Past Adventures

As part of compulsory military service for all healthy Singaporean males, I served in the military for over 2 years after high school, and I had extensive navigation training in subtropical and tropical terrain. This included being dropped off in the middle of a swamp in Borneo (in groups of five) and having to find a way back to base camp while simultaneously avoiding nearby crocodiles. Having survived such experiences, I subsequently became interested in hiking and backpacking.

My hiking trips outside the States include touring glaciers in Ushuaia, Argentina, climbing to the peak of Torres del Paine, a mountain in Chile, and exploring the ancient ruins at Teotihuacan, Mexico. The photo shown was taken near the peak of Torres del Paine.

My Name and Background

Many people, upon encountering my name for the first time, have wondered how to address me, and I have been asked several times why my first name (Kai Fong Ernest) has three words or why it is so long. Informally, I prefer to be called "Ernest" or "Ernest Chong". To put it succinctly, my full name "Kai Fong Ernest Chong" is a reflection of my Singapore heritage, and I have no middle name.

Singapore is a multiracial multicultural country with four official languages - English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. In Singapore, English is the first language used in all schools and most workplaces, especially among people of different races. The other three languages are the languages of the largest three ethnic groups in Singapore, and Malay is designated as the national language due to historical reasons, although most Singaporeans do not speak Malay. A typical Singaporean is bilingual in English and one of the three ethnic languages.

The three main ethnic groups have very different naming conventions (of Chinese, Arabic, and Indian origins respectively), thus the Singapore government has adopted a naming convention of "no convention"—as long as the name uses the Latin alphabet—that allows a choice for following naming conventions based on ethnicity if one prefers. Full names in all Singaporean passports are not distinguished by first/given names and last/family names (surnames), and the notion of middle names does not make sense. There is just one entry labeled "name" in each passport, and the last/family name (surname) is not necessarily the first or the last word in a full name.

I am Chinese by ethnicity, and the name in my passport (Chong Kai Fong Ernest) follows the Chinese convention of last/family name appearing first, and the first/given name appearing last. Strictly speaking, "Kai Fong" is a transliteration of my Chinese name in the Latin alphabet, while "Ernest" is my English name. Both names are incorporated into my first name, and it is fairly common for Singaporean Chinese to have both a Chinese name part and an English name part. Before my undergraduate years, I have sometimes been called "Ernest Chong Kai Fong" (e.g. here and here).