Some explanation is probably required. Hitchhiking from Europe to Southeast Asia and vice versa was on my mind for a while. I found the idea inspirational and challenging. Why hitchhiking? I would travel by horse with a sword on the back, but the borders and visas are something, that can’t be avoided. Hitching is great, you meet locals and enjoy a unique experience with a bit of challenge, it’s a freaking adventure. My journey will take me from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia through Beijing in China to Porto in Portugal. With over 15.000 km and no estimated time limit, is it possible? Definitely yes! I hope to see The Great Wall of China and other places I dreamed about as young boy, while making friends and discovering new things.
Kuala Lumpur, I hate it and love it. The capital of Malaysia is very humid, the local transport is rather bad and shopping centres are like oasis across the dessert. I fell in love and the girl is here, simple. Getting out from such vast city isn’t easy. Hitchwiki can be very helpful for that. You can find recommendations on great hitchhiking spots on this website. I try to give credit when the credit is due. The gas station is a great place to catch a ride. It’s easy to approach a driver, introduce yourself and ask for lift. The motorists in KL are suicidal so be careful when crossing or walking on the road.
My first driver doesn’t speak English. It’s something that you need to consider. You can communicate with you hands, a map on your phone or a hitchhiking letter.
Hitchhiking Tip – Hitchhiking letter
It’s a few words in local language saying who you are and where are you going. I found a template at hitchwiki and took a screenshot. It’s not perfect, but it works miracles.
It took me 15 minutes to find a ride, but sometimes it takes longer. You should have a lot of spare time when hitchhiking. On the way North, we are stopped by a policeman. A 25$ bribe isn’t the first one, he received today, I see him stopping another car. My driver needs a short break. It’s necessary to be flexible. You can either thank your driver and look for another ride or entertain yourself while waiting. One Piece is one of my favourite manga. I’m pretty excited seeing this beauty on the parking lot.
Cameron Highlands, Penang and George Town are places recommended to me in North Malaysia. It’s raining and it will continue for few days. Weather can make your experience great or really bad. I decide not to stop this time, but continue to Thailand.
Hitchhiking Tip – Looking good
Looking good is (un)fortunately relevant. It’s easier to catch a ride and approach people when wearing clean and neat clothes. The first impression is important and the perception plays a big role. That being said, you can be dressed as a Santa and still find a driver, you just need more time.
The border with Thailand is rather easy to cross. You need to fill in an arrival card and proceed to immigration check. My backpack isn’t flashy and I travel solo. The immigration officer isn’t happy. It’s good to have some cash in your wallet. It’s a proof that you can provide for yourself. With a stamp in my passport, I arrive to Thailand. A cheap Thai sim card costs 150 baht / 5 dollars. In few minutes you can find a shop and purchase some data. Is there anything else you really need?
Hitchhiking Tip – Agoda and Booking.com
With these websites/applications you can not only book an accommodation, but secure a reservation without an actual payment. You can find a great place in advance and cancel it if necessary. I often use it as backup when couchsurfing and camping is not available.
There is not much traffic near the border. A bus driver is happy to take me to Hat Yai for free. 60 km ride is a huge help, sometimes a short distance can make a difference. Hat Yai isn’t a popular place, but you can find a decent restaurant and a hostel. There might be no menu in English, but the food is still good and the price low.
The songthaew is a popular passenger vehicle in Thaiand. It can take you to the outskirts of the city or other popular destination like a bus station, local market or a temple. It costs me 0.5$ and saves me from walking few km in heat.
Surawut works as a delivery driver. We travel together for few hours and get along. He invites me to lunch.
You meet all sort of people when hitchhiking. The majority is helpful and friendly. It’s not always roses. A director of the local primary school is oversharing. I’m not interested in his sexual life and video that he wants to watch with me. He offers to buy me a train ticket to Bangkok. What a mix bag?! I politely decline.
This is just crazy! A driver offers to pay me for oral sex. The situation is so ridiculous that I’m laughing, while rejecting his advances. He offers me more money and tries his best to convince me by saying repeatedly ”Yes!” It’s the only word in English, that he knows. I don’t feel threaten, but with time feel uncomfortable, and finally get out of the car.
Nick watched me hitchhiking, while taking a pause. He is a truck driver on the way to Bangkok. I treat him with fruit and a dinner in a restaurant. We travel for many hours and arrive to Bangkok at 2 am in the morning.
950 km since the morning and only 160 more to my friend’s place in Rayong. I decide to continue and surprise Vern with an early visit. Hitchhiking at night is not the easiest, but possible. You can use head torch or stand at lighten crossroad, but the best is gas station. I find a free taxi ride at 3 am and a truck an hour later.
Vern is teaching English in school in Rayong. We met through couchsurfing, while travelling Thailand and instantly became friends. The city doesn’t have much to offer, but Ko Samet island is quite fun. We celebrate Vern’s birthday, enjoy quiet life and tasty food. I hope to see him again soon.
It’s time to continue to Laos. Suree is a friendly and cheerful lady. She offers me dry fruits and sings Thai songs. There is not much conversation, she doesn’t speak English, but then something funny happens. She touches my hand… “I want you.” I am surprised. “No. I have a girlfriend.” She let my hand go. “OK” Suree drops me at gas station an hour later. There are no bad feelings. She treats me with food and drink as farewell gift.
It’s night, I use my headtorch to signalise cars. The policeman is off duty and happy to take me to Udon Thani. His wife speaks some English, they take me to the night market.
Hitchhiking Tip – 7 Eleven
7 Eleven is an international chain of convenience stores operating 24 hours a day. You can find here a variety of useful products like local sim card and toiletries.
Local temple grounds are open and the security guard let’s me set up my tent next to the temple. Buddhist temples are usually a great place to stay over night. Sometimes monks will allow you to sleep beside them and treat you with dinner. The night is hot and I feel uneasy. At 4 am a monk is already up and sweeping fallen leaves. He speaks decent English and we enjoy the conversation about his life.
You can find a variety of vehicles in Asia. Some are in condition that makes you question the mental state of the owner. A few thousand years old truck delivers me to Nong Khai.
An immigration officer gives me a lift to the checkpoint at Friendship Bridge. You need to take a bus to the other site. The ticket costs 20 baht / 1.20 dollar. The border control is formality, you purchase the bus ticket and wait until its full. Half way through the bridge, flags change from Thai to Lao. I purchase visa on arrival and with a little to no problem enter Laos.
The capital Vientiane is 20 km away. A truck takes me straight to the city centre. Two nights in the hostel with a breakfast included, free WiFi and walking distance to night market cost me 10 dollars! Sweet!
There are quite few colourful temples nearby. A shy young monk is brave enough to take a picture with me. I am the first European, he is talking to.
The area of Patuxai monument is my favourite place in Vientiane. The view from the top is pretty average, but the sculptures and overall architecture are beautiful. The place is surrounded by park and fountains. It is a social and logistic centre of the city.
In the evening, the whole Vientian attends the night market. You can find here multiple food stands, stalls with clothes, electronics and souvenirs. The night market is setup and dismantled every day. A delicious turkey burger for 1.25 dollar / 10,000 kip!
The breakfast in the hostel is freaking amazing. The pumpkin soup could be served in a fancy restaurant. Noodles, fries, bread with jam, watermelon and banana fruit. I stuff my face with tasty food. I’m amazed how low is the cost of living here. You can find a barber to give you a haircut and trim for as much as 3 dollars! Vientian is definitely a great place for a longer, relaxed stay.
That Luang golden temple is one of attractions advertised on postcards. Numerous buildings and monuments surround the main temple creating a huge Buddhist complex with much to see and explore. How many temples are there in Laos? Thousands! That Luang is well taken care of and way above the average.
Ryo is a Japenese traveler. We enjoy snooker table in our hostel lobby. Staying a bit longer in Vientian would be nice, but I’m scared of getting lazy and need to apply for visa to China in Luang Prabang as soon as possible. That is one the major obstacles on my trip. Wish me luck!