Hitchhiking across Malaysia

Hitchhiking across Malaysia

I came to Malaysia without having a plan to hitchhike. It didn’t even occur to me I would start hitchhiking. I only started because there were limited transportation options. I tried once. It worked. So I tried again. It worked again. In addition I really enjoyed it. And so I hitchhiked more and more until I hitchhiked more than I could have possible imagined.

March 1

There’s no public transport on the island of Langkawi. The available taxis, Uber and Grab are not the likes of transport I’m keen to use. Walking in the heat of the day didn’t appeal to me either. I decided to hitch a ride. Hitchhiking is a fairly unfamiliar concept in Southeast Asia so I opened the hitchhiker’s guide to Malaysia and Langkawi, written down ‘TUMPANG’ which translates as ‘A ride’ and hit the road. At least a hundred cars must have passed by until about 25 minutes later I was offered a ride. A small accomplishment but I was thrilled.

My first TUMPANG sign
Sunset on my first day on Langkawi
March 7  

Goodbye Langkawi. I loved it here.

What a day! First, I hitchhiked to the jetty. It only took 15 minutes to hitch a ride. I was given a ride by a woman who was taking her son to school in the main town. She was from Kuala Lumpur but she now runs a business on Langkawi.

Then I took a ferry to the mainland. After that I wanted to take a bus to the train station which supposedly ran once an hour. No bus came in 45 minutes but I had already taken out my hitchhiking sign. I was really surprised to see a car stop and only when the guy told me did I find out he had been headed in a different direction but turned around when he saw me. He had some time on his hands and decided to give me a ride. Just like that. Can you believe that? Incredible! He was really nice, a Malaysian Chinese who could speak really good English and a little Thai apart from Chinese and Malay and worked in waterproofing business.

One of the many beautiful beaches on Langkawi
Streetart of Gerogetown at night
March 12

I’m in Cameron Highlands, another place I really like. Joined by a Belgian guy Wout I hitched a ride (actually three rides) to a tea plantation where we walked four kilometres from to reach one of the highlights of Cameron highlands – the fairytale-like and spooky Mossy Forest. With the fog surrounding everything up there it was really amazing. My companion even spotted a fly eating plant!

Then we attempted to hike through the jungle to the highest peak, a trail which was closed for landslides. But the combination of slow progress along a very muddy path, late hour and a high chance of rain made us turn around one third into the hike. Still it was nice and exciting to go at least a bit into the jungle which is so different from the kind in the lowlands. Going back we got a lift twice!

The spooky Mossy Forest
March 13

Another great day of hitchhiking around amazing Cameron Highlands. I started my day by helping out my host Troji whose parents grow flowers which are exported to Singapore. We packed them and prepared for transportation.

Then I went hiking with Wout, the Belgian from yesterday. We hitched a ride (three Malay ladies) to Tanah Rata and hiked to Gunung Berembun.

Afterwards we parted ways because I wanted to visit one of the tea plantations further down the road. I hitched a ride (two Chinese ladies) who helped me find out where I needed to go, the plantation was 6 km away from the main road and despite my protesting they gave me a ride all the way which was a 12 km detour for them. Amazing.

The landscape around Boh Tea Estate was spectacular. The views never get old. After visiting the viewpoint I started walking down to the main road. But perhaps one kilometre into the walk a guy on a motorbike stopped thinking I might want a ride. And so I went with him. I have mentioned before that being a passenger on a motorbike is one of the best things ever. Especially in a beautiful place like today.

The next best thing is a ride on top of a pick-up which happened when I started hitchhiking back. Two Chinese guys gave me a lift and I enjoyed sightseeing from a pick-up.

They didn’t go all the way, but after two minutes of waiting, three Chinese guys in what looked liked a sports car gave me a ride. Great guys!

What a great day! Again!

The beautiful tea plantations in Cameron Highlands
On a pickup truck in the Cameron Highlands
March 14

In the morning I hitched a ride and travelled 70 km to Ipoh. My host Troji helped me out and made a brand new ‘TUMPANG’ sign for me. It was huge. And maybe thanks to the sign I was lucky. Sangeetha and her mom gave me a ride. I could still buy a train ticket to Kuala Lumpur and so continue my Chiang Mai – Singapore train journey.

The train station in Ipoh
Batu Caves
March 18

The adventure goes on! Malaysia has become a SE Asian country where I hitchhiked the most, being in TOP 3 for the whole journey, following Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan! Whenever I can’t take a train here I usually try hitchhiking. Since Cameron Highlands my sign is almost half my size.

When I was leaving my host Rudy yesterday I was far from being sure where I would end up in the evening. I had a plan for the day and there were at least three options depending on how it would go. I went up to Petronas towers followed by a trip to Batu Caves.

I got back quite early so I decided to take a southbound train in the direction of Gemas which meant that either I would go to the town of Melaka or take the jungle train to the east of peninsular Malaysia. Knowing that ETS trains are much more expensive than commuter trains (can be more than double) I wanted to split the journey (commuter trains don’t run all the way to Gemas). I had 25 minutes to find out information, buy a ticket, buy food (I was starving) and board the train.

I bought a ticket for a commuter train to the middle of nowhere not knowing if I’d be able to buy a ticket further. Upon reaching the middle of nowhere a ticket for an ETS train as well as for the jungle train were available making me decide to skip Melaka and head to the east of Malaysia. I was the only person boarding the ETS train headed for Gemas.

I only had a ticket from Gemas to Kuala Lipis (a part of the jungle railway) as I wanted to keep my options open. From Lipis I could go to Taman Negara NP or continue by another train along the jungle railway.

In the morning (it was a night train), I decided to try hitching a ride to the national park. It took mere 7 minutes before a car stopped and I was offered the front seat while three people squeezed at the back. The family in the car was really nice and interested in me and my adventure. They even wanted a picture with me. Amazing! Thank you Azura.

They headed for Jerantut, about halfway to the national park, where I wanted to take a break hoping to find a local host.

That didn’t happen so I decided to carry on hitchhiking to the park. This time it took just a little bit more. The couple that stopped didn’t really speak English and they wanted to take me to a taxi rank. I protested verbally and non verbally by shaking my head (looking like a child whose toy is being taken away from him) so they changed their mind and gave me a ride to the place they were headed which was in the direction of the park. Oh boy, the guy drove so fast, kind of crazy if you ask me, and he was not the first driver like that so I was actually thinking I might soon give up hitchhiking. Safety is paramount. I was relieved when they dropped me off and the third ride was an OK one.

Looking back at the last 20 hours I can’t think of a better way to describe it other than an adventure.

With Azura and her sister after we arrived in Jerantut
Hitchhiking to Taman Negara NP with my second TUMPANG sign
March 20

Hitching a ride from the national park proved to be more difficult than going there. Less traffic. But I was lucky. Again! It took 50 minutes to get a ride. A pick-up stopped. One of my favourite. I could watch the green jungle pass by with the blue sky above my head. A cool ride.

After reaching Jerantut I was walking to a junction to go on hitchhiking when I saw a guy waving at me from a car in front of me. He noticed my Tumpang sign which I was holding unfolded behind me while walking. He was a sales executive who spent every day on the road visiting customers. He’s been on business in Japan, Thailand and China. He took me to Kuala Lipis where I could still catch the afternoon jungle train.

Amazing. I love it when a day works out so well.

One of the many hitchhiking escapades in Malaysia, this time on a truck
A gorgeous beach on Perhentian Kecil
March 26

540 kilometres, 10 hours, 7 drivers! My day of hitchhiking from Perhentian Islands jetty to Kuala Lumpur. So far the hardest yet rewarding hitchhiking day.

And by that Malaysia has become the country where I have hitchhiked the most! And it’s something which I didn’t expect or plan when I came. I just got carried away when I started and succeeded.

The people were amazing today. Some of them met/spoke to a foreigner for the first time. One lady was so excited she called her sister who wanted to meet me. It was so hard to explain my hitchhiking endeavor that I almost gave up. They wanted to send me to KL by plane, take to a bus station, arrange a car. I was desperately saying no to all of it. One guy was happy to practice English with me, another one took me to have company. Some people wanted a selfie, too. Incredible, amazing, and an accomplishment.

Hitchhiking to Kuala Lumpur – the longest drive for me
With Jasni, one of the seven drivers I hitchhiked to Kuala Lumpur with
March 28

I left my lucky Tumpang sign in a restaurant two days ago. Silly me. It helped me hitchhike more than 900 kilometers. So today I had to make do with the old school hitch hiking gesture. And I was lucky again. 130 kilometres, 4 cars, 2 hours.

The people were super friendly again and we engaged in interesting conversations. The last guy was an uber driver but I travelled as a hitchhiker not a customer.

And so I reached Melaka..

Hitchhiking to Malacca after I lost the TUMPANG sign
The streetart in Malacca
March 30

Can people be more amazing?

Today was the last time I hitchhiked in Malaysia. And it was only because I missed a bus and another one was leaving in over an hour. In fifteen minutes a car stopped. A lady, who was a teacher of Mandarin, and her mom decided to give me a ride. But what was totally amazing was they were going only a few km away but went extra 30 km to bring me to a railway station. 30 km one way!!!

Can people be more amazing?

Tonite I will be just a step away from Singapore.

I managed to hitchhike 1244 km in Malaysia. I didn’t give up a single time I tried it. I didn’t need to. People always helped me out. AMAZING!

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