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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

Visited countries

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THE ROUTE

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  • Expedition redeploying to Southeast Asia

    Posted on October 22nd, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    This chicken will not keep its head for a long time. Chittagong Old Market.

    This chicken will not keep its head for a long time. Chittagong Old Market.

    The road from Dhaka to Chittagong is good tarmac all the way down. It is one of the major highways of the country, and there are heavy trucks and bus traffic. It is a little bit difficult to find petrol, as much of Bangladesh is running on CNG. In an effort to reduce pollution, the government banned petrol-run vehicles in Dhaka, as well as plastic bag use. I can hardly imagine how the air quality was in the past, as it is kind of bad right now. Once again, there are terrible traffic jams as I approach the city, and I barely can move for two hours.

    Fishing is huge in the many rivers of Bangladesh. Fish is a major source of food for many of the people in the Ganges Delta.

    Fishing is huge in the many rivers of Bangladesh. Fish is a major source of food for many of the people in the Ganges Delta.

    In Chittagong it is difficult to find my way as there are no signs, as always. For once, I decide to stay in a nice hotel where I will get A/C. It is somewhat warmer and stickier down there, and I will have to be around for at least a week until my truck is ready to be shipped to Malaysia.

    Rice is grown everywhere. The country is very flat and covered with water. The country would be the first nation to disappear if the sea level rose due to global warming.

    Rice is grown everywhere. The country is very flat and covered with water. The country would be the first nation to disappear if the sea level rose due to global warming.

    There’s not much to do in Chittagong, but there is a Hindu festival while I am here. I roam the city and spend time in the market to get the necessary tools to do the lashing of my truck in the container. Wood blocks, nails… Every stop in little shops is an occasion for tea and smoke cigarettes. People are exceptionally nice in Bangladesh, and it has been very nice to spend time with locals.

    The WWII Memorial cemetery, where bodies of Japanese and Allied forces that died on the Burmese front lay.

    The WWII Memorial cemetery, where bodies of Japanese and Allied forces that died on the Burmese front lay.

    As in India, the population density is high. I didn’t camp once here, as dealing with crowds and finding a suitable spot is very difficult.
    Regardless, I have the best experience ever with the shipping part. The Chinese company I chose has agents in Chittagong, and everybody is so nice and helpful, it is unbelievable. As always, travelers will find information at the end of this post.

    Boy selling bananas in a street of Chittagong.

    Boy selling bananas in a street of Chittagong.

    The few days I spend in the city are pleasant, and my nights at the top-end hotel (Grand park Hotel, US$40 per night) are very relaxing. They get the Indians TV channels here, which features a lot of American movies.
    Bangladesh is 80% Muslim if I recall correctly, and it is technically prohibited for its citizens to drink alcoholic beverage. The rest of the population is mostly Hindu. I begin to discern more Asian features in people faces. East of the country is Myanmar (Burma) which also share a border with Thailand.

    Dry fish at the Chittagong Old Market.

    Dry fish at the Chittagong Old Market.

    As mentioned previously, the Myanmar government doesn’t allow foreigners to drive through the country. There’s an application you can fill, but it is always rejected. This is why I didn’t have any other choice but to send the truck by way of sea to Malaysia. It should take a week to arrive to Port Kelang, close to Kuala Lumpur.

    Once again the truck is in the can.

    Once again the truck is in the can.

    When I am done with the truck and fed food by the shipping company, I take the night train back to Dhaka. The trip lasts eight hours but I am lucky enough to get a seat in an A/C car (US$6). Locals need to book train tickets well in advance, but the station chief always has few seats kept for emergencies or foreigners.
    It is unbelievable how well travelers are treated in the country. It is very important for the people to give a good image of their countries, and they will always go out of their way to help out. They never let you get in line anywhere, and you are giving preferential treatment always. Of course you can be overcharged like everywhere else in the world, but in the several occurrences it happened to me, people in the streets came to help me out.

    People at the train station argue with the station chief to get a ticket.

    People at the train station argue with the station chief to get a ticket.

    Once after taking a rickshaw, passersby heard how much money I was asked. Soon enough a mob was shaking the driver for trying to overcharge me. The same thing happened again few days later as I was buying cigarettes at double the usual rate. People then decide of the price I should pay.

    Chittagong train station.

    Chittagong train station.

    When I am back in Dhaka, I take care of buying the flight tickets which will allow me to reach Southeast Asia. I get a flight Dhaka – Kuala Lumpur for US$185.
    In the afternoon I go to meet people from the shipping company so we can settle the last details.
    My plan was to then go to the National Museum, a visit I pushed back several time because of the horrendous traffic. But soon enough the plan change as I meet everybody at the company. I should be on the radio they decide, and soon we are driving to the studios of Radio Foorti where an interview is promptly scheduled.

    At the radio station with Tanvir.

    At the radio station with Tanvir.

    Following this parenthesis, Tanvir – my contact at the shipping company – invites me in a nice restaurant before we go to his house to meet his family and have tea. It is late when I go back to the hotel for my last night in the country.
    The following day I go out to say good-bye to few people I met in the neighborhood, then take a cab to the airport.

    Approaching Kuala Lumpur. You can see the famous and once highest in the world Petronas Towers.

    Approaching Kuala Lumpur. You can see the famous and once highest in the world Petronas Towers.

    What I will fondly remember about Bangladesh is the kindness of its people. The culture of welcoming travelers and foreigners is deep-rooted in Muslim countries with rich histories. It is how I will also remember Yemen and Iran. Pakistan also has a similar reputation and I regret I missed that.
    I decided to go a bit out of my way before collecting my vehicle in Malaysia. You will have to wait to see in what surprising place I will be next week after the 40 hours or so I will spend in airports and planes…

    Flying to Manila. What will be my next destination?

    Flying to Manila, Philippines. What will be my next destination?

    Notes to travelers, shipping from Bangladesh:
    Of all the time I had to ship my truck, this was the best experience. Everything was well organized and no hassle. I used the Yang Ming lines, and their agent in Bangladesh is Transmarine. Super nice people really, and I can’t recommend them enough. They also let you do your own lashing which saves money.
    It is a lot less expensive to ship from here than from India. So far I paid US$700 for the shipping while it would have cost me US$ 1,350 from Chennai, India. I expect to pay $500 on the Malaysian side. I will update with definite cost later.

    Email friendly Mr. Tanvir Alam at: tanvir.alam [AT] yangmingline-bd.com
    Cell: 01713481367

    Yang Ming Line
    As Agents: Transmarine Logistics Ltd.
    Jahangir Tower (5th Floor)
    10, Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue
    Karwan Bazar, Dhaka-1215

  • Leaving Mumbai, due south

    Posted on September 25th, 2010 Nicolas No comments

    The container available for pickup.

    The container available for pickup.


    It is now time for me to leave Mumbai. After another week of work to be able to pick up my car at the port, I was finally able to do so at the last minute on Friday. Another thousand dollars is gone, but if this is the price of freedom, it’s worth it. Details for people interested in shipping their vehicle at the end of this port.
    Following Ganesh.

    Following Ganesh.

    We went out a bunch with Vikas last week and had good time in the city. The Ganesh festival I mentioned in my previous entry reached its apogee on the 22, and we were out to see that.
    I had good time here, and I can’t thank Vikas enough for letting me stay at his place. It would have been very difficult to stay in a YMCA for three weeks…
    Vikas from the New York Times shooting pictures at night.

    Vikas from the New York Times shooting pictures at night.


    I was thinking about leaving on Saturday, but the work I had to do on the truck took longer than expected. The connectors from the battery I bought were different from the one I used previously, so I had to adapt that, and the draining bolt from the oil pan was not usable anymore, forcing me with the help from locals to take the pan out and fix it.
    Vikas picture, poverty in India.

    Vikas picture, poverty in India.


    But now I am ready to go, and will leave Sunday morning. Groceries are in the fridge, and nothing can stop me. The only annoying thing is my Indian visa will allow me only one month in the country, which will force me to put some miles behind. Coming next is Goa. Back on the road!

    Information for travelers:
    Trying to clear yourself your vehicle in India seems virtually impossible. Some people succeed but it can take you a long time if you are not familiar with the process. As in Iran, I would advise to use an agent. I had a good experience with Aubrey D’Souza (Contact info at the end of this post). In general, I would recommend to not send a vehicle from or to India. It is very expensive, and the service was poor). But as we know, there was no other choice in my case. Total costs of the shipping including Iran spending amounts to around $1,500.

    J P INTERNATIONAL
    VAJU KOTAK MARG,
    NEXT TO DEVEN MOTORS,
    BALLARD ESTATE, MUMBAI 400 001.
    TEL: 022 66333261/66333263
    MOBILE: 9821240603
    E-MAIL: jpintl [AT] rediffmail.com