“My travel experience in Malaysia – with just RM290”

By Evren Baba

This is a story of a man who never stops dreaming and never stops chasing them. Regardless of where or how I start telling this story, there will always be some things that have never been told.

I will explain to you what I did, what I learned from this experience and how much exactly I spent. But, before that let’s talk about why I did this travelling. I separated my narration into different topics. I wish this story would shed some lights on anyone who intends to embark on such adventure and serve as guidelines.

Why I Did This

Have you ever felt that your life does not belong to you? I have never. Because I never let anyone do this. I know, there was always someone who want to change your decision and trying to persuade you in a way that they want you to stick on. Sometimes, they are your family members, your friends, neighbours, or your everything… They always want from you to be like them. Don’t break the rules, become one of them. Don’t say anything opposite of what they’re saying. Don’t think! You don’t need to think. Because they think for you. They decide for you. They plan a life for you. But, the thing is they don’t live that life, instead, it’s you. All the pains, all the happiness, all the struggles…  You are the only one who have to deal with them. You are the only one who have to experience them because they choose the life for you instead of what you want for yourself.

Having said that, I have never been like this. I didn’t want to. I did not let my family members decide on my behalf. I did not let them intervene my life or my decision. It’s not always full of fun. It is a hard process. It takes years for them to really understand who I am. If you ask me, I still don’t think they understand me. They just started to let it go. They understand they cannot change anything until I want to. Let’s forget my family or your family.

Let’s face it! We are not totally living the lives that we want to. That’s because we want to be part of a society and trying to follow the rules to be one of them. We are afraid to stay outside. Today’s world is full of corrupted people from every side. They are like that because they are afraid of letting the privileges they have. No one has enough courage to say the truth. Because this life teaches us to be a part of the system. Not to criticise it. There are rules that you need to follow if you want to have a job, have a car, have a happy family, have an iPhone, have a pair of Prada, have a Mercedes, have a flat in a residence that stuck with thousands of people’s souls, have a vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Yes, we learned a long time ago, everything comes with a price, but no one told us the price is that much and we can never be able to know where to stop. Then, we didn’t. Even the journalists do not stop when people are dying around the world and the politicians are filling up their pockets or when countries become poorer and companies always gain. They all stick to the system.

Have you ever thought if one by one could be able to wake up and start saying the truth about the truth itself? I know, it won’t be easy. But, imagine you are not alone anymore. At least, there are a few people who think this is disgusting and everyone should realise what they are living. Day by day, the people who think like you are increasing. Imagine what you could achieve! I am not Pollyanna, I know this won’t happen. Until, you want to live the life that no others decide for you, but the one you created for yourself without anyone’s help.

Imagine, you don’t need to give explanation to anyone about what you did about your life, except you! Until the time we realise, that we don’t live the lives that we want but what the others offer to us. Until the time that we have found inside of our soul enough power to say no and live just for ourselves. Not for our instalments or to pay for the bills. Because life is more than that. We don’t come to this life to become a slave to someone with calling ourselves “employees” and doing everything that our “bosses” say.

Nope, I don’t believe and I don’t accept that! I don’t know about you, but I came to this life doing more. I don’t know how, but I will try. If I lose my job one day because of this, I will not be afraid. Because I don’t have hesitations now. Because I know that I will not be offended if I start to sell lemons in the bazaar. Now, I know that I won’t feel unhappy if I had to stay in a freezing surau for two days or fed myself only with peanuts in a tropical island. Because of the thing that we all forget for a long time. Happiness does not come with a price. They have just lied to you.

I am sorry friends. Until you wake up from sleep, until you start to live for others, not only for yourself. Then, maybe but maybe you can understand what you are capable of and what you can do for yourself and for the rest of the world too. Otherwise, you will never have a chance to know who you really are.

During my trip, I just did not travel to the places. I travelled into me, into my soul, too. I see myself clearer, I learnt about myself. I learnt what I can do or what I cannot do. I learned to forgive and try not to forget but don’t let those bad memories become a grudge inside of me like a poison which can kill me every moment of my life. I feel hard, but I became stronger where I fell just as I always do.

Don’t be afraid, you can try!

What I did

Even before I came to Malaysia as an exchange student, I already planned a trip in my mind. For a long time, I felt ready for this kind of a trip. So, when I arrived here, I started my detailed searching. I already decided to use mid-break and a week after that. I was going to use that two weeks to tour around Malaysia and Singapore. When the time came, I did not hesitate and started my trip. I began my journey from Kuala Lumpur and went to Melaka, Johor, Singapore, Terengganu, Redang Island, Perlis, Langkawi, Penang, and Cameron Highlands just in two weeks.

The thing is that all the way during my tour I always hitchhiked and did not use any other forms of public transportation, except for one time when a Malaysian family bought me a bus ticket. I stayed in mosques, suraus, in my tent, houses of the people that I don’t know and found on Couchsurfing site, and on one occasion, with a Malaysian family that I didn’t know before. Most important thing actually, they did not know me but still those people took me in their cars and even allowing me to stay in their homes.

I never waited for a long time to find a car. Always, people would stop and they took me in their car. Even though, there was quite a number of cars that turned back for me. Some people changed their way to put me somewhere closer to the place that I wanted to go.

I went to Melaka firstly, I couldn’t find a place to stay and I had very limited budget. I hoped to find a place along the shores to set up my tent. But, it seemed there was no chance to do that. Even, I was already prepared myself to stay in a park inside of my sleeping bag. Then, I found a historical mosque in Harmony Street. I went and see the place. I have just thought, “Hey, why not? I can stay outside of the mosque on the place covered with a rug and has a roof very comfortably. Guess what? I did! I stayed there for two nights. Firstly, it was a little bit hard to make it okay for the imam. But, I talked and explained my situation. I told him that I am an exchange student at IIUM from Turkey and don’t have a lot of money. We chatted a little bit more. In time, he started to become softer towards me. Even, he let me put my backpack in the management room of the mosque, when I asked him where I could leave my bag. Furthermore, he gave me a key to the room without hesitation.

After Melaka, I went to Johor and visited my friends whom I met before in Turkey. Next, I went to Singapore and lived one the first and interesting experiences in my life. I was kept and questioned by the Singapore border security for three hours. I was interviewed by three different groups of people with the same questions. They searched every corner of my bag and all belongings. Together with my all electronic devices. They asked stupid questions all the time. Anyway, of course, they couldn’t find anything and let me go. Even that I managed to get into the country with my little axe. If you know, how much they are strict about the rules. So, this was a result of making a very strong persuasive talk with them.

I could have just stayed there for a night with someone whom I found on Couchsurfing site. But I had to catch up with my classes. I had already missed a mid-term exam, so I needed to turn back to school soon. That’s why I tried to stick to my schedule. Next day, I made a return to Johor and started to hitchhike again. That day, I made a horrible mistake. I had just wanted to see the places that I have never seen and to pass the places maybe that I can never have a chance to see again. So, I used the east coast route when I was going to Terengganu and it turned out there was no one using that road to Terengganu.

Within hours I reached Kota Tinggi. When I was on the road one of the guys who took me in his car bought me food. In the late night, I was still on the road, trying to find a way to reach Kuala Terengganu. A few minutes later, a family took me and asked me to stay with them that night because it was so late and dangerous to continue my journey. I told them that I needed to be in Terengganu the next morning. Then, they said: “Ok, since we cannot bring you to Terengganu and we cannot put you in here, too, let us buy a bus ticket for you.” I thought it was a good idea to accept their help. Because it seemed close to impossible to reach Terengganu on time that I had earlier planned with hitchhiking. So, they bought me a bus ticket and I was in Terengganu the next morning.

When I was in Terengganu, I hitchhiked again inside the city because public transportation was close to nothing and every place was quite far from each other. Firstly, I waited at the bus station for a while. Because it was 6 o’clock in the morning. Then, I went to the historical Abidin Mosque. The guide over there was a girl who just graduated from IIUM. So, she showed me the mosque even before the opening time and let me put my bag in their office. So, I found again a place that I can leave my bag, because seeing around with my more than 20 kilos bag was really heavy. In the afternoon, I bought a ferry ticket and left Kuala Trengganu for Redang Island.

There are a lot of things that I really wanted to say about Redang. With just a word to describe – fabulous! When the ferry got closer to the island, everything became greener and more blue. I stayed there for two days inside my tent and definitely I had a blast! The ferry got us off at the beach called ‘Long Beach’. I looked around and there were some bungalows and hotels. Because of out of season, there were not many people.

Anyway, I did not want to stay there. I checked my map and found a trekking path going out to the other side of the Island. It was about to get dark, I started my trekking quickly. For an hour, with more than 25 kilos in my back, I passed different kind of trees, animals, little waterfalls and rivers. I drank tasteful waters. Finally, I arrived at “my beach”. I am saying “my beach” because there was nobody else for two days except me and nature. Imagine a tropical island and 1 kilometre of beach with no one but a great nature and you lived there for two days. Literally, that defined my days in there. There are a lot of things to tell about this island maybe in a friendly zone, I will tell them all.

After Redang, it was time to go to Langkawi. I arrived Kuala Terengganu firstly. From there, I started to hitchhike again. I was on the road in the late night again and a guy who I called “Bab” later took me in the car. His name was Harun. He was with his daughter and offered me to stay that night with them and told me that he will buy me a ticket to Kuala Perlis. Frankly, staying with a Malaysian family and in a local house was one of my dreams to see the Malaysian lifestyle closer. So, I didn’t want to lose that chance as I already planned to reach Perlis the next day in the evening. So, it was okay. I stayed one night with them in a village close to Setiu in Terengganu. I tasted the different Malaysian food. Now, I have a family in here, too.

The next morning, I started to hitchhike again. Bab Harun tried to buy me a bus ticket, but, he couldn’t find a seat for me. Anyway, I already told them my story so they knew that at times I did not eat properly. Bab Harun said, “Hey, I couldn’t buy you a bus ticket. At least, let me give you some money. I want you to eat well and don’t get sick.”

In my first hitchhike that morning Ronnie took me in. He has a resort in Perhentian and he was going there. He invited me to his hotel but because of lack of time I couldn’t accept his offer. That was one of other points that I missed a great chance. Anyway, I kept my way. Somewhere around, I don’t remember the place, a guy took me and I don’t remember his name too. I don’t know anything about him. I just travelled with him like 2 km. In that short time, he asked and I answered. When I was leaving the car, I took my bag from behind and wanted to say thank you and shake his hands. When we were shaking hands, there was something between our hands. Yes, as you can guess, it was money. He wanted to give it, but, I put the money on the other seat. Then, he grabbed my wrist and said: “Hey, I want to support you, please take this. I’ll appreciate if you do.” Then, I took it. I will explain in detail about this money later.

In the evening, I arrived Kuala Perlis and missed the last ferry to Langkawi within a few minutes. After that, one man, Ismail, whom I met that day and who helped me to get there, told me that he arranged a place for me to stay. I met the guy that he mentioned and he was the owner of a motel. Cheapest room in the motel was RM45. I honestly told him that I cannot give that much. Then, the guy asked me how much that I can pay? I said RM30. He asked me if I am a Muslim. When I said yes, he just hugged me and said, “Hey man, we are brothers, we should help each other.” I stayed there that night. Next morning I left for Langkawi on the early hours.

Langkawi welcomed me with a very bad weather. It was raining. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Langkawi and I don’t have many good ideas about Langkawi. Firstly, it is big and for me very modernised by the people. You cannot feel yourself like you are in a tropical island in there. Because that place is very developed although no transportation. Everywhere full of taxis with no legal documents. Besides, contrary of being a non-tax or duty-free place, Langkawi is unbelievably expensive. If you want to go somewhere you have to rent a car or take a taxi. Good places are always very far away from the city centre and everyone is trying to sell you something. I cannot say people are friendly too. After all, it is a place that you should see.

After one and half days in Langkawi, I got on a ferry to Penang. Penang is beautiful. I felt like I am in Istanbul. It’s a city full of culture, history, modernism and a business centre at the same time. I could only spend there a day, although, it was marvellous. I went to most sightseeing places. You could easily feel yourself in a city that never sleeps. I stayed in there with Soughabya that I found on Couchsurfing for two nights. He cooked for me Indian food which was delicious. Penang is another place that I definitely like.

My last stop was Cameron Highlands. This place is one of my favourites no doubt. Maybe it’s because I like nature more than anything else. When I arrived there it was about to get dark. At least, I found a car easily which was directly going to Cameron Highlands. The friends who took me directly put me in the camp area. Thanks to them because it was raining like hell. Even some of the roads were closed because of the flood. I arrived at the camp site, but learned that the area was closed a few days ago. I went and talked to the manager and managed to get permission for a one-night stay. In the first night, I tried to set up my camp with a rooftop and stone ground. Thanks to my cheap tent, it was impossible to set it without a jab to the ground. I didn’t have a chance to set up my tent on the ground because it was raining crazy. Before I finished doing it, I would be drenched and all stuff and tent might  have been filled with water. I was about the leave and found a place to stay – I realise there was a surau. So, I thought, “Hey, why not?” I checked the room. It seemed great to me and I stayed there, slept in my sleeping bag. Next morning, I was freezing. It was hard to go out of the sleeping bag. Nevertheless, I had to go out. I talked again with the manager that morning. He was about to say that I cannot stay there. I explained everything to him and asked for one more night. After a little chat and answering a query from him I got the permission to stay on.

Cameron Highlands is a really must see place before you die. Tea plantations, strawberries, trekking paths, views ,weather everything is so special about Cameron Highlands. Even, if you are staying in a freezing surau for just two nights.

After two days that I spent out there it was time to go back. I started my journey again and a law enforcement guy took me in his car. Firstly, he took me to his mother-in-law’s village. We had lunch in there and he took his kid. He was not going to the Kuala Lumpur. So, he bought me a bus ticket for a one-hour way to Kuala Lumpur.

When I got back into my room in the university campus in Gombak all I felt was victory and pride. Do you believe yourself, Evren, that you really did this? Yes, I did! First time in my life, with no experience, I started this way and was successful. I ended up with no bad incidents! So, I was the winner this time!

What I learned

I learned that I can do more than 1,500 km hitchhike with more than 35 different vehicles. I learned that I could wait to find a car under the hot scotching sun for hours, but never give up and stay positive. I discovered that I could carry my big and heavy bag for more than 200 km in two weeks. Even it ‘killed’ my shoulders.

I learned that people can take me in their car because I don’t look like a dangerous person. I learned that despite everything people trust each other and they invited a person whom they do not know into their homes. I learned that we are not living in a world full of evil, but we live in a world where we can trust each other.

I learned that I could spend just RM290 and was really happy to spend two weeks of my life during the journey. I learned that people can change their way not because they expect something from you. But, only that they just wanted to help you. I learned that Malaysia has great waterfalls that I can take showers and great rivers that I can freely drink. I learned that I could wake up in a tent and found myself surrounded by big iguanas and still felt comfortable. I can just smile and wait for them to go.

When I stayed in my tent in Redang island one of the local boys came and asked me: “Sir, aren’t you afraid to stay here alone at night? I replied to him exactly like this: “Why should I be afraid? I learned something about myself. I learned that I can stay in a tent totally alone in an isolated beach of a tropical island alone.”

I did not learn this but somewhat it increased my belief that I could live my life without one’s directions but only by myself.

I learned my limits. I pushed them. I pushed myself. I discovered about myself the things even that I didn’t know until now.

How Much I Spent

Before I left, I prepared my budget at RM550 of which RM200 is for accommodation, food and everything for two weeks. Another RM200 for ferries and last RM150 for Singapore because of different currency.

Anyway, I got out the way with this amount of money. My friend in Johor, Syafuad told me this: “This is something that I can never do and I want to support you.” Then, he gave me RM200.

On the road, a family bought me a bus ticket. Bab Harun gave me RM50 and another guy gave me RM50 too. This money helped me to eat sometimes good food. Because most of the time, I just spent for food RM3-5, not more than that. I stayed one-night at a motel and had a chance to enter the Skybridge in Langkawi because of this money.

When I got back to Kuala Lumpur, all the money that I spent for my trip was RM290 minus fares for ferries. For ferries, I spent RM198, and in Singapore, I spent RM72. In total, I spent RM560. From this money only RM220 was mine. The rest of the money came from the people who helped me.

I don’t know really how to thank them. There is no words that I can explain my gratitude. May Allah bless all Malaysian people who helped me. Without you this journey would be impossible.

Maybe you are asking now, why I did this kind of trip. I came to Malaysia as an exchange student with a scholarship. I will go to Netherland next semester as an Erasmus exchange student with a scholarship again. So, under these circumstances, money is so critical for me. I am trying to save as much as I can. At the same time, I want to see new places too, and I cannot let money become a burden to me. Also, I am planning to make a trip to North Europe next summer. Money is much more critical in there because of the currency. So, I just wanted to see how tough I am with a very limited budget.

In the beginning of next year, I will go to Krabi, Phi phi island, Phuket, Bangkok and Siem Reap, Cambodia with the same style. So, I will have a lot of other stories to share. Wish me luck! 🙂

I think, that is the end of my story. Be sure, still, there are a lot of things to tell. From time to time, I will try to share them on my Instagram. That was my story, I wish to listen to yours and wish you too have a story just like I do have.

Let me finish this with a Turkish poem written by Ataol Behramoğlu.

And you should feel the grief honourably, with your whole soul
Because delights and sufferings ripen a man
Your blood should mix with the circulation of life
And life’s endless fresh blood should circulate in your veins

***

Evren Baba

Exchange student from TR, looking for adventures, writing for the truth itself...

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