“This is another excerpt from a rough draft of my book detailing my adventures hitchhiking Melaka when I traveled through Malaysia in 2015.”
Walking in the dead of summer sucked. I felt inebriated despite not drinking alcohol from dehydration and heat exhaustion. The majority of my time I spent hiding from the blistering sun under anything that offered shade, rubber trees, bus stops, roadside shacks, abandoned buildings and sometimes the homes of complete strangers who picked me up off the road. No matter how hot my skin boiled in the inferno of the jungle heat, I always walked south inching closer to Singapore with each passing day. Every person who picked me up warned me of the potential hazards of criminals looking to steal my money, gear and harm me, but I handled my own and used my own judgment. Nice people existed everywhere in the world and I declined certain rides based on instincts, but generally I found people used race as a social pariah and I did not fit into this generalization based on my white skin color. “Don’t get rides from a Malay, they can’t be trusted,” said the disgruntled Chinese man. “Don’t get rides from the Indian, they’re all thieves,” said the irritated Malay man. And it went on and on with each future hitchhiking experience. No one trusted anyone outside of their race who lived inside their country. The only reason I gained trust was because I walked freely with white skin, minimal gear and looked foreign, which locals took an interest in my whereabouts and experiences, picking me up off the shoulder of the road. I felt like a peacock flaunting my feathers, but really I just smelled of sweat and looked of grime.
The dirtier I looked the easier the rides came, but really running water became a hard commodity unless I walked through the more gentrified regions of Malaysia with Shell gas stations and other monopolies, where I utilized their public bathrooms and outdoor faucets to take hobo showers in the sizzling sun. Today was no different than any other day. It involved walking an average of 10 to 15 kilometers and hitching a few rides by motorbike and car. As I edged closer towards Melaka a beat-up rustic red Honda approached with its rice burner engine, tinted windows and fake chrome plastic rims. A Chinese-Malay man in his 20’s pulled off to the side of the road to pick me up. He headed towards Melaka with a few errands to run in between so I tug along for the ride. The trust factor in Malaysia made my mind boggle with our first stop at the bank. He left the keys in the ignition, his phone in the center console, the AC on full blast and casually walked in on the far side of the building to make a deposit. He treated the situation like his long time friend waited in the car and no qualms or trust issues existed on whether his vehicle might get stolen, his phone snagged or both. He gave me full trust within minutes of meeting me. We made a few more pit stops inside Melaka Industrial Park and he treated me to a lunch of Pork Noodle, not accepting my money when I offered it to him, as a look of perplexity crossed his crooked smile and scarred harelip. A look of excitement spread out on his face, dimpling his cheeks as he drove through town; we crossed the Malacca River and his long, pointy fingertip bent out towards a flotilla of small tourist boats. He suddenly became my tour guide blurting out facts and information on different tourist sites in Melaka. The boats meandered down the Malacca River through the town of Malacca all the way down to the Straits of Malacca passing historic buildings, abandoned warehouses, old mills, mangrove stands, intricate churches and villages along the way.
We continued downtown and he gave me a tour of the whole city stopping briefly in Red Square at the Stadthuys, city hall, the administrative capital of Malacca. A series of roundabouts covered the highly trafficked area and my eyes radiated off the deep vibrant reds of every building in the vicinity. Originally built by Dutch occupants, the Stadthuys, and red clock tower still stand to this day in Red Square along with the oldest Dutch historical building in the Orient, Christ Church. This 18th century Anglican Church situated in the city of Malacca is the oldest functioning Protestant church in all of Malaysia. The Dutch heavily influenced the architecture of Melaka with their conquest of the Portuguese Empire in 1641 reforming buildings to Dutch Colonial architecture, which still remains to this day. Christ Church sits with three Norman windows of entry on the façade, covered in a bright red coating of paint in unison with the other structures of British Town. Its red exterior trim extends along the walls and the doors, where one can see “CHRIST CHURCH MELAKA” in bold white letters and “1753” centered underneath it. A big white cross lines the red arch, followed by a bell and spire depicting Dutch Colonial architecture at its finest, making this a keen interest for tourists coming from all over the world.
The picturesque setting of light maroon painted buildings set the scene for a postcard, and I regrettably wished he dropped me off in the city of Melaka rather than the outskirts where the buildings decayed to bits of rubble, and half-completed construction projects. Nonetheless, my mind fast forwarded through hundreds of years of history in minutes and I avoided walking through the tourist pits in town, where they trapped tourists into buying overpriced souvenirs and unnecessary tours. I lucked out as I indulged into hours of reading, dipping into more of, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” sprawling my feet out across a half-built concrete structure, adjacent dilapidated silos, as I peered out through scaffolding at the perfect blue sky, losing my thoughts in its beauty. My mind erased into the oblivion of the night sky, fading away to the faint sound of mosquitoes, and crickets as I sweat profusely in my bivy sack, which smelled of putrid sweat from several restless nights in the jungle.