15th April – 16th April | Singapore to Malaysia to Thailand Border and back to Malaysia!
I always knew travelling thousands of miles without money will not be easy and I hit my first big obstacle on the Day 2 (16th April 2015) of the journey.
On the Day 1 of the journey, a generous young human bought me a bus ticket all the way to Hat Yai (Thailand) – a travel of almost 850 kilometers from Johor Bahru – first district in Malaysia once you come out of Singapore. (You will read about that young guy and surprises I received on Day 1 further down in this post)
On Day 1 took a bus at 8pm (Malaysia Time) from Kulai Bus Station for Hat Yai. Next morning at 5.40am (Malaysia Time) I was at the border. But 2 kilometers before the border the bus stopped at a restaurant and the driver took our passports for official reasons. He returned after sometime with an insurance slip and asked all of us to pay 5 Malaysian ringgit. I figured it was a scam as I had read about it a couple of years back. I told him to please take it back as I did not need it and he silently took it back. Bus drivers there usually have this trend to ask travellers to purchase this insurance as tourists are not aware that they do not need it.
I cleared the Malaysian immigration by 6.30 am (Malaysia time) and then the bus took us to Thailand Immigration which is 1 kilometer away. (The border opens at 6 am (Malaysia time)]. As I reached the Thailand immigration I was asked to visit the Supervisor. They denied me permission to enter Thailand in spite of having a valid tourist VISA. They asked me to show them some cash which would be on me in order to allow me to enter their land of Siam. I tried to explain them about my penniless journey but it was all in vain. At the end, the authority there gave me a letter that read “Nitesh is not permitted in Thailand because of having no money on him.” I walked back to the Malaysian immigration and got my Malaysia departure stamp cancelled so I could re-enter Malaysia after figuring a way out.
I kept on walking towards Kuala Lumpur. After walking back into Malaysia border for couple of kilometers, I rested and showered at a restaurant. After the rest, I was back on road and tried to get a lift. Several cars passed by, but none stopped. A family stopped and asked me where I wished to go; I said as far as they could. The guy (Nazri) who was driving the car asked me to join them. He told me he is an Army man and was currently on his way to work. In the car, I figured the only way forward for me to continue this journey was to fly into Cambodia, as I was not being allowed into Thailand without showing the required minimum cash on me. I requested Nazri to drop me to nearest airport, which happened to be Alor Setar Airport (Sultan Abdul Halim Airport). Out of no choice I had to book a flight online for the afternoon to Kuala Lumpur from Alor Setar Airport and a flight to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) from KL for Saturday (18th April 2015).
Right now I am resting a friend’s place Yueh Yee in Kuala Lumpur, who offered to host me during the journey long back. She came to pick me up to the airport and to calm my mind played peaceful melodies on the piano.
Day 1 | 15th April 2015
Life surprises one everywhere. As I was getting ready to leave for this amazing adventure, I received a call from Mona Parekh around 7am (Singapore time) saying that she was coming to pick me up and wish me goodbye, as we were not able to meet the previous day. That was the first surprise of the morning. I said goodbye to my host, my dear friend in Singapore Anugraha and her daughter Kiara (Sorry Rajiv couldn’t wish you goodbye – all those wondering, he is this genius IT head husband of Yogi Anugraha who offered to make a podcast channel for the journey, free of cost).
As Mona and I were driving around, she gifted me 6 different kinds of Young Living Essential Oils and said they were a gift for my journey. Please read more about the oils on the Facebook page: Young Living India. She elaborated on the uses of each of the oils and whilst I kept them in my bag, she surprised me with a solar mobile charger for the journey. She was a savior as I’d bought a solar mobile charger from Bangkok for the journey a week back but it’d stopped working after few days. She dropped me to a Gas Station so it would be easy for me to hitchhike.
Around 7.30am I started walking towards Woodlands (Singapore) – Johor Bahru – JB (Malaysia) checkpoint. I walked for 8 kilometers, as I was unable to get a lift from anyone. That being said between 10 am and 11am (Singapore time) I was struck with two ideas at the Singapore Public Bus Service, officially called as SMRT. First was: bus number 167. I got into the bus and said to the bus captain that I wish to ride but I have no money on me. He didn’t say anything, closed the doors and started the bus. He gave me a lift for a few stops until Upp Thomson Road and when I said thanked him, there was a big smile on his face. After five minutes I noticed bus number 169 coming towards me, which was headed towards the Woodland checkpoint. This time before getting into the bus, I mentioned to the bus captain (Chen Jiao), “I wish to ride to Woodlands but I’ve got no money on me.” She smiled and agreed to give me a ride!
By mistake I got off 4 stops early and had to walk for another half an hour to reach Woodlands checkpoint. (Same building as Woodlands Train Checkpoint) I was at the immigration by 12noon (Singapore time) with the help of 2 bus rides, small ride from Mona and a walk of 12 kilometers!
Just before the checkpoint, there was a food court. I was hungry as I’d left my friend’s house without having any food. I went to this young boy Jason; who had a food stall. I said to him, “Can I please have a banana?” He thought I wanted to buy the banana so I told him I had no money on me. He smiled and gifted me a banana. I then started marching towards the Singapore checkpoint.
Within 15 minutes I cleared Singapore Immigration and went towards the bus station because I was told the only way to cross this particular bridge between Singapore and Malaysia was by private or public transport. This had to be crossed to reach the Johor Bahru (Malaysia) checkpoint. As I reached the bus stop, I saw a police officer and requested him if I could walk the bridge of 2 kilometers to JB checkpoint. He asked me to take the bus, but I again requested with a big smile to be allowed to walk so he then showed me a secret looking passage towards the bridge. Walking on a bridge with no shade at 12 noon is not recommended due to the heat but I somehow enjoyed it because of the ocean under the bridge. How could I miss a walk with nature!
It took me 40 minutes to reach JB checkpoint but the walk was interestingly beautiful! It again took me 15 minutes to get clearance from the Malaysian Immigration. I was asked to proceed towards the bus outside the immigration office. I inquired from people the best way to reach Malacca (Melaka) as I wanted to reach there by sunset. After the free generous bus rides in Singapore, I had a big boost and was hopeful to experience the same in Malaysia. I was told to take a bus to Larkin Bus Terminal which was 10 kilometers from the JB checkpoint, then take another bus from there for Malacca. I went to bus driver and said “I wish to travel to Larkin but I’ve got no money on me”. He started laughing and left after 5 minutes. I started walking towards Larkin Bus Terminal and just outside the immigration office gate, two security guards stopped me and asked why and where I was walking? I replied, “Larkin Bus Terminal”. They asked me to take a bus and I replied with a big smile, “Got no money on me.” One of them (Mr. Azhar) offered me money to buy the bus ticket, but I refused and said, “please do not give me money; you can gift me the ticket but not money”. He bought me a ticket and then I explained to him what I was doing. He said he was happy to help and wished me a safe journey ahead. I requested to take his picture but he smiled and denied.
At approximately 2pm (Malaysia Time) I reached Larkin Bus Terminal and straight headed to the food-court, as I was hungry! I met Warisan Al Wasi, the restaurant manager (Mr. Saravanan) and told him with a big smile that I was hungry but had no money. He asked me several questions about myself and at the end gifted me a big plate of rice with boiled vegetables. The server (Mr. Mizam) offered me my food. During my lunch, I had a conversation with the manager and told him about my joinery. He said he was scared and shocked! “How come a thin guy like you decided to go on a such a long penniless journey?” I smiled and didn’t say anything. Later, I got to know he is from Chennai and the server was from Bangladesh.
After the meal, I started walking outside the bus terminal because I figured there was no way of hitchhiking from there. I walked for a few kilometers and reached the E2 highway that leads towards Malacca. Till 6pm (Malaysia Time) I tried to get a lift, on being unsuccessful I decided to walk further to find a decent spot to crash on the highway and spend a night. As I started walking, I met a young man (Jovis Tein) driving by in his car. He stopped and asked where I was going. I said “Malacca”! He replied saying, “I live few kilometers ahead; I can drop you till there”. As we were in the car we got to know each other and I explained to him about my penniless journey. He decided to gift me some food and water at the last Gas Station of the JB district. As he came out with the food he said, “I am going to buy you a bus ticket for Kuala Lumpur”. And I replied, “As you wish”. We drove for a few more kilometers and reached the Kulai Bus Station. As he reached the ticket counter, he changed his mind and said I am going to send you as far as I can, which is Hat Yai in Thailand (An hour away from Malaysia – Thailand border), which is 850 kilometers from where we were at that time. He bought me some more food and water at the bus station. Before saying good-bye to me, he explained how he and his wife (Sue) were going back home and saw me standing on the highway. After he dropped her home, she asked him to go back and check on me. And that’s how he came for me!
Jovis really surprised me with his generosity.
I never thought my first 24 hours of this journey would be full of such Ambiguous surprises.
Until next time, keep it generous
PS: Pictures are shot on iPhone 5s and Nikon D800 and my grammatical errors on the blog are edited by Ashmita Jadhwani