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.

Donnerstag, 8. September 2011

Utusan Malaysia - Article On Our Cause

It's in Bahasa Malaysia in biggest Malaysian Newspaper Utusan Malaysia. Hard copy got different pics! If you don't quite get it, try your hands on Malay!

For more on our adventure: Happy reading below posts, the summary or YouTube vids.
Spread the good word about hitch-hiking!

To all Utusan Malaysia staff:
"Terima kasih daun keladi semoga kita berjumpa lagi!"
Selamat raya. Maaf zahir batin.

Craig & Dario

Freitag, 26. August 2011

7000 Kilometers. 107 Lifts. 5 Countries. 2 Brothers. One Road.

It's was bound to fail: Four weeks time to prepare for one month of hitchhiking along the Silk Road - today's most dangerous and both politically and infrastructurally difficult route.

But yes we did! Thumbing up truck rides in the hottest desert on earth, got lifts with public bus through Kurdish Iraq, hitched a hotel, Germanwings and longtail boat. We put up our hammocks in picturesque moon-like landscapes and on lonely Thai beaches. We hitch-hiked the newest BMW and Indian tractors. We explored Istanbul with crazy CouchSurfers, enjoyed tasty Bakhlava in Southern Anatolia and zero-g-forces in Northern Iran. We played futsal in Shiraz and learned how to wash before prayer with Furkan. We were thumbing the road for more than 5500 kms together. Craig topped the 7000-kilometer-mark hitching to his second home Malaysia.

Everywhere, one of the first questions we heard was: "Isn't it dangerous?" - No. It's not. To go by car in the first place is the dangerous thing. Hitchhiking is as safe as you make it: We only go with people with who we feel comfortable. Other questions centered around the feasibility. Despite all adverse conditions (low population density, Iranian don't know what is hitching) Iran turned out to be the best country to thumb up lifts. Even the other countries were far easier to hitchhike than Germany. With one exception … India.

We had an awesome time hitching Indian tractors etc. but we would rather go for the unforgettable train rides on future trips. Autostop in India is exhausting: Sometimes it takes you more than half an hour to only explain what you do. Other reasons: Extreme cheap public transport and scarce long distance traffic on roads. Can you imagine that one of the four principal highways leaving 20-million-Mumbai is a two-lane (!!!) road?

To all fellow hitchhikers who want to stage the Silk Road and those among them who have the dream of doing a full overland route - like we wanted in the first place: You need far more preparation time, approximately three weeks more than we had. You'd need to be fine with four days of desert only. Trust us: Desert is nice to see - but only for some hours. Another bound-to-fail-challenge: Try to make friends with somebody in the Pakistani embassy to get a visa for overland entry - otherwise it's currently impossible. Then you'd need to change and expand the route significantly going for China since there is no usable Bangladesh-Myanmar land border crossing and heaps of difficulties to get required permits for India-Myanmar border crossing let alone for the troubled Indian border state Manipur. In plain English: It's today's most difficult route to prepare and realize.

Sometimes people ask us if we go with no money. In our opinion the idea of zero-expenditure-travel is nuts and close to scrounging - and that is not what you want your hosts to think of you. It's also not practical: Perhaps we'd to bribe a border officer to enter a country. Sometimes you are simply hungry and need a Kebab or Samosa ;-) The currency you pay with while hitchhiking is entertainment.

Anyways you can still expect to enjoy a breathtaking fun time with a mini budget. We spent 100€ each to India (museum fees etc.) and another 50€ for Craig to reach Malaysia.

It's however not our financial situation that inspired this trip. It was our lust for adventure and serendipities: Meet people, see places and go beyond frontiers. As we make friends along the Silk Road we advance cultural understanding and global peace.

We'd like to express our appreciation for all the people who helped us: The gay Dutch, the Thai policeman, Germanwings for the VDB, Hennessy Hammocks for the awesome hammocks, the CouchSurfers, our Mama and Papa, our friends Felix, Dany & Robert, Craig's Malaysian family and anybody who made this trip possible.

Some people ask: "What comes next?" ... Well, perhaps 'Urban Tourism in the Bronx', 'Parachuting over North Korea' or 'Riding through Mongolia with only a donkey and a fridge'.

Donnerstag, 25. August 2011

Taking and Giving

More than 7000 kilometers we enjoyed so much luck, love, fun and hospitality together with people from all walks of life. We want to show our appreciation by donating a part of our Germanwings gift to places in need:

The Horn of Africa is experiencing the biggest humanitarian crisis ever. More than 12 million people desperately need help. Water. Medicine. Vaccination. Food. Care. Safety.
"1 € can buy 1 week nutrition for 1 person."
Another cause we want to support is the protection of human rights. Every human on earth should enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty can fight for the rights of people along our road, free human rights activists in Iran, insist on freedom of peaceful assembly in Malaysia, support the victims of Bhopal and give a voice to the Kurdish minority in Turkey.
"Human rights. We protect them. They protect us."
Thank You. Danke. teşekkürler.   शुक्रिया.   با تشکر از شما.   ขอบคุณคุณ.   terima kasih.

Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft
Konto 51 51
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
BLZ 370 205 00
Kennwort: ARD/Ostafrika

Amnesty International
Konto 80 90 100
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
BLZ 370 205 00