The watch adventure!

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Sometimes, hitchhiking the truck will reward you the best view of that area.

As a result of hitchhiking on the last day of Ramadhan, most of the cars on the road seems to be full or didn’t have enough space for two persons, so we ended up hitchhiked with a truck. I was so glad that we took the ride and got to have a glance of the scenic part of Istanbul. Honestly, trucks have always been my favorite transport since my first truck ride in Kyrgyzstan. You just couldn’t find any better view point on the land especially when you were surrounded by those stunning landscape.

But, didn’t I mention about they were asking for sex even for a male hitchhiker? Well, there were but not all the Turkish truck drivers will ask for sex. Instead, most of the them will never leave u alone if they could take you, they had no problem to park illegally, or to block the entire traffic or even taking the risk of getting fined by having 2 passengers, just to pick you up. And normally they don’t speak English as well, or maybe very little, but they will definitely call their friends to show off or invite you for Chay.

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Or they might invite you for the “Truckmade” Turkish coffee, without the cup to read fortune though.

So after 3 rides, Miroslav and I arrived at the entrance of the village and our “Treasure Hunt” began! I have to admit it will never be easy if Miroslav never came with me. The village wasn’t as organised as on Google maps and I only have the GPS location instead of address. Even worst was my phone’s GPS function wasn’t working again! Luckily I knew the name of the wife and had a brave company that speaks Turkish. Most importantly, it was a small village that everyone know each other, those friendly villagers pointed us to the correct direction soon after Miroslav spoke to them.

While we were trying to figure out the exact house, a very fierce dog started to barking at us. Thanks to the dog, the friendly grandma came out to check and confirmed with us that was the place. She invited us to go in and got the wife to come out immediately. Without a second thought, the wife said my friend’s name and went into the house to  bring me all the stuffs that belong to my friend. So easy? No way! Because all the guys (including Turkish) that tried to stop me from heading there told me that the husband will refuse to give back the watch and then the villagers will join him chasing us away!

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I thought I should be running away like this? Photo Source : the star online

Anyway, mission completed! The only problem left was to figure out how to hitchhike from here to Burgas, Bulgaria. I parted with Miroslav at the main road leaving the village, which wasn’t very far from the house and then I walked a little bit and stood at a good spot waiting for a ride. However, I started to get more and more nervous, probably because I watched too many television programs and too many people trying to scared me off, so I kept worrying if the husband will come in a sudden with a big knife and chasing me. Even making me nervous was, there weren’t any car passing by in half an hour wait, I am sure it was a perfect road for cyclist!

Finally, after about 40 minutes waiting, I saw some heavy motorbikes coming, as usual I gave them my friendly wave. Probably I was too friendly and one of them actually turn back to offer me a ride. Okay, I must admit that I was really worried and didn’t want to miss any single opportunity to leave the village, so I took the ride. I swear, it was definitely a pretty cool ride if I don’t have my backpack with me and if a helmet was provided. OMG! It was so fast, I felt like my eye balls will get blowed off anytime if I open my eyes, and with my heavy backpack at the back, every single turn made me felt like I was going to fall off the bike!

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Don’t doubt, I did hitchhiked with them!

Luckily, they left me at the next village that was about 20 to 30km away. I was really glad that they need to visit their friend there because I couldn’t talk to them during the ride, I don’t know how to ask them to stop. I took some pictures with their fancy motorbikes and had a short chat before they left.  They were riding to the beautiful black sea coast to welcome the Muslim New Year with a camping trip, I wish I could have a bike tour one day too! After they left me, it was another quiet waiting, not more than 5 cars passing in an hour, and none of them stop for me, so I decided to walk a little bit further to check what was waiting after next corner.

I guess that was the main street of that village, nothing much on the road, so I picked a spacious spot, put down my backpack and stood there waiting for the next ride. Not too long, a white colour van drove pass me, and then made a very fast U-turn at the T-junction. I thought that was one of the dangerous driver from the village, but wait, they actually drove towards me and offered me a ride to the next big town, Vize, woohoo! They were on a road trip too, as the back seats were taken out in order to fit in their food and stuffs , so I had to squeeze in and shared the front seat with the girlfriend of the driver.

I guess this is the law of hitchhiking, most of the time you just need one nice driver to send you away from the shitty spot and then the rest of the hitch will be very easy. They left me at the gas station located at the entrance of next town, Vize, and almost immediately I get picked up by another guy, seems like the rest of the hitch will be easy for me, but did it really happen in the way that I thought of?

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1413 km to Istanbul, and then?

Why do I still rushed to Istanbul after knowing that there were anti-Chinese protests going on in the city? Why didn’t I choose another route or why didn’t I just take a ship or a plane to cross the country if I was so scared? Maybe I am one of those extremists who wanted to prove the “Trust” on the road, but to overcome my fear and to pick up a watch in Turkey sounds more reasonable for a timid person like me.

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if there is a city you must see before you die, that must be Istanbul.

I made the decision to hitchhike in Turkey after further assurance from Miroslav that the anti-Chinese thing wasn’t that serious and he had a female friend who is still alive after hitchhiking alone in Turkey. Miroslav is another hitchhiker from Croatia who was writing his PhD thesis in Istanbul at that time, and his only advice was, do not hitch with the trucks. Since he was the only person who was willing to pick up the watch with me, I rushed to Istanbul to make sure I arrived before he left.

Why was that watch so important? and why do I need someone to go together with me? Well, it was not my watch, it belonged to a cyclist from Malaysia, whom I finally met while waiting for my Iran visa in Georgia. She is currently on her way cycling from England to Singapore, living my dream life, and the watch was a gift from her brother purposely for this cycling trip. Honestly, the watch has nothing to do with me, but it meant a lot for her, so why not help out since I had to go to Stockholm anyway?

It began like those great stories on the road, she was invited to stay with a local family while passing by their village. She had great time there until the wife left for work, yes, the pervert husband came and asked for sex. As a result from leaving in a rush, she left her watch in the bathroom and only realised after she arrived in Istanbul. Initially the wife agreed to send her the watch, but for some unknown reasons, the wife blocked her on facebook shortly after.

If you have done or you plan to do the Silk Road trip, you probably know how complicated the visa procedure of Central Asia is. My friend couldn’t head back as she already had the visas with dates specified, my decision of heading back to Turkey seemed like the only hope for her. Furthermore, Miroslav was really enthusiastic about meeting the pervert man, so I decided to help her. I have to admit that I was a little bit worried about going there alone as the French that I was initially traveling with and some Turkish men I’ve approached told me I should never go at all.

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I was told that the anti-Chinese protest was just a political trick for the upcoming election, and I had no problem walking around in the city, Asian tourists were everywhere

After getting lost in Istanbul for some days and had my last baklava in Turkey, Miroslav and I hitchhiked to the village with the GPS location and the name of the wife. On the way, we chatted about our travels and I got surprising news. He told me about his experience of being asked for sex by truck driver! No kidding, that’s the reason he wanted to go with me after I told him the whole story, he wanted to scold the pervert husband. And this was further proven by my German friend who initially doesn’t believe me, and then encountered one for himself. 

Other than this, one of my hosts in Istanbul also told me about his ex-girlfriend being asked for sex by a truck driver while they were hitchhiking together in Turkey. Or if you’ve previously heard about the Italian hitchhiker, Pippa Bacca, or watched the movie, La Mariée. Or maybe you have also heard about the rumours where the truck drivers in Turkey will double check if you say you are a couple. I bet you can now understand the reasons why those people who took me to Istanbul were very angry and scolded my host. 

Back to the topic, if you are interested with our hitchhiking adventure to the village, did we find the house without the exact address and could we get the watch back? and did I encounter anything for my last hitchhiking trip leaving Turkey, follow me for my next post. 🙂

As I couldn’t afford the Boeing 737, could I make the 737 km to Istanbul?

09/07/2015

Due to my limited time, I continued my journey the next day even though I was extremely tired. I wasn’t that worried anymore as there were no people attacking me due to my Chinese looking face, only one curious person came to me and asked where  I am from, which was super friendly. However, I wasn’t in Istanbul, where Uyghur, Korean and Thai people get attacked by extremists, we will find that out when I am approaching Istanbul.

My host offered to take me to the hitchhiking spot that was on his way to work, so we departed soon after having Turkish breakfast with his wife. Don’t doubt it, I hitchhiked without a working phone again, but I am well prepared, I have the big cities’ names and my Couchsurfing host’s contact written down in my book, not to mention my hitchhiking letter too. Guess what? It was less than 15 minutes and I was already on my way to Istanbul, locals know the best spot!

They were 3 young men, and a car without number plate at the front. No worries, I didn’t get raped, only get invited for Chay and a beach vacation. I was actually quite surprised as that was Ramadhan period, I even told them that in Malaysia we were taught never to eat or drink in front of Muslim people during the fasting period. Probably the Father of Turkey, Ataturk, has made the difference, you will never get starve as a tourist in Turkey because everywhere still sells food. And for the beach vacation, it was sad that I had to reject as I was in a rush to Istanbul.

They made the stop for Chay before they left me on the highway, the authentic Turkish hospitality

At the split road where they dropped me off, a van with another 3 men stopped in front of me, but this time there was a lady in the front seat. I wasn’t sure about the place they were heading to as I only had those cities on my way written down, so I assumed that they understood me because they kept telling me to get into the van. However, the mood turned weird soon after I get into the van, I have no idea why they kept turning to me, saying something in Turkish and then start laughing. I honestly felt very uncomfortable.

Then I remember my hitchhiking letter, so I passed it to them immediately. One of the guy read it out loudly and when he finished, everyone turned to me again with a surprised face, luckily no more laughing. I wasn’t sure what was going on but no worries, nothing bad happen to me, another interesting situation though. They actually informed the fruit stall owner at the place where they dropped me off that I was their friend. Of course the owner had no idea what was going on and just left me alone after he understood that I was a hitchhiker and I didn’t speak Turkish. 

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My hitchhiking letter which was translated by Ozan, Kei’s couchsurfer from Istanbul.

Probably due to the fasting month, there weren’t many cars on the road. But since I am always lucky, the second car passing me already slowed down and stopped within a few meters. I walked over immediately, but when I almost got there, he drove away speeding. Yes, that was the awkward moment that most of the hitchhikers had experienced, making fun of us is considered as entertaining for some drivers. Anyway, it was just an embarrassing moment and no other people saw it, so I walked back to the place where I initially stood.

Later a few more cars passed by and one of them stopped, not going to Istanbul and not so friendly either.

Finally, another car with another 3 men did an emergency stop in front of me, oh my 3 men day! They were businessmen, coming from Samsun and heading all the way to Istanbul. Yes! I got a ride for the next 550km, can’t believe that I have been so lucky although it was a little bit scary at first. The scare wasn’t caused by any life threatening reason though, it was only due to their way of speaking on the phone, loud and angrily. Apparently, the horse racing going on on that day contributed in part to my scare.

However, the most scary part was after one of them read my hitchhiking letter and knew that I have a friends in Istanbul. Well, I have never meet this “friend” before that, he was my next CouchSurfing host, so I said my “friend” to avoid complication. He turned to me and said, “Never ever do this again in Turkey, is your friend Turkish?”. “Yes…”, I replied. “He is Turkish, he should have know how danger it is! How can he let you doing this!”, he looked even more angry together with the cutting head sign. This time, I replied with my awkward smile…

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“Do you know you could have get killed for hitchhiking in Turkey, never do it again!”

Over the next 550km, we had some conversations in between the horse racing results. I was treated like their daughter, I even got fed twice before getting to Istanbul. If you knew that I was worried about starving that day, you can probably imagine how grateful I was. What was even more epic was that I couldn’t get them to understand my reason of hitchhiking, so they insisted I to accept their money as one of them saw that there were only 20 Turkish lira in my purse. I did try to prove that I had enough money by showing my bankcard but then they started to turn angry again.

If you think this was the ending of that day, no, the climax was actually after I arrived in Istanbul. Due to the reason that I had no working phone, the Turkish guys called my host, spoke with him and sent me all the way to the meeting place. Then they insisted to wait until my host came and spoke with him in angry tone as usual. Even though I don’t understand Turkish but I could feel that that was not a good sign. What further confirmed my suspicions was when my host turned to me during the conversation and asked me if everything was fine along the journey.

Later, this was proved by my host, they were actually scolding him for letting me hitchhike in Turkey. I really have to apologise to my very nice host, Mehmet, even though he said he didn’t mind but I still feel very sorry. Also thanks to him for his understanding. Second, I am really glad to have met these people on my way, they were not only showing me the Turkish hospitality, but again they proved that although there are risks on the road, but there are even more good people on the road. Next will be my last part of my hitchhiking in Turkey, will my Chinese looking face endanger my existence in Istanbul?

Solo female hitchhike in Turkey, get raped then killed?

Hitchhiking in Turkey alone as an Asian?!

I must be adrenaline junkie or I am crazy to decide to hitchhike in Turkey during the period where anti-Chinese protest was going on in the country! Maybe you will think that I am brave, or actually stupid, but in order to write this post now, I must have survived.

Honestly, I couldn’t sleep the day before leaving for Turkey, I couldn’t even decide if I should stay one more night to prepare myself at the border city after the dramatic morning in Georgia. I was worrying if my Asian look will cause me some difficulty hitchhiking, what should I do if I meet those drivers that ask for sex? More importantly, I didn’t even make more than 1/4 of my journey after 4 hours of hitchhiking, how would I get a safe accommodation if I couldn’t get to my destination, and where can I change money if I arrive too late…

It was the scariest waiting time of my life, I stood at the road side with my thumb, waiting for the right ride. Then I saw a guy sitting at the passenger seat next to the driver in a black Range Rover passing by pointing at me with a surprised look in his face. Immediately, they pulled over and drove in reverse direction! I quickly picked up my bag and walked towards the car.

There were 2 guys in the car, I first told them that I am going to the border and the answer was, “Come!”. With a combination of English, Russian, German and Sign language, I found out that they were both Turkish, and most importantly, the guy in the passenger seat will take over the car after the border crossing and head to Samsun, which was my destination of that day, about 530km away.

I was happy yet confused, “why is the other guy not going back but came with him in the car?” Soon, I understood that he was there to help this guy who was heading to Samsun to bring in more duty free cigarettes and alcohol as there is a limit to bring in from abroad to Turkey. With my Malaysian passport, my backpack and the extra alcohol from the driver, I walked cross the border easily together with one of the guys without any questions nor scanning. And yes, I have officially hitchhiked across the border to Turkey on my own!

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Every passenger have to get off the car to cross the border from Georgia to Turkey

Right after we crossed the border, the other guy left us on a bus that headed back to Tbilisi and of course we continued our long journey to Samsun. On the way, we had some conversations about the my trip with my broken Russian. Then he started to offer me the opportunity to stay in his house in Samsun. Due to the reason I didn’t really understand him, and that I have heard of too many Turkish truck driver asking for sex from female hitchhikers, I was being very alert!

I used my very limited Russian to let him understand that I am not a prostitute, he looked shocked and immediately explained to me that wasn’t what he meant. After a lot of pictures of his family from his phone, I finally understood that he had a spare house and he wanted to invite me to stay as a guest. He wanted to show me around in Samsun and introduce me to his family. I think I worry too much. I actually wished that I could accept the offer but since I had a couchsurfing host already, I had to reject his kind offer.

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Beautiful sunset along the way to Samsun

So after a 5 hours long ride, with a stop in Trabzon for dinner in between, we arrived in Samsun, right at the place my Couchsurfing host would meet me. But as my host was invited to Ramadhan dinner at his friend’s place, I had to wait for him in front of the hospital for 30 minutes. Suprisingly the person who came up after 15 minutes waiting was the driver who had sent me there. He told me he just wanted to make sure everything was fine and he even gave me his wife’s number to call in case anything happened through the night.

It was really warm hearted and totally out of my expectation about hitchhiking in Turkey! But this is only the first 530km in Turkey, I still have 737km to get to Istanbul and who knows what would happen next?