It feels so good to be on the road, agree? Well for someone who doesn’t like sunlight or pollution perhaps being on the road is such a bad idea. For me personally standing on the road is kinda challenging especially when it comes to the idea of hitchhiking. Do you know what hitchhiking is? Lemme try to introduce you to this awesome term for the traveler.
“Hitchhiking (also known as thumbing, hitching, or autostop) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their vehicle such as car, motorbike and not limited to lorry or truck. One thing you should know is, the ride is for free”.
Many travelers nowadays use hitchhiking as a primary mode of travel for the better part of the last century. The hitchhikers’ methods of signaling to drivers differ around the world but mostly hitchhikers use various hand signals and may simply make a physical gesture or display a written sign to show the drivers the direction hitchhikers want to go for. The gesture involves extending the arm toward the road and sticking the thumb of the outstretched hand upward with the hand closed (I hope you can imagine how it looks like). Hitchhiking is pretty common in the United States, Australia, and some European countries but not so familiar in Asia especially Southeast Asia countries. Plenty of European and American travelers have introduced hitchhiking in Asia countries but not so many people are welcome for this new culture of traveling. Most people will think that you are poor and have no shame standing on the road begging for a ride. Well, the first time I saw traveler doing this, trust me I thought the same. I even felt ashamed imagining myself doing the same thing on the road, I was like “NO FUCKING WAY”. But guess what, I’ve tried hitchhiking and once I fell in love with a Russian hitchhiker (It was a mistake, believe me HAHA) So now what? you will never know until you try right?
So what’s the motivation behind doing hitchhiking? Many travelers I’ve met before told me the first reason is to save money during traveling. It’s not being stingy but being smart of managing budget instead. The thing is if you wanna travel longer you gotta save money for not using public transportation so you just spend money for food instead. So the solution for moving your ass from one place to another place is of course by hitchhiking.
Then how about place to stay? Many travelers are using “Couchsurfing” platform to get free place to stay with local people. I’ll not blame you if you have no idea what is Couchsurfing. Lemme tell you in the short one. Couchsurfing is a global community service that connects travelers with a global network of people who are willing to share their homes with strangers (or, as we like to call them, friends you haven’t met yet) or to find a place to stay for free. So with Couchsurfing, you can stay with locals in every country on earth. Travel like a local, stay in someone’s home and experience the world. If you wanna know more you shall check it on internet (DO NOT BE LAZY :P).
Or to press the traveling budget the truly travelers who are traveling such a long time might sleep on the tent. Meaning that these typical travelers are ready with a sleeping bag, mat, and even a small tent and or hammock. So they will never be worried about sleeping arrangements as long as they have a tent. Wherever they go whenever they arrive in a random place, a tent is like a home for them to survive from the darkness. Next, the second reason of doing hitchhiking is to experience how it feels like meeting new people sharing stories and tasting the wild road vibe. So now let’s get back to my story of hitchhiking. I wanna make it more specific into hitchhiking in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
PART I: HITCHHIKING IN MALAYSIA – EVERY TIME IS HIGHWAY
I started my journey from Indonesia in March 2018 by flying from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur. I joined sponsored trip in Raub, Pahang for 2 days and one night together with other 4 international bloggers ( YOU MAY CHECK MY INCREDIBLE JOURNEY WITH 4×4 CAR IN MY PREVIOUS POST ON MY BLOG http://windaedelwis.com/2018/04/03/culture-resides-in-raub-malaysia/).
Once finished the trip, I and a friend explored Malaysia by hitchhiking. The first journey we didn’t hitchhike from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh because our host apparently was around Kuala Lumpur and headed to Ipoh at the same day we left Kuala Lumpur so we were in the same car together and we just shared fuel during our trip (we stayed couple days in Ipoh with him).
Next journey we went straight to Penang by hitchhiking and luckily we stopped three cars before we reached the mainland which is Bukit Mertajam to catch the boat to the island. We stayed a few days in Georgetown, Penang. The next move was to Langkawi, we tried to do hitchhiking on this trip as well. We managed to walk the first 5 kilometers to get a good spot for stopping cars. But then we needed to walk 5 more kilometers to reach the main road. Sadly we didn’t manage to stop any car for more than 30 minutes then we decided to take a bus to go a little further close to the highway. Guess, we needed to walk 5 more kilometers to find the correct highway spot going to Kuala Perlis to catch the boat to Langkawi. And again, nobody stopped for us. It was really tough to hitchhike at that time since in some areas in Malaysia people are just scared to pick up strangers because they are not familiar enough with the concept of hitchhiking.
Most of them are still confused and have no idea what’s going on. So we waited for 2 hours and for us it was really tiring and a bit tricky since we ran out of time. So we decided to go back to Butterworth to catch the bus to Kuala Perlis. Once we arrived in the bus station, all tickets before 4 pm were sold out already the only option we had only the last bus on 9 pm. Because we really had no choice, so we took the bus and we needed to stay one night in Kuala Perlis because we couldn’t catch the last boat to Langkawi at 7 pm. Fortunately we found the host in very last minute in Kangar which is 15 kilometers from the ferry but anyway we felt lucky we had place to stay.
(Kuala Perlis Jetty to Langkawi)
The next day, we left around 12 pm to reach the ferry by hitchhiking. After 20 minutes of waiting, one car stop for us and she brought us straight to the ferry since our driver would pick her brother at the same time. We arrived in Langkawi around 6 pm and we hitchhiked again to reach the west side of Langkawi which is 25 kilometers from Kuah, where the harbor is located. So we managed to arrive at 9 pm after stopping 2 cars. We stayed only one night there camping with a tent close to the beach. The next day we left the west part of Langkawi to get back to the harbor by hitchhiking. We managed to stop 2 cars after waiting for almost 3 hours.
Actually in Langkawi is not that hard to hitchhike because it’s very touristic place. Just in the place where we, it was really far from the center that’s why it wasn’t many cars passing by. Even though they do, most of them are public transportation such as minivan and Uber. Of course, they couldn’t bring us for free since they need money. After Langkawi we went back to Kuala Lumpur by train from Perlis to one station before Butterworth station in Penang. From the station, we walked 5 kilometers then we climbed the highway to get a good spot to stop cars to reach Kuala Lumpur. I REPEAT AGAIN, WE CLIMBED THE HIGHWAY TO FIND THE GOOD SPOT TO STOP THE CAR.
After waiting for 20 minutes, nobody stopped for us so we decided to walk a little bit more to reach the rest area. For me, in Malaysia is kinda hard to find the spot to stop cars because you need to walk a lot to find the correct spot. The fact is Malaysia’s road is full of the highways so sometimes you need to climb the highways by crossing the small river. And the good tips to hitchhike in Malaysia is by trying to stop cars after rest area. Because in the highway people are driving fast so it’s hard to stop. Either they’re scared to stop because it’s dangerous or they can’t see because they drive too fast. So after the rest area could be a good option to stop cars since people tend to drive slowly so they can see and have chance to think whether or not they are willing to stop. At least they see and consider to stop even though many drivers just keep going without stop.
So, we waited for the cars on one spot after the rest area. After waiting for 30 minutes, finally one car stop for us. It was a foreign couple, a girl from Bangladesh and her Australian boyfriend. We actually asked a ride to Ipoh because we just wanted to hitchhike step by step and they apparently went to Kuala Lumpur so we told them our final destination was Kuala Lumpur so they agreed to bring us with them until Kuala Lumpur. The couple actually saw us on the road before but they passed us because they drove fast. They decided to turn back to get us in their car. SO SWEET!! We arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 4 pm as we went straight to my family’s house and we stayed there for couple of days in order to attend my friend’s wedding.
PART II: HITCHHIKING [AGAIN] IN MALAYSIA GOING TO THE BORDER ON THE NORTH
In April 2018, we left Kuala Lumpur heading North to cross the border to go to Thailand. We left home earlier by KTM from Sungai Buloh station to reach Tanjong Malim station in Perak. Once we arrived, we walked a few kilometers to stop cars in the main road heading to Kuala Perlis. We managed to stop one car after waiting for 10 minutes. The guy brought us passing the small town and dropped us the highway after driving for 80 kilometers. After waiting for 20 minutes, we stopped the next car and apparently in the car there was another traveler from Russia who hitchhiked as well.
The good news is this Russian traveler who named Igor also heading to the same destination with us, Koh Phangan-Thailand. So we decided to travel together the next morning to cross the border of Malaysia and Thailand in Bukit Kayu Hitam. Before that, we stayed one night in Perlis at our friend’s resident in order to take some rest after long hitchhiking from Kuala Lumpur plus we need to prepare our energy to wake up earlier in the next morning to start very long hitchhiking journey from the border of Malaysia – Thailand to Don Sak before catching the ferry to Koh Phangan.
(KUALA LUMPUR to BUKIT KAYU HITAM – 500 KM)
PART III: HITCHHIKING IN THAILAND – SPEAK THAI TO THEM
To start the tough day, we woke up around 7 am next packing or stuff then left Perlis around 8 am went straight to Bukit Kayu Hitam in order to cross the border. Our first shot of waiting car wasn’t so lucky because we stayed almost 15 minutes on the road. We didn’t catch any car to stop for us but got heavy rain instead. After moving to the small shop for a while to avoid the rain, one car stop or us (re maybe because he felt pity on us). Guess, he brought us straight to the border! yay! so fortunate! Finally, three of us crossed the border around 9 am. The Thailand journey was started!
After the border, we changed some money then we walked a little bit to stop in the main road. In this spot, we tried to stop cars while Igor presented his paper with Thai letters based on what direction we needed to reach as our first stop. We waited almost two hours and finally one car stop for us. It was Malaysian plat number. And yes, the guy is Malaysian who works across Malaysia and Thailand border. He brought us 200 kilometers. He even brought us for lunch and coffee. What a super cool driver. But he needed to drop us somewhere in Phattalung because he didn’t go further to the North.
Again, three of us stayed on the road to catch the next car while Igor showing the sign of “Nakhon Sithammarat”. Hitchhiking in Thailand is kinda tough because it’s hard to find somebody who speaks English. Once you find somebody who speaks English, Thai accent sometimes led to a misunderstanding of some pronunciation. But MOSTLY Thai people speak zero English so it’s better for you to know basic Thai in order to communicate with local drivers during hitchhiking. At least when you put sign on your paper for the direction you want to go for, you write it by using Thai letters.
In our trip, Igor was being our savior as he speaks Thai. So during our journey, once the car stopped for us Igor came to talk to the driver while I and my boyfriend were busy to put one thumb up for stopping the car because none of us speak Thai (NO WONDER). We stopped the second car after waiting for 20 minutes and one guy stop for us and brought us to Nakhon Sithammarat. The guy was speaking English little bit and it was really helpful even though sometimes he spoke Thai to us and thanks God, Igor spoke back to him in Thai. Remember, I don’t speak Thai so any Thai language was under Igor responsibility (GOOD JOB IGOR. TWO THUMBS UP!).
After the guy dropped us somewhere in Nakhon Sithammarat, we went to the rest area for toilet as well as for withdrawing money in ATM plus getting some snacks in 7 Eleven then got back to the main road. In 5 minutes, one girl with her mom stopped for us. Both of them couldn’t speak English so Igor spoke Thai to them while I was just smiling [ALL THE TIME] without saying any words (YOU KNOW, THAI ZONE MODE ON). They needed to drop us because they would turn to another direction.
After few minutes, the next car stopped for us. They were heading to Surat Thani and apparently we were heading to the same direction so we asked for a ride and they agreed to bring us as far as they could. So they dropped us before they went straight while three of us needed to take another direction to go to Don Sak. We walked for few kilometers to reach the main road heading to Don Sak and we stopped in one spot to wait for another car. Luckily without waiting for such a long time, one guy stopped for us and brought us straight to Don Sak where the ferry is located. The guy dropped us in the main gate of the ferry he couldn’t bring us in because he headed to other direction so we just walked for few kilometers which was not much but luckily once three of us walking, one car again stopped for us because they went to the ferry as well. Finally, we managed to arrive on the ferry at 5 pm and we were able to catch the last ferry at 6 pm to Koh Phangan. WHAT AN INCREDIBLE HITCHHIKING JOURNEY! WE MADE IT YAY!
(Bukit Kayu Hitam, Malaysia to Don Sak, Thailand)
PART IV: HITCHHIKING IN THAILAND – GOT BACK TO MALAYSIA
We stayed in Koh Phangan for one month because of our free entry only for 30 days until the beginning of May. It was really sad to leave Koh Phangan because the island is so peaceful and we felt joy during our stay there. Once we left Koh Phangan by ferry reaching Don Sak, our hitchhiking journey was started again. We have prepared the signs in the paper a night before to make our hitchhiking much easier. We started to hitchhike around 9.30 am but we got the first car at 10 am. The old man who cannot speak English brought us to Sichon which was around 50 kilometers away.
During the trip, we didn’t talk that much because I can’t speak Thai and the man can’t speak English either. Sometimes we just communicated by body language and Google translation for the confirmation. The man dropped us in the city center who close to the bus station (SOMETIMES THE DRIVERS BRING YOU TO THE BUS STATION BECAUSE THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF HITCHHIKING BUT THEY WANNA HELP YOU STILL).
From the city center wasn’t that far to find the main road to stop the next car to Nakhon Si Thammarat. In the 10 minutes, one car stopped for us. A man and his girlfriend were heading to Phattalung which is a lot further than Nakhon Si Thammarat so we went straight with them until Phattalung. We arrived around 3 pm in Phattalung and it was so cloudy at that time plus we waited almost 2 hours for the next car going to Hat Yai. It was even started to rain and the thunder was so loud.
Fortunately, before the heavy rain caught us, one car finally stopped for us. The guy was heading to the same road going to Hat Yai so he could give us the ride. We were extremely happy! We arrived in Hat Yai after 100 kilometers on the way. We managed to arrive around 6.30 pm and we still had time before sunset hopefully somebody could see us before dark. It was only 50 kilometers away to reach Sadao which close to the border. It was a bit tough to stop a car at that time because do many motorbikes on the left side where we were standing which would be so hard for any car to stop properly.
After waiting around 20 minutes, finally, one car stopped for us. Guess, he brought us to the border! You know the feeling after the massive weight just lifted from your shoulder? That was the feeling once we managed to get the Thailand border around 8 pm which is 9 pm once we crossed the Malaysian border (and an hour prior). WHAT A THOUGH HITCHHIKING FOR A TOUGH HUMAN
Here are some examples of how to put the sign in your paper once you commit to doing hitchhiking:
PART V: HITCHHIKING IN MALAYSIA – INDONESIA, WE WERE COMING BACK FOR YOU!
Once we entered Malaysia [AGAIN], we went straight to Changloon which is 10 kilometers from the border, Bukit Kayu Hitam. We stayed there a couple of days before resting before continue our trip to Melacca to catch ferry to Dumai, Indonesia. The third hitchhiking in Malaysia was started [AGAIN]. We stayed on the main road in Changloon around 7 am to stop the car which headed to Jitra which is 20 kilometers away. 30 minutes waiting, one car stopped for us and brought us to Jitra. The next step we showed the driver “Alor Setar” sign on the highway and someone took us as well.
The next move is Penang. We changed 4 cars until we reached Penang which is 115 kilometers away from Alor Setar. In Penang, we stayed on the highway which is really dangerous place to stop car because every car drives fast. We waited quite long because nobody stopped for us. But luckily, one guy stopped for us because he saw us before but he couldn’t stop since he drove fast so he decided to turn back to catch us back and brought us the safe place to stop car which was the rest area (THIS PLACE WAS THE SAME PLACE WHERE WE’VE BEEN TO STOP CAR BEFORE). In this spot, less than 10 minutes a American guy stopped for us and brought us straight to Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 2 pm after completing 355 kilometers on the road from Penang. The guy dropped us in the rest area as well. We just needed one more car to reach Melacca and GUESS WHAT, less than 3 minutes after the American dropped us, an Indian guy with family stopped for us and brought us to Tampin which is only 40 kilometers left to Melacca. So we arrived around 4 pm and we stayed one night in Melacca to take a rest before catching our ferry to Indonesia the next day. You know, we were very lucky because it was really fast hitchhiking for us! WHAT A LUCKY SUNDAY. Here are some bonuses for you 😛
PART VI: HITCHHIKING IN INDONESIA – WHAT A TOUGH SUMATRA
We caught the boat to Dumai from Melacca and we left at 10 am it took 2 hours on the way and we arrived at 11 am in Dumai, Indonesia (AN HOUR LEFT BEHIND). In Dumai we stayed again one night before continuing our hitchhiking the next day to Bukittinggi. We realized that hitchhiking in Indonesia is not that easy especially in Sumatra. People are not familiar and people are still scared plus they don’t understand why travelers stop random cars on the road. So we prepared ourselves that’s why we needed to hitchhike from earlier morning so then we could arrive in Bukittinggi on the same day.
As we know from Dumai to Bukittinggi is approximately 450 kilometers away so we divided our hitchhiking journey into 5 stops which were the first one was in Simpang Bangko which is 50 kilometers away from Dumai. The second stop was Duri which is 30 kilometers from Simpang Bangko. The third stop was Pekanbaru which is 120 kilometers from Duri. The fourth stop was Payakumbuh which is 200 kilometers from Pekanbaru and the last one is Bukittinggi which is 35 kilometers away from Payakumbuh.
(Dumai to Bukittinggi)
So in reality, we were on the road at 9 am from Dumai and after waiting for nearly 40 minutes, one guy stopped for us. He couldn’t bring us to Simpang Bangko because he didn’t go to that direction so he dropped us somewhere close to his car wash business right in front of the main road. After waiting for 15 minutes, one truck stopped for us. The driver brought us straight to Duri.
(Dumai to Simpang Bangko)
(Simpang Bangko to Duri)
Once we arrived in Duri, we stopped for view minutes to have lunch and GUESS WHAT HAPPENED, once we about to pay we just realized that we forgot the wallet together with the passport in Dumai (in our friend’s house – he put it under the bed). Luckily I still had extra cash on my own so after completing the payment, we called our friend to take care of my stuff then WE GOT BACK TO DUMAI. I REPEAT AGAIN, WE MOVED OUR ASS BACK TO DUMAI after 75 kilometers. LIKE IT OR NOT WE NEEDED TO GO BACK.
So we hitchhiked back to Dumai and finally, we managed to arrive around 2.30 pm in Dumai. We went back to our friend’s house to take our stuff as well as took a quick shower then left again for Bukittinggi. But apparently we decided to stop one night in Pekanbaru because we couldn’t reach Bukittinggi since we left Dumai around 3 pm and we needed to wait for cars to bring us out of Dumai. One guy brought us to Duri and from Duri, we waited almost an hour to stop the next car to Pekanbaru. At 5.30 pm one local guy helped us to stop the truck to bring us to Pekanbaru and we arrived in Pekanbaru around 9 pm. It was really EPIC hitchhiking day. WE MADE IT!
(Duri to Pekanbaru)
The next day we stopped one car which gave us a ride straight to Bukittinggi so we didn’t need to stop in Payakumbuh.
(Pekanbaru to Bukittinggi)
NOW, I GAVE YOU ANOTHER SHOT OF BONUSES!
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo………. That’s all about my hitchhiking journey in three countries. I hope next time I can do more and gain more experience on the road. So a little tips of hitchhiking from me. First, be confident that you will catch the car less than 5 minutes (Even though sometimes you need to wait for 2 hours but at least be positive and spread the positive energy around you). Secondly, prepare the sign of your direction by writing it down.
This method is proven much better than by only showing people your thumb on the road because people need to see the destination you’re heading to plus you can try to write your destination with local letters such as Thai letters if you’re hitchhiking across Thailand and you can use word “Numpang and/or Nebeng” which means “bring me for free” if you’re hitchhiking in some parts of Indonesia which are not familiar with the concept of hitchhiking such us Sumatra because sometimes local people will try to find you a local bus or some cars will stop for you but asking for money my extra advice is make sure people who are willing to bring you understand that you will join them for free so at least in the beginning once you stop the car you shall tell the driver (IF SHE or HE CANNOT SPEAK ENGLISH) “NO MONEY” then let’s see what they decide after hearing that (MOSTLY IN SUMATRA THEY WILL LEAVE YOU BECAUSE THEY DRIVE FOR MONEY BUT MANY OF THEM WILL BRING YOU FOR FREE AS WELL).
It depends on how lucky you’re and it’s just the matter of waiting kind driver who’re going to the same direction as you and willing to bring you without thinking that you’re a bad person (TRUST ME, IN INDONESIA PEOPLE WON’T STOP NOT BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT WILLING TO HELP JUST THEY’RE CONFUSED AND HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT HITCHHIKING). So my advice is LET’S DO HITCHHIKE TO MAKE IT MORE FAMILIAR IN SOCIETY 😀
Thirdly, choose the rest area in the gas station as a spot to stop cars because usually, people will drive slowly after the gas station. Fourth, it’ll be better if you can speak basic local language since not all people can speak English in Southeast Asia. But if you cannot speak basic local it’s fine, body language works sometimes so don’t worry you’ll be fine (I HOPE). Lastly but not least, bring enough water in your backpack because being on the road is very tough because it requires patience and spirit so water is a must as your hitchhiking companion.
Hitchhiking is an art. Sometimes you’ll be so lucky, sometimes you’ll be so fucked up but the important thing is the road will never hate you as hitchhiking is for anybody. You may happen to wait one car until 2 hours but once somebody stops for you it feels like you never waited before. SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO BEYOND YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND LET YOURSELF KNOW WILD ROAD BETTER 😀