Overland from Cambodia to Malaysia and not giving up
Day 2,059 since October 10th 2013: 182 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
I like you. I might even love you. Who are you?
Chances are that if you are reading this then you are a good friend of the Saga or terrified that I might do something exceedingly reckless and damaging. I don’t know why anyone would be reading this for the latter? The Saga has only had good press, is overwhelmingly positive and is highly successful. Nah…you must be a friend of the Saga ;)
The last entry was written in Bangkok. That’s the capital of Thailand which became country number 173 in April 2019. I am very passionate about Thailand. It is a very special country for me in which I made one of my best friendships and got a thirst for independent travel. I suppose that thirst has long since been quenched. Or maybe not? I don’t know? I hardly consider the Saga travel anyway. The Saga is a different beast all together. It just involves a lot of travel to complete it. You wouldn’t consider your work breathing would you? But you do need to breathe to work. Your support on MobilePay (#12711) has been overwhelming! And on Patreon as well!! I had no idea you were so passionate about what I do. Thank you!!! It was never my intention to have you guys to pay for the Saga. It was supposed to be free for anyone who wanted to join. I guess it still is as you can chose to pay or not. However I am ribbing the last hairs out of my head trying to understand why this achievement is not fully sponsored by a company? Far lesser achievements have received funding and recognition. I MUST be doing something wrong? What am I doing wrong?!? It is very frustrating to put this much work into to something and become indebted at the same time. “All good things come to those who wait” they say. Not true. But it is also not true to say that “nothing comes to those who wait”. Oh well…let’s keep on keeping on.
Last day in Cambodia with my fiancee.
On route to Thailand.
My friend of many years wanted to do something nice for me. Her name is Helle and we have known each other since back before we graduated from business school. For reference that was 16 years before the last dinosaurs went extinct. It certainly feels like that long ago. Helle booked me a hotel room in Bangkok and kind of overdid it a bit!! I would have been happy with sleeping in a shoebox but Helle secured me a massive hotel apartment with a kitchen, living room and sultan size bed. Or is that king size? Well historically I’m now approaching sultan territory (Malaysia). While I had a small kitchen I completely consider it a crime to cook yourself if you are only a few days in Thailand. The food is so good and inexpensive that it seems pointless to buy groceries and put in the effort. I’m fortunate to know and handful good people in Bangkok but didn’t have time to meet them all. In the end I managed to go out for dinner and a few beers with Lars from Maersk. He has been instrumental regarding connecting with all the Maersk offices I have had the pleasure of visiting since February. It was really good seeing him again. We had some heavy rain that night. Funny thing. I had lots of rain in Vietnam, hardly any rain in Cambodia while my fiancée visited and now it has been raining again every day since she left. And she happens to love hiding in shelter from the rain while listening to the water tapping away at every surface. The rain season is certainly over South East Asia now. I don’t mind. It’s pretty warm too and everything dries quite fast.
THANK YOU HELLE!!! You didn't need to do all of this!! :)
Night out with Lars. We spoke of game theory...and other things.
I had pre-booked a train ticket along with a bus connection to get me from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. So when it was time I found my way to the booking office, picked up my ticket, had lunch and walked over to my train. I do like traveling by train. It was a “sleeper” and it was hot. At times the ride was bumpy and noisy. I found my old Thai simcard from February and stuck it in my phone. It was still working! 181 countries at this point and none without internet. I did not have access to the internet in North Korea though. However our group leader from New Zealand did on his phone. Are you aware of how fast this world has been changing in the past decade? Elon Musk is a technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer who is most notably known for Tesla (electric sports cars) and SpaceX (space ships). Earlier this year he announced that self-driving Teslas will operate as autonomous taxis already next year (2020)! It will be on a phone app based system like Uber. So essentially he is saying that from next year you can order a self-driving electrical car to pick you up and bring you to where you need to go. I heard Elon say that and immediately though: “impossible! Not that soon! In ten years maybe but not now.” I always thought we would start by revolutionizing all farm equipment (tractors, harvesters, plows etc.) and have that segment automated first. It just made sense to me as fields are closed off areas. And then we would move from there and onward. So no way we will have self-driving electric taxis already next year…or? Well there are at least two elements in play here: 1) Elon Musk is the kind of man who delivers on what he says. And 2) A driverless electric truck began daily freight deliveries on a public road in Sweden two weeks ago, in what developer Einride and logistics customer DB Schenker described as a world first. The public road permit is a major milestone and it is a step towards commercializing autonomous technology on roads. For now the truck has permission to make short trips between a warehouse and a terminal on a public road in an industrial area at up to 5kph (3mph). So you are unlikely to be overtaken by a self-driven truck on the highway next week. However it has begun…and there is no turning back. Are you ready for it?
On route to Hat Yai.
The train reached Hat Yai in the south of Thailand early in the morning. I picked up my bags and made sure I left nothing behind on the train. Then I walked in the direction of the collection point for my bus which I had plotted in on my phone. I had 90 minutes so sat down and had a breakfast noodle soup and ice coffee. Soon enough I was on the bus heading towards the Malaysian border. As a Danish citizen I have been able to procure a second Danish passport. It used to be a more common thing but in recent years it has been increasingly restricted. A standard Danish passport is valid for ten years and has 32 pages of which you can use 27. I’ve got 14 free pages left and 22 more countries to visit. And a few of those countries will be visited several times. Under special circumstances you can, as a Danish citizen, apply for a second passport which is valid for two years. Otherwise it looks like a regular passport with the same amount of pages. I have not used a single page in the two year passport. It was my intention to switch passports while crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia but the immigration authorities would only stamp the passport which contained the stamp from the previous country. I tried to explain that if I had flown to Cambodia from Denmark then they would not have a stamp from a previous country and therefore I reasoned that it should be no problem stamping the two year passport. However the officer was by the book and narrow-minded. Not much I could do. I ran into the same situation when reaching Thailand. It’s frustrating. It should be no big deal for the immigration authorities and it has been no issue in the past. Strategically it is far better to continue the Saga with the new blank passport as we visit the entire Pacific. It will expire in December 2020 at which point it will no longer be useful. So ideally I would fill it now and save the pages in the ten year passport. Logistics and bureaucracy. If I manage to fill the ten year passport while reaching some remote island nation then I will be forced to switch…and maybe we will cross that bridge when we reach it. However it should be more straightforward and it is beyond me why immigration in this part of the world are being such hard cases about it?
Across the border to Malaysia we went, and the immigration there were also unhelpful no matter how I argued my case. Besides the bus was waiting. I comforted myself with the knowledge that the Saga had now reached 182 countries in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. An accomplishment which thankfully inspires people across the world and as a side benefit has been done environmentally friendly. The carbon footprint thing is not at all the goal with the Saga. However todays trend on the subject is that people automatically head in that direction: “you must be doing it for the climate – right?” I do care about the climate. I do see how climate change is affecting millions of people globally. I see how livelihoods is being destroyed across the planet. I hear people when they say that they are experiencing the hottest, coldest, wettest or driest year on record. It just isn’t the primary objective within the Saga. It is however a very nice side-effect in addition to the overall target of the Saga and one which I am fond of. And there is no doubt in my mind that the world needs to change if it needs to stay a pleasant place for humans to be. But that change needs to come from powerful politicians…because I don’t believe most people will do anything about it on their own.
It was a long bus ride to Kuala Lumpur. Fortunately we are living in 2019 and I brought my laptop with me onboard. I had a reasonable wifi connection on the bus and a power plug to keep me going. The world is changing fast. When I reached a new country I need to do all sorts of stuff. I need to exchange money if anything is left over from the former country, I need to update my country count on De Berejstes Klub, Most Traveled People, Nomadmania and the Sagas “Journey” section. I also update the count on Instagram and Twitter as well as generate an “arrival post” for social media. I meticulously keep track of where I have been on which dates as well as the distance I have covered and the means of transport I have used. All of that also needs to be updated. And for once I was able to do all of that before disembarking the bus. I even managed to watch Starship Troopers (1997) and Blade Runner (2017) before finally reaching Kuala Lumpur – the capital of Malaysia.
A vending machine for a hot plate of spaghetti bolognese :)
I was pleasantly surprised in regards to what I from the beginning observed in regards to Malaysia. For some reason I had some preconceived ideas about the country which did not match reality. The infrastructure was spectacular. The countryside was beautiful. The standard of living appeared high. I don’t know exactly what I expected but all of this exceeded what I had in my head prior to arriving. I could definitely see myself living in Malaysia! I guess my false perception was in relation to a short visit I made to a Malaysian island in 2011. I went with my colleagues from the project I worked on in Bangladesh back then. It was just a short getaway but I do remember some sense of rundown roads and organizational chaos. However it was still nice and beautiful. And it was just some island somewhere. The peninsular part of Malaysia which exists between Thailand and Singapore is quite remarkable and well advanced. We will take a look at the part of Malaysia which is located on Borneo (along with Brunei and a part of the Philippines) later on. However I suspect it will at least be equally beautiful and friendly.
I’m not surprised about the friendliness of Malaysians. I think it goes with the territory. I was however taken by surprise in regards to how much they laugh (the laugh a lot). Evening traffic is pretty horrible in Kuala Lumpur and my bus dove right into it. It was late before I left the bus and found my way to the nearest metro station. Buying a ticket was modern but impractical. I couldn’t buy a ticket at from the man behind the glass window. But I could get my larger bills exchanged into smaller ones and ask for advice. On the touchscreen there was no search function so even as I knew which station I was heading too I didn’t know which of 5-6 lines it was on. So I could try pressing the lines one by one on the screen or ask the guy behind the glass window. Once I knew which line I was going with it was easy to buy the ticket although it took a while for the machine to accept my notes. Man!! The tickets I have bought over the years!! Communicating with a machine Malaysia is worlds away from speaking to man through a small hole in a brick wall in Bamako, Mali. The end result was however the same: I received a ticket.
I found my hostel, checked in and set out to find some dinner and the Twin Towers. I figured the Twin Towers would be a good backdrop for my “arrival post”. I nice guy from Borneo cooked me some spicy noodles at his street shop. A guy from Bangladesh sold me a simcard and I saw my chance to through a few Bangla words into the conversation which widened his eyes!! And the service ;) Then I walked the 40 minutes to the towers and marbled in their magnificence!! WOW! I was kind of in an “I don’t care about anything” mood as it had been a long bus ride, it was late, it was raining slightly and I had stuff on my mind. However I felt pretty giddy when I saw the right from the towers shining out across the city. Welcome to Malaysia!! :)
I knew the Twin Towers (Petronas Towers) were once the tallest in the world. So I figured that they must be in the top five now? Wrong! Upon doing some research they were the tallest between 1998 and 2004. Now they rank as number 16!! What? Who has been building? The short answer is China. Between 2008 and 2018 China has added EIGHT taller buildings to the world. Eight on a list of 16!! Much can be said about China and I’ve already said some in previous entries. However there is no disputing the astonishing rise within the infrastructure of China. It is a very impressive nation and I’d like to stress once more that they are managing a country with 1.4 billion people across a landmass of similar size to the USA which has 330 million people. It is quite an achievement. These days the world is debating 5G technology and once again China is a leader and is likely to finish the race first. That would give China a huge technological advantage as 5G is twenty times faster than 4G technology. And 5G is said to be the great leap forward when it comes to self-driving vehicles. Especially Chinas Huawei phones are a hot topic these days. The phones are exceptionally advanced in comparison to what the market offers and they often come at a lower price too. However is it strictly business or is it more than that? The question remains. No matter what: China is impressive and waking up.
Malaysia is impressive too. Really impressive. Famous for its diverse culture, good food, kind people, amazing beaches and endless activities. My first day began with making a presentation for the Maersk team in the Klang Valley. Honestly I’ve never looked much in this direction of the world. The size of the countries south of Thailand, the oceans which surround them and the cities where people live has never been on my radar. It is interesting to explore this. I knew about Port Klang as I have worked in shipping and logistics for many years. However apart for being a name on a piece of paper in addition to being a port city I knew very little. Port Klang is the main gateway by sea into Malaysia. It derives its name from the valley which it as well as Kuala Lumpur lies within. The valley is in turn named after the Klang River, the principal river that flows through it that start at Port Klang and end at Hulu Klang, which is closely linked to the early development of the area as a cluster of tin mining towns in the late 19th century. And now we all know a little more ;) Anyway…I had a good time with the Maersk team! Malaysia may have beautiful nature, interesting sights, good food, intriguing history and a rich and diverse culture. But THESE PEOPLE showed me that the gold is its people!!
Thank you guys!! That was fun!! :)
While this magnificent Maersk crowd became my 97th engagement as a motivational speaker, it was a really special one!! Such kindness and roaring laughter! Good questions, smiling eyes and a solid team spirit. We had a good time as I explained the insane complexity of reaching every single country in the world without flying, and naturally also explained how I have seen a Maersk container in 178 countries so far. Now that’s global presence from a global leader! Maersk has been the largest container ship and supply vessel operator in the world since 1996 and is also an innovator on the global field. Maersk aims to have carbon neutral vessels commercially viable by 2030 by using energy sources such as biofuels and has set a goal to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. The world is changing rapidly. Are you ready for it? In 90 minutes I get to say a lot!! But an important takeaway from my presentations is always how no matter where I go I find that people are just people. We want little more than a peaceful life full of family, friends, sports, food, good weather and the occasional episode of Game of Thrones. NO SPOILERS!! I haven’t seen the final season yet! ;)
I raced off from the Maersk office in a “Grab taxi” (like Uber but better) and made it in time for my meeting with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS). As such I have paid a visit to the Red Cross or Red Crescent (RC) in 178 countries wold wide. It is at this point by any definition the grandest attempt to promote the movement in a single journey as nobody in the movements 156 year long history has ever reached the RC across this many nations. However due to the organisational structure of the RC the achievement is not spreading across the organization and every time I reach a national society of the RC then I find them surprised that this has been going on uninterrupted since 2013. 2013 was coincidentally the 150th anniversary for the establishment of the RC in 1863. Having travelled this far and experienced this much I can certainly say that a lot of opportunities are lost worldwide every day.
Making the heart symbol with my friends from the MRCS. In Malaysia they are called: Bulan Sabit Merah Malaysia :)
However the joy I sometimes get from visiting a national society can certainly compensate for the work I put into profiling the RC. The MRCS had created a short one hour plan for my visit and greeted me welcome on the doorstep of their impressive headquarters. The HQ doubles as a response center for twenty ambulances which play an auxiliary role to the state owned ambulance service. The kindness from the small MRSC delegation was straight through the roof! Secretary General Mr. Sayed A. Rahman Bin Sayed Mohd greeted me welcome and shook my hand before we sat down. Ms. Jayanthy M. Maruthan had as the Manager of Communications, Resource Development & International Support, organized the entire meeting. She was seated next to me and displayed a kind smile. Everyone present at the meeting was full of energy, smiling and kind. The atmosphere was both official and pleasant at the same time. Tea was served and we began speaking shop. The MRCS history goes more than seventy years back and is rich in humanitarian activity. Volunteers and donations are as always welcome and if you would like to learn more about how then you can check out their website here: Malaysian Red Crescent Society
Testing out the new bikes in front of MRCS HQ in Kuala Lumpur :)
Something I found interesting was their cooperation with the Chinese Red Cross in relation to the Volunteers on Wheels program. MRCS has already received 500 bicycles from Red Cross Society of China to expand the project in Malaysia. The aim is to equip one million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers with bicycles to increase their reach and impact, particularly in areas that are not necessarily accessible via other vehicles. The project is also aimed at creating a culture of health and safety in local communities. The initiative hopes to instil greater ‘people to people’ connectivity and solidarity, and act as vehicles for awareness raising by volunteers. The volunteers will also be given essential first aid training. The initiative will be rolled out in four phases, beginning with the distribution of these bicycles to five selected states within Malaysia’s East Coast. It will be followed by the second phase, which includes basic to advanced training on first aid, health promotion, disaster risk reduction, road safety, social inclusion and home care. The third phase will see the implementation of the programme during corporate and community events such as the Kuala Lumpur Car Free Morning, while a thorough monitoring and evaluation of the entire initiative will be done in the final phase. Such much of what the RC does goes on unknown to the world. But now you know about this too ;) I had a really good time with the MRCS. I hope you will find a way to support their work.
First meal in Malaysia.
The Saga goes on and on. Why I do not quit and go home is still a mystery to me. A part of me fears that this will end. Imagine that I have been waking up to this life every morning since October 2013. I spoke to a friend about it who said it might be similar to being in prison. On one hand you want to leave and be free. On the other hand you have become institutionalized and accustomed to the life. For those of you who think the Saga is almost over: think again. The Pacific will bite back and not roll over easily. It will be quite the achievement to reach all of those countries. Especially Nauru which only receives 200 tourists a year. They have no marina and no ferry service. And by doing a quick Google search I found that only one shipping company services the island. Furthermore they require a relatively hard to get visa as one must supply proof of a planned departure along with hotel bookings prior to applying. Oh the fun of bureaucrazy with a touch of hard-core logistics. And people envy me ;)
Let’s first enjoy the hospitality of Malaysia where the Ramadan is upon us. The Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is a time when Muslims around the world focus on prayer, fasting, giving to charity, and religious devotion. The last third of the Ramadan is a particularly holy period, as it commemorates when the Koran's first verses were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The fast takes place from sunrise until sundown every day throughout the holy month which is now coming to its end. It is then followed by the festival of Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast breaking), which marks the end of the Ramadan. It’s a particular joyful celebration which I’m lucky to experience in Malaysia this year. Last year I was in Kuwait during the Ramadan, where you can be fined for drinking water on the street during daylight hours. Malaysia is not like that. With 38.7% of the country adhering to Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and traditional Chinese religions it’s very inclusive. Restaurants are still open and generally everyone just tries to be respectful of others while minding their own business. Have a great weekend wherever you are! ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Sagaing on after all these years...
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga