories.
Where is home to you?
Singapore will always be home – my family is here.
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?
My dream home is a small house with snow-capped mountains behind and the sea in front.
When and where did you first start travelling professionally as a mountaineer?
I started climbing in 1987. In the beginning, I mostly trekked in Malaysia and Nepal but after ascending Everest and reaching the South Pole, I quit my full-time job in IT and started my adventure career.
Where do you like to regularly revisit?
I take groups of amateur climbers from Southeast Asia to Kilimanjaro and Nepal every year.
Where’s the most remote destination you’ve visited?
In 2002, I took part in the North Pole Expedition where I skied 800km in 45 days. This was a great achievement for me as I’d tried and failed the previous year as I’d gotten frostbite on my fingers.
Where haven’t you been that you would love to go?
Kamchatka, Mongolia. Kamchatka has the highest concentration of active volcanoes in the world. I would love to experience the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolians as well as admire the vast expanse of grasslands.
What has been your most life-changing moment while travelling?
Whenever I climb, I am reminded of how small and insignificant I am in this huge world and vast universe.
Describe the best view you’ve ever witnessed.
In China’s Jiuzhaigou – there, I marvelled at pristine turquoise lakes, majestic waterfalls, rolling forests and snow-capped mountains.
What place have you visited that surprised you the most?
Iran. When I was there, I encountered the most hospitable people I have ever met.
What has been your scariest moment while travelling?
Kayaking in Ilocos Norte, in northern Philippines. I capsized in a storm, got separated from my buddy and was drifting away from land. Thankfully, I was rescued by a fishing boat.
What are some of your top tips to survive jet lag?
Sleep, stretch and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water/juices.
How do you think travel has changed you?
It has taught me to travel light, bring only what you need. That is an important life lesson as well – if you want to go far, you can’t have too much baggage.
What are your three travel essentials?
Camera, GPS and a warm jacket.
Where do you dream of travelling next?
The Silk Road. I’ve never been to a desert and the Silk Road passes through many deserts. I am also fascinated by its rich ancient history.
Any advice for people looking to introduce more outdoor adventure in their lives?
Dream big, start small and learn from someone experienced.
All images courtesy of Khoo Swee Chiow.