Lion City from a side-car

I FIRST heard about Sideways, a unique sightseeing tour company utilising Vespas fitted with side-cars, at the Passion Made Possible brand launch for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

But it wasn't until later, during a tour for the Malaysian media in Kampung Glam, that I came across Sideways rider Yusri Salim, 42, who had stopped near the Sultan Mosque.

Yusri gamefully obliged to have pictures taken with a Korean tourist sitting in the side-car, who was awfully accommodating to a bunch of strangers with cameras, and briefly told us about the services his company offered, before referring us to its website at Sideways.sg.

Yusri, we later learned, once went on a solo expedition riding a scooter all the way from Singapore to Thailand and back.

While the Vespa and side-car were attracting a lot of attention, it was obvious that many tourists, due to communication issues, did not understand that they could enjoy a 30-minute ride around Kampung Glam for a small fee ranging from S$30 (RM93.45).

Before long, we met Simon Wong, 44, the founder of Sideways, the company behind these jacked-up Vespas.

Excited by the prospect that Malaysian journalists seemed keen on these bikes, British-born Wong started talking about the history behind his company.

Wong told us that his parents had moved from Hong Kong to London, where he was born, and where he met his wife – who was from Penang – while both were studying in university.

The couple then moved to Singapore, but tragically, she passed away about nine years ago of stomach cancer.

Soon after, Wong joined a few friends and started conducting fundraisers for cancer research and other causes.

During a fundraiser for victims of Nepal's devastating earthquake in 2015, he met a man who had some refurbished Vespa motorbikes that he wanted to contribute.

Wong and his friends placed seven bikes on Orchard Road and began charging people who wanted to pose for photos with the vintage bikes. All proceeds of that venture went to charity.

Wong added: "People then started asking how much it would cost for a ride, and that gave us an idea for Sideways."

After roping in riders who were hardcore bike enthusiasts (the lead riders were mechanics too), and with a small fleet of bikes that had side-cars welded to them, they officially open for business this month.

Before that, the company conducted tours around heritage sites such as Kampung Glam and Chinatown.

Our group met up with Wong again at the Esplanade after a show by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Seeing his fleet of five Vespas fitted with side-cars, five journalists opted to go along for a ride, while the taller ones who had problem fitting into the side-cars accompanied Wong in his four-wheel drive.

There was a little bit of drama when the lead Vespa broke down, but since the driver was also a mechanic, he fixed things in a jiffy, and all the journalists safely arrived at the rendezvous point.

Wong also plans to add more bikes to the fleet, and is open to using other vintage bikes too.

For more, visit the Sideways Facebook page.