Freitag, 4. November 2011

The Story Continues ... 10.000 m Overhead

We are wowed to see our article featured in AirAsia's inflight magazine Travel3Sixty. With more than 16 million passengers carried in 2010 AirAsia is Asia's largest no-frills airline and pioneered low-cost travel in Asia. Craig had the chance to meet AirAsia's CEO and staff at a venue in KL. Enjoy reading:

Double Page in AirAsia's Travel3Sixty Inflight Magazine. 
Thumbing Asia from West to East

Saya Mat Salleh tapi Anak Malaysia. Ever since my exchange year in Shah Alam, Malaysia I can't wait to return to my second home: Reunite with my Malaysian (host) family, indulge some streetside Nasi Lemak and marvel at countless serendipities: From jaw-dropping scuba diving in Terengganu to colorful Deepavali celebrations in Kota Kinabalu AirAsia made a lot possible.

But this time I don't simply want to board an aircraft. I'm curious about 9500 kilometers land that seperate Germany from Malaysia. I want to go overland by thumbing up rides with people along the Silk Road. My brother joins me staging the next level of traveling:
We hitch-hike through Asia from West to East to meet people, see places and go beyond frontiers.
Our backpacks weigh a mere six kilograms each as we hit the road in Cologne, Germany. I'm nervous for the first time: Am I gonna make it on time? University starts in six weeks time but hitch-hiking is not predictable at all. Neither is our route predictable: What if we're not granted entry at a border… What if we get ill… Let's not think about it.
If you're hitch-hiking you have to be optimist.
In bustling Istanbul, Turkey we CouchSurf with a student of engineering. CouchSurfing is a cool way to explore a place from a different perspective other than the one offered by Lonely Planet. Instead of the must-sees Furkan shows us his favorite places and gives us insights into local secrets. We share the fun with friends all over the city from dusk till dawn.

Hitch-hiking in Turkey works really well. We meet people from all walks of life: Ferhat builds aquarium tunnels like the one in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) or on Sentosa Island in Singapore. The ride is swift and comfortable - quite the contrary to our worst experience two days later...

No lights. Only the moon crescent high above us adumbrates the horizon. No sound. The desert swallows every little noise instantly. A Turkish truck driver has just dropped us in the middle of nowhere. My brother comments our situation with a grim sense of humor:
„We wanted adventure... Here you are!“
With my heart in my mouth I notice our water bottle is empty. 30 minutes of desperate thoughts later a truck comes closer. We vigorously wave our hands. The huge vehicle comes to a halt and a young driver smiles at us. Relieved we jump in.

20 kilometers further we reach our destination: The hillside village of Mardin. We don't know where to stay. A group of men invite us to have a Chai tea. They're so excited about our story that they arrange a hostel room for free. It‘s amazing how hospitable the people are – both in Turkey and in the next country Iran.
Fresh from my letter box.
The Urmia Lake is so salty that we float on the water surface. With these zero-g-forces my book doesn't get wet. The next day we venture into Teheran - a sprawling megalopolis of 20 million. The historic old town boasts a fascinating bazaar. We stroll along the carpet shops and enjoy the fragrance of oriental herbs in the next alley. The architecture is mind-blowing. Incomparable arcades and shimmering domes with fine mosaics of turquoise and yellow tiles. This poetry flows from its visual appearance into the verses of traditional songs that our host Razor sings in the truck leaving Teheran.

The sun is burning our skin. Hitch-hiking in the hottest desert on earth is something really nerve-wracking. As we look into the clear sky we see the vapor trail of an aircraft. For a moment we imagine the comfort of an air-conditioned AirAsia Airbus. Luckily it takes us less than a minute to get a lift with an old truck from World War Two. Some kilometers further down a tyre bursts.

Within days we swap dry desert for lush rainforest in India. Palm trees drift by and the head wind sweeps my hair as I smile at the dumbstruck farmer next to me. The beat of the engine makes any conversation impossible.
It's a lifetime dream: We're hitching a tractor.
At 5 mph we come closer and closer to the world famous Taj Mahal. Between masses of tourists we stand in awe.

On the fringe of seaside Surat Thani a Thai police man means me to get into the police car. After a short ride he points at the beach: "You can put up your hammock here. Good night!" With a freshly plucked coconut in my hands I enjoy the sunset on my 'private' beach. Minutes later the monsoon starts to pour. Thanks to my rainfly the hammock stays dry.

The next morning I‘m squashed between six Thai guys in the truck cabin. Every time I try my newly learned Thai phrases we burst into laughter. I'm distracted by a roadside stall: My favorite fruit Durian. Near Hat Yai I wave a Malaysian flag. My cardboard sign reads „Saya mahu balik kampung. Shah Alam.“ (Want to come back home. Shah Alam.).

At the well lit Petronas gas station a Malay family offers to give me a lift. Chatting with them I trip down the memory lane and I catch up with speaking Malaysian over a tasty Roti Canai.

Finally: As I approach Jalan Adang No. 75 my (host) brother Danial catches sight of me. He runs into the house and yells:
"Craig is back. Craig is bearded."
Terima kasih daun keladi semoga kita berjumpa lagi.

This is the original text that I submitted!
If you want to read on head to the original blog posts.
For the full magazine go to: AirAsia Travel3Sixty.