February 19, 2013 by farbolino
While we were traveling together in Myanmar, I told Liz that I planned to hitchhike from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Just before we arrived to KL, Liz asked me if she could come with me because she had never hitchhiked before and wanted to try it. I said of course she could come, so we left together just a few days before the start of Chinese New Year.
We had been couchsurfing the last few nights in KL, and since we weren’t staying in the center of the city it was easy to walk to a spot just after a toll booth to start hitchhiking from. We had looked on a map and about 10km after the toll road the highway split into the North South highway heading to Thailand and Singapore.
It took about 30 minutes to walk in the hot sticky heat to the toll booth. Unfortunately the first car to stop said that we were hitchhiking on the wrong side of the road. I was confused…I had looked at the map and knew that this was the direction to the North/South highway. After another 10 minutes another car stopped to say the same thing. Now I was really confused. I asked the driver “doesn’t this road go to the E-2?”
He said yes, but that almost no one would take this direction to go to Singapore. Rather than stand around any longer, we hopped in with him even though he was headed north and asked him to drop us off at the first R and R (Rest-stop). He was a friendly guy, but we didn’t have much time to talk since it was only a 15km ride.
So after 30 minutes we were actually further away then we started, but at least now we were on the North/South highway and could catch all the cars headed south. It took only a matter of minutes for a truck driver to pull over for us. He said he was headed to Singapore, but wouldn’t arrive until 3am because he had to make other deliveries. I asked if he could take us further south and he said yes.
We hopped in and headed down the highway. Our driver Franzi was super excited to have us with him. So excited in fact that he almost killed us by reaching across the truck to grab a pen to write down his phone number and pulling on the steering wheel at the same time. The truck pulled left and we narrowly slammed into a truck passing us on our left hand side. Luckily they beeped frantically and Franzi yanked the wheel in the opposite direction. Franzi acted if nothing had happened and started to write down his number when I chimed in and said I could do it for him.
After talking about travel, his Bulgarian girlfriend and life, he had to turn off the highway to make his delivery. He insisted on buying us a drink before we left, and no matter how many times we said we were ok, he wouldn’t listen. So we went into a gas station and picked out a 2 liter bottle of and Orange juice drink ‘with real orange sacs’ whatever that means. Franzi said “take two!” I tried to explain that I didn’t care to develop diabetes by the end of the day, but that didn’t seem to work. So we just picked out a 2 liter bottle of water also.
We thanked him heavily for the 4 liters of liquid and said our goodbyes before running across the open highway to our new hitchhiking spot just after the toll. By this time it was the peak heat of the day around noon and the sun started to beat down hard on us. We were going through our orange juice in record time. It took over an hour for the oldest truck I’ve seen in a long while to stop. The truck didn’t even have doors, but a wooden frame surrounding the cabin.
The driver yelled “I’m not going to Singapore.”
“How far are you going?” I yelled back.
“About 30km” he answered.
The guy could have said 1km and I probably would have taken it and then walked back to the toll just because this truck looked like it had survived WWII.
The truck barely had any paint left on it and was a silvery brown color, depending if that spot was rusted or not. We slowly rolled down the highway until we reached a slight incline. It was as if we were trying to climb Mt. Everest. I actually could have jumped out of the moving truck and walked beside it at about the same pace.
Paul (our driver) decided this a good time to say “It’s an old truck.” I asked how much weight he was carrying and Paul said 40 tons. 50 year old engine+ 80,000 pounds= walking speed I thought to myself.
The heat of the overworked engine could be felt through the metal dashboard just in front of us, and since we were moving at a snails pace, there wasn’t any wind to cool us. We were sitting in a moving oven. I placed my hand on the dashboard to feel the radiating heat, and Paul said 90 degrees Celsius. A mere 10 degrees from boiling point. No wonder I was dripping sweat at a record rate. Luckily the whole way wasn’t uphill, so it took us 1 hour and a half to make it 30km.
I started to think about the time I hitchhiked from Hamburg to Berlin on the autobahn in a BMW at 220km an hour, and how it would have taken us a little more then 7 minutes to cover the same distance.
Paul pulled into a large rest-stop which would be perfect for our next ride, but first Paul insisted on buying Liz and I lunch. I told him we weren’t hungry, that we had just eaten. He too wouldn’t take no for an answer. So we all sat together and talked while we ate.
We said our goodbyes, and went to the parking lot to look for our new ride. I talked to two guys working on the engine of their truck. I asked them if they knew anyone headed to Singapore or Johor Bahru. He said that he didn’t, but he actually walked with us until he helped us find a direct ride to Johor Bahru, just across the water from Singapore.
Our final driver was very friendly, but actually didn’t speak English so well, which made it a little hard to talk about much else then the basics. We made a few stops for him to smoke some cigarettes and he even let me buy him a tea after I truly insisted. He drove us past where he needed to go in order to drop us off at a bus stop. From there we took a bus right to Malaysian immigration, which oddly enough you could reach by walking through the 3rd floor of a mall.
After getting stamped out of Malaysia we took a bus across the border and arrived at our goal of reaching Singapore!