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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


February 2023



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  • Calcutta to Dhaka: Can’t stop, won’t stop

    Posted on October 15th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Calcutta sidewalks.

    Calcutta sidewalks.

    I spend few days in Calcutta after getting the Bangladesh visa. I was relieved to get this document easily, as I am now always worried about possible problems on this front. The day after I applied, I go get my passport back at the embassy where a crowd of hundred of people surrounds officials screaming names and handing passports. Finally I get mine and now can take the time to visit the city.

    Colonial architecture in the BBD Bagh area of Calcutta.

    Colonial architecture in the BBD Bagh area of Calcutta.

    Friendly Calcutta is the thirst most populated city in India and feel even denser than Delhi or Mumbai. I take several walks in the city and can witness some nice example of British colonial architecture. Among the many stops, I see the Victoria memorial.

    Victoria Memorial.

    Victoria Memorial.

    Built to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1901, the construction finished only twenty years after her death. The white marble of the building and its dome is a reminder of the Taj Mahal.

    Nakhoda Mosque.

    Nakhoda Mosque.

    Surrounding the Memorial, the Maidan is a vast park bringing memories of New York’s Central Park to me. The 3 km-long green lung offers a little bit of space against the density of the city itself. I also visit the impressive Nakhoda mosque which offers a nice view on the surrounding streets.

    The Maidan, Calcutta's Central Park.

    The Maidan, Calcutta's Central Park.

    Walking around the city is exhausting and I am glad to get back to the hotel every evening and have a drink and a meal there. For lunch, I also have a lot of chances to try the best examples of Indian food available. If you are there, try Amber Essence, 11 Waterloo St which I highly recommend.

    Street food in Calcutta's sidewalks.

    Street food in Calcutta's sidewalks.

    But it is time to go now, and I pack up for the next adventures. Leaving early morning, it takes me three hours to get to the Bangladesh border. Shortly before I get there, I notice that the truck begins to overheat.

    Every night, a drink and a meal at the Broadway Hotel.

    Every night, a drink and a meal at the Broadway Hotel.

    Checking out the engine, I notice I am loosing some water. I decide that the best place to take care of it will be in Dhaka, the country capital. So I continue on my way, and stop every fifty kilometers to replenish the radiator. Not much is available on the road in term of car repairs, and I absolutely need to go on and make it to Dhaka.

    Fishing in Bangladesh rivers.

    Fishing in Bangladesh rivers.

    It takes me two hours to cross the border, and no major problems there. I still have three hundred kilometers to cover to get to Dhaka after that. I am pretty stressed out by the over heating problem, and increase the frequency of my stops as I go. I also put the heat on in the cabin as it provides an additional outlet to the engine heat. It is already a really hot day, and I will get a cold in the following days as a result.

    Night is already falling and I am still far of Dhaka.

    Night is already falling and I am still far of Dhaka.

    The roads are pretty good, and there’s not much traffic in the west of the country. It seems that there’s not much population either ¬– comparatively to India – in this area. I checked few maps before I left, and there’s a mystery I still need to clarify. Some maps shows a road going over the Ganges River, some other don’t show any…

    Forcing my way into the boat to cross the river.

    Forcing my way into the boat to cross the river.

    When I arrive there, of course there’s no bridge, but many boats are taking trucks in for the crossing. There’s a long wait and they sell tickets on the city prior to arrival, but because everything is so unclear and I don’t have Bangladeshi currency, I just went on.

    Crossing the Ganges River.

    Crossing the Ganges River.

    Before rolling on the boat, I speak to a guy who tells me I can’t embark without a ticket. I ask him to get his boss, and while he is away, I just roll on the boat. When they are back, there are already trucks behind me, and movements will be impossible. They don’t have any other choice than to accept my 500 Indian Rupees, which is anyway generous.
    Night falls as I am crossing the river and after an hour, I attack the last portion of the trip. This will turn out to be the most difficult piece of driving I ever experienced. The traffic close to Dhaka is horrendous, and I stay stuck in traffic jam for hours. People are driving in the worst way I ever saw in the dozens of countries I crossed. The driving rules are nonexistent, and it is basically OK to bump into each other cars. I am glad I have a good front bumper, and the rear carrier and tire on the back somehow attenuate the shocks. It is just as being in another world, and I just turn up the volume of the stereo as a bicycle crash on my side and I carve a large hole in the flank of a bus with my front bumper. Nobody cares, nobody stops. On the other side of the street, a bus driver looses control of its vehicle. The 40 passengers fall from a bridge into a deep river. Most of them will die, as I will read in the newspaper the following day.

    One should avoid the city buses at all price as they just bump into you without pity.

    One should avoid the city buses at all price as they just bump into you without pity.

    I am exhausted when I arrive in Old Dhaka, and it still takes me a little bit to find a hotel where I can park the truck. I also locate an ATM and I am glad to have at least some cash in the pocket. I will spend the next few days at the “Hotel Royal Palace” where I get a non-AC room for US$15 a day. I will experience frequent power outage as I am in the country so I know not to count on the AC. Or on hot showers.

    Dense traffic in the streets of Dhaka.

    Dense traffic in the streets of Dhaka.

    The following day, I decide it is time to take care of the truck, and I find a shop close to the hotel. I spend twelve hours there as there are many things to fix. There are seven holes in the radiator, and I have to bring it to an aluminum welder (US$12). Someone looks into the AC system which is down since Iran. A guy fixes the diverse cosmetic damages caused by the crazy driving of yesterday (US$4). Another man fixes the truck corner lenses which I broke in the accident in Honduras. It is amazing how he does that. With knives heated on a kerosene fire, he cuts the old plastic lenses, and mold a new one to replace it (US$ 5). The whole day I supervise the work and have many cup of tea with the boss of the shop. Bangladesh seems to be a good place to fix your car. Let’s see how long it last.

    Street food, Dhaka.

    Street food, Dhaka.

    The days after all this work is done, I spend time visiting Old Dhaka. The major problem is this crazy never-ending traffic jam which makes every movement very difficult. Going anywhere would take hours, even on a Tuk-Tuk, as the traffic is so dense they can’t even go through. So I stick to destinations I can make by foot. I am able to buy some clothes so I can look like a normal human being when I go speak to customs officials. I still drag the same clothes from the beginning of the trip, and some of them are in really bad shape. On the sidewalk of the city, it is possible to buy all kind of U.S. brand-name clothes, mostly overruns from the city factories.
    Lastly, I visit the customs authorities of the city to get information about my car shipment to Southeast Asia. People are very nice there, and I leave the building with the cell phone number of a very high-ranked officer, which should help when I am in Chittagong doing the shipping paperwork. This is my next destination. After I pack the car for this other bit of travel, I will come back to Dhaka and spend a little bit more time here.

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20 Responses to “Calcutta to Dhaka: Can’t stop, won’t stop”

  1. Charlie A (Santa Clara, Ca.)

    Hey Nick, I enjoyed this posting to your blog very much. I am happy to report that after 16 months, I have finally found a job.

  2. Hahaha! Welcome to Bangladesh! The memories from there may not be the best memories but they will be the ones that will linger the longest!
    Hope to see you in SEA

  3. Your post was a good way to start the day. Thanks for a look at Bangladesh. Stay safe.

  4. Ms. Marti~Nashville, TN

    Whew wee! I’d have been a total wreck, so to speak!! Glad you made it through safely and not in the river. Really enjoy the pictures again of the locals. Did you get a skirt? LOL I love that you are soooo resourceful in distracting the guy on the boat and driving on! You were right “what can they do to me?” Throw you overboard! So many lessons you have learned along the way. I really, really enjoyed the post!!

    Forge on my friend~ your almost there!

    Ms. Marti

  5. Yikes! What an experience!

  6. One word. WOWWWW!

  7. Great descriptions and details!! Love the pictures and all the stories! 🙂

    Keep pressing on! Enjoy the journey, stay safe, be blessed! 🙂


  8. Wonderful post as always Nic! Love the details and the story about the bus is why I never set foot on a bus or train when I lived in India. Cars were dangerous as well, but I had to get to and from work. I always felt like I was putting my life in someone’s hands when I went out each day.

    I’m wondering what you plan to do with all of this when you return home? Is there a book in the works perhaps? I have a feeling there are many more stories and thoughts after all this time and you’ll find a way to get them all out to share with the world.

    Safe travels!

  9. What a ride!
    Did you look into crossing Australia and New-Zealand?
    Good luck moving forward.

  10. Congratulations on making it into Bangladesh in one piece. After seeing how NY cabbies from there drive here, i’m amazed you got through most of it in one piece and the truck relatively unscathed.

    Your trip, perseverance and perspective are great. Keep it up and enjoy yourself. You are getting towards the end of the trip so be sure soak it all in because before you know it you will be back in NY.

  11. Charles A (Santa Clara, Ca.)

    Hey Nick, I am curious what a custom made tail light lens looks like. Can you post a picture?

  12. the first picture threw me off-bur the rest of the blog wild about the (” I can’t embark without a ticket. I ask him to get his boss, and while he is away, I just roll on the boat. When they are back, there are already trucks behind me, and movements will be impossible. They don’t have any other choice than to accept my 500 Indian Rupees, which is anyway generous”) and the bummpper cars in the street and roads

  13. And the adventure continues! So glad you’re safe and sound. I couldn’t help but notice, very few women in your pictures. Curious to me. Travel safe!

  14. It’s a mans world again. Same as in Pakistan. Go and enjoy the place. Great food, great people, hardly any tourist. That will change of course when you enter all the countries east from here on… So go and enjoy while you still can. Let’s see if you can spot the “Discover Bangladesh, before the tourists do!” posters…

    Adventurous greetings,

  15. GREAT post. your life is far from dull. all in all though, the country looks absolutely beautiful! glad you’re safe.

    happy trails!


  16. Good Pictures. Great stories. Can’t wait for the next leg of your story.


  17. Nick, I really have enjoyed following your journey, thanks for letting us travel the world through your eyes. I am curious about you nightly routine when using your tent. Is it an easy set-up? The thought of having to set-up and take down everyday sounds like no fun at all. As always I’m looking forward to your next post.

    Safe travels,


  18. Nick,

    Have you encountered any other travelers from US or Europe recently? Since there are no women in the pictures I was wondering what it would be like for a female traveler to visit Bangladesh. What would the experience have been if Nadia was still traveling with you?

    Stay safe.


  19. Hi Nick,

    Thanks for all that you do to keep us inform of your journey !Well you are more than halfway and I just appreciate all of those pictures from your travel.I tell the stories about you to my kids who are in college now and all of those marvel adventure you are doing driving around the world in a Land Cruiser and my kids are amaze also . Anyway it is fall here in Seattle and it is beautiful while the color changes and the leaves are starting to fall . Keep up the great work and if you publish a book after this journey what will be the future name of the book? Until then thank you and be safe . signing off from Seattle.
    Ray Manalo

  20. reminds me of tangiers, morocco… no women anywhere but the market…

    restaurants, streets, buses, cafes, all men… the women are not out. In the market i saw a woman whose eye was bleeding and she was shrieking and no one batted an eye…it looked to me as if her husband had stabbed her. i was so disturbed so i asked my group’s guide what was going on and he too pretended not to see…i urgently pressed him to call for help or police and he said in this country “we no see, no hear, no speak”…it was a horrible thing to witness this woman wailing and shrieking with blood covering her eye and feel unable to help at all. needless to say, i was glad to leave the country that day but i couldn’t sleep that night at all.

    are we any different when we scurry past the homeless on fifth avenue in NYC?

    stay safe and healthy!