First Time Hitchhiking in Southeast Asia, Singapore to Malaysia

What was supposed to be my first experience hitchhiking out of Singapore heading to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia became too easy thanks to a business man's generosity. I'd only been in Singapore a couple days, Thailand was my main motivation and I'd flown to Singapore with it being the cheapest destination from Australia that would get me on the same body of land where I knew I could hitch from. Malaysia was in between, so I was happy to get to explore through there on the way up.

I hit the subway after getting some buns, munching on them as I entered into the train area. A woman and then a man in uniform hurriedly approached me from different directions telling me I couldn't eat in the area or on the train. My reaction was to try and munch what I left down rapidly, they scolded me further for this and signaled that I was to wrap it up and pack it away immediately, so this is what I did. I'd forgotten about Singapore's cleanliness laws, I'd seen many signs featuring triple digit fines for chewing gum and the like.

The train got me to the west side of town closer to one of the two bridges out of the city where I'd begin hitchhiking. I got my way to the road and stuck my thumb out, eager for the adventure. A Singapore businessman picked me up in a pickup truck, he was involved in a roofing and building company. His english wasn't the best, but we managed to communicate.

"New York City!", he exclaimed when I told him where I was from. He was excited and curious and asked some questions. I told him I was heading for Kuala Lumpur and hitchhiking, he didn't seem to understand what this meant totally and assured me that no one would give me a ride, this coming from the guy who'd just picked me up having seen me actively hitchhiking.

We stopped at his job site briefly and it wasn't clear yet if he was going to be taking me further or exactly what was going on, but I had little schedule to consider so I went with it. Back in the truck and on the move he was asking me where I wanted to go as if I hadn't already explained, he was making suggestions about buses and trains and I was further trying to explain hitchhiking and determine where the right road was while trying to get across my low amount of cash to avoid him dropping me at a train station instead of closer to the bridge where I wanted to be.

Through the haze of language and culture barriers between us he finally insisted on taking me to the train station where he would buy my ticket to Kuala Lumpur. I'd run out of ways to explain what I was doing with hitchhiking and in no position to turn down such generosity anyway.

We arrived at the station where he purchased my ticket and each of us a bowl of soup to eat while talking for a while longer, he had ideas about doing business in New York and seemed to think I would be a good connection.

I thanked him up and down and then was on my own, waiting for the train to arrive. It didn't take long to come and I waded through a line of people and a checkpoint with minimal paperwork and passport flashing, talking with an Aussie girl who'd been going back and forth to Malaysia for a while and knew the score.

I found a seat on the train and watched people taking all sorts of pictures, the Aussie girl told me this particular station was due to be shut down and had some sort of historical value, hence all the pictures.

The train departed and I watched the city go by. Soon after we made a stop by the actual border where everyone had to get off the train for another passport rigmarole, it felt a bit odd a first abandoning my backpack on the train to go into a building where potentially anything could happen, but the Aussie girl appeared again and put me at ease.

We talked and waited in line for the whole thing, we were the last ones, after questions and scanning and the like we were all allowed back on the train again. I sat alone at a window seat watching a new country whiz by - mountains, palm trees and rusty roofs with occasional dirt roads, sometimes just paths, little huts far in the forest that would have looked abandoned if not for people stirring about them.

We got closer to Kuala Lumpur and a familiar urban scene began to take over, try as they may, cities are never too radically different in their surrounding sprawl along the train tracks. The couple sitting behind me had a cell phone and let me use it, I called Vina, a local girl that my friend Walter had put me in touch with who was going to let me stay with her while I was in the city. She let me know where to go and how to find her.

I may have gotten off at the wrong stop or taken a wrong turn somewhere, so there was some confusion for a little while trying to navigate to her in a busy place that was half train station and half shopping mall. Another borrowed phone call and a public train ride later I'd made it to another sort of mall where a shop keeper let me use a phone once again, then I was soon greeted by one of her friends and lead to massage place where she and some others were. It felt good to finally make the connection.

We ran around a bit trying some foods, grabbing a beer and then I headed back to Vina's house where she showed me the guest room I could stay in and the lay of the house, a nice shower and I was off to sleep, excited for the days to come of exploring the city and more of Malaysia.

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