By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by Azinuddin Ghazali
Have thumb will travel
In an age where cheap travel is available through budget airlines which see everyone flying to their holiday destinations, Italian-German youth, Allano Maritano, decided he wanted to travel the conventional way – hitch-hiking.
While at worst budget travellers see the world by travelling in a car, motorcycle or bicycle, 19-year-old Allano who just finished his high-school in Berlin, wanted to explore Asia by being in contact with the local people, discovering their culture, eat their food, find secret destinations of the countries he visited and explore each country with a personal touch.
“I choose to hitch-hike because I wanted to get up close and personal. Travelling in an aeroplane or bus, I will not get the experience of meeting people or get the real feel and vibes of each country I visit,” said Allano who began his travel in July from Berlin flying to Bangkok before he started hitch-hiking.
“It had nothing to do about travelling cheap. I just wanted learn and experience each country by being in contact with the local people all the time.
“I had done some hitch-hiking in Europe earlier during my school holidays and it was exciting. It was then I decided to explore Asia which is so rich in culture and tradition. I meet rich people, poor people, young, old, professionals, families and all sorts of people in my travel and that is a rich experience money or textbooks cannot give,” said Allano whose father his Italian and mother German.
“My older brother, Basilio, had done some hitch-hiking earlier and his tales got me excited and wanted to do the same,” said Allano who was brought up in Italy before he moved to Berlin two years ago to continue his studies.
Allano said he started saving for his Asia trip in December 2014 by doing odd jobs during his free time and together with some money from his parents and relatives, he left Berlin with US$5,000 (21,270.00).
He started of his trip with a very small bag with a shorts pants, two underwear, jacket, two t-shirts, toiletries, a sleeping bag, video recorder (which is broken now) and a hand phone and the clothes he was wearing.
But has since bought a haversack, a hammock, a small tent and t-shirts and new underwear. He also carries some food with him now.
“There is more stuff I am carrying now but still it is just basics. I do not normally buys things when I travel unless it is absolutely necessary or it really attracts me.”
His German girlfriend, Lina Liebesvoller, too was hitch-hiking and had left earlier to New Zealand to do her hitch-hiking there.
Allano met up with Lina who flew to Bangkok from New Zealand to begin his first part of hitch-hiking.
“We met in Bangkok and hitch-hiked in Thailand for close to a month before we headed to Cambodia where we spend two weeks before heading to Vietnam,” said Allano when met in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday before he heading south to Singapore with stops at Malacca and Johor.
“Hitch-hiking in Asia is easy. People are friendly and ever helpful. The longest period I had to wait for a ride was two hours and the shortest five minutes. But normally at an average of 15 minutes I get a ride.
“The distances vary. My shortest ride was for five minutes – from a trunk road to the highway and the longest ride was three hours.”
Allano said that the only place he had problems getting a ride was in Vietnam as most of them rode motorcycles.
“In Vietnam, my girlfriend and I bought a motorcycle in Ho Chi Minh for US$200 (RM864) and after two weeks of travelling and when we reached Hanoi, sold it to another tourist for US$150. It was a good deal and we had a good trip because we managed to go to remote and beautiful places in Vietnam.”
Allano then headed to Cambodia and Laos before heading back to Bangkok – all the hitch-hiking – before Lina left for home as she had her resume her studies.
“After Lina left, I started to travel south of Thailand heading towards Malaysia. I took a train to Champong and started my hitch-hiking again. People at the border town of Padang Besar were so helpful. Some Muslim friends I met, even took me across the border with all my paperwork sorted out at the immigration before I entered Kangar,” said Allano who has been in Malaysia since Nov 15.
Allano said that the three weeks in Malaysia have been the best.
“People are so friendly, helpful and talk about their country with so much pride and passion. And they love to talk and share, unlike other countries earlier where I just get a ride. Maybe because in Malaysia almost everyone speaks English.”
Allano said that in Thailand, most of his rides were on pick-up trucks where he sat behind in the ‘carry-bay’.
“I mostly had men giving me rides and sometime families. I have also had those who offered me rides giving me money to take buses. But I refused because I want to explore each country hitch-hiking. Sometimes, they just thrust the money in my hand for food.
“In Malaysia they are even friendlier. They take me to their homes for a meal or buy me meals. Show me interesting sights. Explain to me each spot during the ride. Bring to me to hidden secret places. It has been very exciting and thrilling,” said Allano who came down from Kangar to Penang before taking the East-West highway to the East Coast and then heading down to Kuala Lumpur via Kuantan.
Asked if he had any women giving him rides, he said with a laugh: “Only once in Kuala Terengganu where three women in a car on the opposite of the road I was standing for a ride. They shouted to me to wait and took a U-turn and returned to give me a ride. But the ride was only for five minutes – from the trunk road to the highway!”
Allano said he does not like big cities and normally makes his stops at small towns, villages and remote places or interesting places.
“I also like to sleep in the open and sleep in parks, bus stands or an open areas.
“But other times I stay with people whom I do odd jobs for and they offer me accommodation and food.”
Allano said that a website called Helpx which has places in almost every country which has people or organisations advertising their places for odd jobs and accommodation.
“I worked a helper in a farm in Penang and in Pound Pub in Mutiara Damansara when in Malaysia,” said Allano.
At Pound he started off as a waiter before he was deejaying.
“I love dee-jaying and do it part-time back home. It was great fun being able to deejay here and with such sophisticated sound equipment. I thoroughly enjoyed myself although I though the people here were not familiar to the kind of music I played,” said Allano who plays techno and deep house music.”
On Wednesday, Allano hitched a ride after only waiting for five minutes standing after the Sungei Besi toll. A five-ton lorry stopped and the attendant even came out to open the canvas wrapped around the lorry to assist Allano place his haversack before he got into the small lorry and went off.
He will be back in Kuala Lumpur on the first week of January to catch his flight to China – his next destination – where he plans to hike around for a month before deciding to go home or continue heading towards Iran and Turkey.
“I normally do not plan my next destination. I just make a decision from wherever I am and head off. I had wanted to go to India, but I was denied visa because I was required to apply from my country of origin.”
It has been five months since he left home and plans to return before April to continue his studies where he intends to major in city planning or architecture.
Allano who started his journey with a light beard and short hair, now spots a heavy beard and dreadlocks.
“I have not shaved or cut my hair since I started my trip. I just trim my beard a little if it gets untidy. I had my hair in locks when it grow long,” laughed Allano.
“I am going to keep this beard even when I return home to remind me of the experience of my trip. Besides, it means me a character. Said Allano with a wide smile.
Asked he had any bad experiences, he simply replied: “It has been all good experiences. I never encountered any problems. It has been a safe trip so far and I hope it remains that way.”
Allano has certainly proved that the traditionally way of seeing the world by hitch-hiking is still very much alive and it is still safe and fun.