Notes from a Russian super-duper

April 6, 2009 at 10:05 pm 2 comments

Tomorrow marks the 1 month anniversary of my travels with Dmitry. So here are some words from him so you can get to know him better…

Dmitry, 23 years old, Moscow
Studied history before going to China to study Chinese language.

Why are you traveling?
Because I want to see the world, meet new people, see new views, learn new tongues, meet new women… also because I have no job at home and had gotten ready to go work in China before being told the day before my departure that my presence was no longer desired because of the economic situation. So I decided to go anyway =)

What is your route?
Left Moscow on October 30th, 2008 by train to Orenburg, crossed into Kazakhstan, took bus to Aktobe and then a train to Shymkent, hitchhiked to Almaty and reached China on Nov 7th. Traveled through China’s provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, Shanxi, Guizhou and Yunnan (by trains and hitch) for 3+ weeks before crossing into Laos. Near Luang Prabang met a Russian guy and traveled to and in Thailand with him. Friends arrived from Russia on Dec 31 in Surat Thani. After a week and the half in southern Thailand, traveled to Malaysia for another week, then split up with most of my friends and went to Sumatra, Indonesia with Pasha. Hitchhiked for 3 days nonstop to get to Jakarta where another friend was arriving by plane from Ukraine.

The most southern point reached was Gili Trawangan, near Lombok where everyone decided to go back home, subsequently getting into a taxi and saying “Kharkov” to the baffled driver. Returned to Dumai after an unsuccessful attempt to reach Kalimantan by the sea, arrived in Thailand after two days of nonstop hitchhiking through Malaysia, spent a week in Ton Sai and another in Chaing Rai, went to Cambodia (and met me!), returned to Thailand…

How did you prepare for your trip?
Read many online publications and forums on low budget traveling and hitchhiking, and one guidebook on traveling in Malaysia and Indonesia.

What did you take with you?
3000 rubles (aprox. $120)
a 50 liter backpack
several shirts, one pair of pants, some socks, sneakers, sandals, cap, 2 sweatshirts, 1 windproof jacket, sleeping bag, a rug for sleeping on, toiletries, simple first aid kit, and a multi-use knife I’ve already lost part by part…

What are some problems you encountered?
In the beginning of my trip I had planned to hitchhike to the south of the country but hitchhiking on Aktobe’s roads turned out to be more difficult than I expected so I ended up buying an expensive ticket on a train to Shymkent. Within my first few days in China I had no money left because of the exchange rate that resulted in a 35% loss with each withdrawal. I hitchhiked for 3 days without money relying on Chinese hospitality (drivers, guest houses who allowed me to stay and fed me). At this time, China was cold and snowy – not the best time for spending couple of hours on the highway without moving =)

Hitchhiking in Indonesia was difficult. The roads and cars are slow and tons of people gather around you like you are a circus attraction when you try to hitch and it is very difficult to make them understand that their presence is interfering with your plans. We also made the mistake of traveling in the most touristy parts of Indonesia.

In Trawangan, we bought air tickets to Kuala-Lumpur from Kuching, but because of a storm it was impossible to get to Indonesian Kalimantan from Java, and so we missed our flights and lost over $100…

Where can you sleep for free?
In Buddhist countries, you can go to the first temple on your way and say “non” (Thai for “sleep”). According to Buddhist tradition, temples provide shelter for all travelers regardless of religion or gender. Almost always the answer is yes. It’s better (but not necessary) to be dressed modestly, avoid speaking too loudly, and smile a lot (you knew that!). Be humble and enjoy the monks’ hospitality.

How can you travel for free?
For hitchhiking go to the edge of the city, find the right direction (look at a map), and choose a good position on the road (one where drivers can see you from a far away distance and where it’s safe for them to stop), pull out your thumb and smile. Know some words in the local language because not all of the people who stop will speak English. You should be able to say where you want to go and where they can drop you off if they’re not going so far. Regarding money, you can say “no money” in the local language. Truck drivers almost never ask for money. Cars that look like minibuses are usually taxis – either avoid them or explain your position thoroughly. Most of these kinds of taxis usually stop for foreigners regardless of whether they’re waving their thumb or not. Some drivers seem to ask for money as a reflex because the idea of hitchhiking is very foreign to them. Many are happy to have a foreigner in their car, especially if they speak a little English and are driving alone a long distance. An unintentional consequence of telling drivers that you have no money to pay for the ride is that some will try to feed you, share with you, and otherwise offer you things. Sometimes they’ll even push bills in your pocket despite your protests against it.

What do you eat?
A lot of fruits and cheap street food from the markets. Also whatever drivers share with me which happens often.

How much money does a traveler need?
It’s possible to travel without any money but one needs to be more prepared. Depending on the destination and number of people in the group, a budget of $6-10 a day per person would suffice. When you’re traveling via hitchhiking and visiting less touristy places, you often don’t have time or possibility to spend much money.

I spent about $600 in the first 2.5 months and ran out of money soon after the New Year.

I traveled for 35 days through China and Laos and paid for accommodation only once (in Luang Prabang).

In Loas, I lived for about 10000 kip ($1.25) a day.

In Xinjiang, I spent 3 yuan ($0.45) in 3 days, which was given to me by a truck driver.

In Surabaya, when we tried to hitchhike a cargo ship in Kalimantan, one sailor I’d befriended gave us 200,000 rupiahs ($19) as an “apology” for being unable to take us with them (We needed to go and they didn’t know when they’d depart due to bad weather).

I lived in a bar in Vang Vieng for a week, getting food and shelter in exchange for occasionally helping the staff.

One driver in Yunnan became my first Chinese friend, as we spent 4 days together in Kunming (solving his business problems) and in Dali (smokin’ pot).


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: .

Mountain climbing drop out Burma

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dina  |  April 16, 2009 at 9:30 am


  • 2. dina  |  April 16, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I like Dmitry, but of course he is crazy!


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