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The Last Overland


Conversation 8 minute read

Adventurer, author and filmmaker Alex Bescoby returns to Thailand and Singapore to mark the launch of his history-making roadtrip on BBC Earth Asia.

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In this COMO Conversation, we caught up with award-winning British filmmaker, author and adventurer Alex Bescoby on his return to South East Asia. 

Bescoby visited COMO Metropolitan Bangkok and COMO Metropolitan Singapore to share the epic story of his 13,000 mile drive between Singapore and London — two far-flung destinations at the heart of the COMO story.

A Group Of People On A Road With A Truck And A Group Of People On The Side


The last time I was in Singapore was on August 25th 2019. It was one of the most remarkable days of my life. I was parked at the start-line of the Singapore Formula One circuit, at the wheel of a car built in 1954 — a battered old Series One Land Rover called ‘Oxford’. 

Unlike me, this car had been to Singapore before. Back in 1956, this Land Rover had made history, being the first car to successfully drive overland all the way from London on the far side of the world. The story of that drive — now known as ‘The First Overland’ —  has gone down in motoring history, helped by a TV series commissioned by a young David Attenborough, and a book of the same name that’s never been out of print since it was first published 1957.  

Rather foolishly, 63 years after this car had pulled up on Orchard Road in Singapore, I’d agreed to lead an expedition to take it back along its historic tyre-tracks, accompanied by one of the original expedition crew — 87 year old Tim Slessor. 

It was an idea so audacious that it had garnered attention from across the globe, and the expedition had been dubbed ‘The Last Overland’ in honour of the original journey we were attempting to recreate. In front of me was a police motorcycle escort ready to guide me out to the border with Malaysia. Behind more were almost one hundred Land Rovers from across Singapore who were ready to give us the most incredible send-off imaginable. 

I was preparing to spend the next 111 days of my life in a car with no power-steering, no disc-brakes, no air-conditioning, no heating and a suspension system barely updated since the 18th century. Between us and our final destination lay some of the most difficult and dangerous roads, and some of the most politically sensitive regions, on earth.

A Winding Road Through A Valley

The beauty of travel, by whatever means we choose to do it, is the chance to move slowly through a new place, and to take time to connect with people, histories and cultures so different to our own.

A Vehicle On A Road With Headlights On


Absolutely! You can fly between London and Singapore in just under 14 hours, and probably watch a couple of great movies and a nap along the way. 

The experience of doing the same journey by road, however, was certainly a lot more physically and mentally challenging, and an awful lot longer time-wise. 

However, now I’ve completed it, I feel enormously privileged to have had the chance. There was something deeply satisfying when I was on the plane back to Singapore just now and I looked down out of the window at various points. I could say: “I’ve been there”. The Last Overland has made me feel so much more connected to the incredible planet we call home, and it has made me appreciate just how mind-bogglingly vast, beautiful and fascinating it is.

There were, I’ll admit, certainly times where I wish I’d flown! Particularly when I was crippled with altitude sickness in freezing Tibet, or trapped in a tribal dispute in a remote corner of north-east India. Even then, however, I realised how lucky I was to be in these far-off places that you could only ever reach by car, or on foot.  

The beauty of travel, by whatever means we choose to do it, is the chance to move slowly through a new place, and to take time to connect with people, histories and cultures so different to our own. Overlanding gives you those experiences in bucket-loads, and I’d advise anyone to give it a go, even if you just drive a hundred miles down the road.

A Car Driving On A Road
A House On A Snowy Mountain
A Group Of People Standing Next To A Vehicle With A Large Tire
A Man Driving A Car
A Road In A Valley
A Group Of Men Standing Next To A Row Of Trucks
A Couple Of People In A Truck
A Car Driving On A Road


Finally returning to Singapore after four long years was an experience filled with intense emotion for me. 

Back in 2019, people from all across the island had pulled together to give us the most unforgettable send-off. Before then, so many others from Singapore had given their time, expertise and resources to make this seemingly impossible journey possible. It’s given me a life-long respect, love and admiration for Singapore’s unique history and confident sense of self. It’s a place where it feels like even the most ambitious plans are made possible. 

To be able to bring many of the people who made the Last Overland possible together at COMO Metropolitan Singapore was an unforgettable night. Standing on the hotel’s rooftop right in the heart of Orchard Road, I was able to look down and pick out the exact place where the old Oxford Land Rover had pulled up almost 70 years earlier. I felt the most powerful sense of the past and present colliding, and staring out across Singapore’s breathtaking skyline, it filled me with energy for the new adventures to come.  

Returning to Bangkok was equally moving. Back in 2019, we had arrived in this bustling city just a few days after leaving Singapore, and the welcome we received was on a par with the send-off we’d had in Singapore. I’ll never forget it. Dozens of Land Rover lovers from across Thailand came to meet us and escort us through Bangkok’s legendary traffic, and we were even let loose with our old Land Rover on the race-track of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. I’m not quite sure we’ll be allowed back in!

To see so many old friends come back together at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok — some of whom had even travelled all the way from Malaysia — was a hugely touching moment for me, and the sight of Land Rovers old and new parked up amongst the greenery in the hotel’s forecourt will stay with me for a long time.

A Group Of People Ride On Top Of Elephants


As irresistible as Bangkok has always been to me, no, it certainly wasn’t the end of the journey! From Bangkok we travelled on through Myanmar, India, Nepal, China, Central Asia and Europe. There were many points along the way where we thought we would never reach London (the perils of driving a car designed shortly after World War Two…), but I did survive to share the story. 

I’m now delighted that people in Singapore, Thailand and across Asia can now watch and read about what happened for themselves. The four-part television series of The Last Overland launched on BBC Earth Asia on December 21st 2023, and my book is available in all good bookstores across the region. 

Now the world of travel is at last returning to those heady pre-pandemic days, I hope my story encourages people to get out there and see the world — I can say from experience it’s a much kinder, safer and welcoming place than we’re so often led to believe.

If you’d like to retrace the highlight destinations of The Last Overland for yourself, why not explore staying with us in London, Bangkok, Singapore and many other destinations in between.

Image credits: Grammar Productions / Leopold Belanger

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