SINGAPORE - From the look of curious onlookers, few could guess that the 120 Harley-Davidsons, Goldwings and Spyders, nicknamed "choppers", roaring down the streets on Sunday (Aug 20) was part of bilateral diplomacy between Singapore and Indonesia.
Escorted by several police officers and road marshals, the long convoy of motorcycles travelled more than 50km around the island to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations and to raise funds for disaster relief.
The funds will go to helping those displaced by the Mount Sinabung eruption in Sumatra, which killed at least 16 people. Some 20,000 Indonesians are estimated to be affected by the ash clouds and lava flow.
Among the riders on Sunday was Senior Minister of State of Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who rode pillion with the convoy at the invitation of Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Ngurah Swajaya.
Mr Ngurah, who came up with the idea, first found out about the close interactions between bikers in Singapore and Indonesia when he arrived here.
"Today's ride is a symbol of the strong bond between our two countries and that the people-to-people interactions between Indonesians and Singapore are as close as that of the leaders," said Mr Ngurah.
Speaking to reporters, Dr Maliki said the path to 50 years of bilateral ties was not an easy one, especially at the beginning.
Said Dr Maliki: "Today, we see a lot of economic, political and business links between Singapore and Indonesia, as well as people links - we have many Indonesians who work in Singapore and likewise, many Singaporean businesses operate in Indonesia.
"The success of Asean and Singapore is when other countries in the region are also successful, so we have to ride on each other's strengths so that we can continue to progress together."
Dr Maliki added that it was not the first time he had been on a chopper and praised the event as a good example of a group of enthusiasts from different countries coming together to raise funds for charity.
Starting from the Indonesia Embassy at noon, the convoy travelled to Tuas, then Changi, through Marine Parade and back to the embassy, ending the ride by around 4pm.
The event is part of a series of exchanges between the two countries, which will culminate in a meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko Widodo in a leaders' retreat in Singapore next month.
Also present was MP for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef and presidential hopeful Farid Khan.
Dressed in decorated biker jackets, many of Sunday's riders are Singaporeans and Indonesians from various motorcycle groups such as the Harley-Davidson groups in Singapore and Batam, Riders Aid, the Goldwingers and several Can-Am Spyder enthusiasts.
Said one rider, Mr Ahmed Elhimdy, a 55-year-old French expatriate who rides a white and red Harley-Davidson softail deluxe: "With plenty of marshals and police escorts, we did not go too fast or too slow. It was a very good ride for the sake of charity."