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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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MONTHLY ARCHIVES

THE ROUTE

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  • Following the beaches in Malaysia and Thailand

    Posted on November 12th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Spending the night on a beach in south Penang.

    Spending the night on a beach in south Penang.

    After a last promenade in Kuala Lumpur, I leave the city. There is a Chinese and Indian area there, but it is quick to go around. Really nothing more impressive than New York City can offer.

    A mix of modernity and tradition in Kuala Lumpur.

    A mix of modernity and tradition in Kuala Lumpur.

    In the northern suburbs, I do some grocery shopping to make sure I have enough food for the upcoming week, and I later stop few miles outside of the city, in Templer Park, to spend the night in the forest.
    Early in the morning I get on the road and drive toward the Island of Penang. It is still sunny, but I know it is going to change and I probably will get a lot of rain once in Thailand.

    In Kuala Lumpur Little India.

    In Kuala Lumpur Little India.

    As I said earlier, the roads are very good in Malaysia, and effortlessly that I put the 200 miles behind. Highway tolls are somewhat more expensive than the previous countries I have been too. I am surprised to see gasoline is in self-service, which – surprisingly enough – I didn’t see since the U.S.

    The road in northern Malaysia.

    The road in northern Malaysia.

    Also I have GPS maps for Malaysia and Thailand, which will make the next weeks a bit easier on the navigation front. Last time I was able to use the technology was in the Arab Emirates.
    In the south of Penang Island, I find a quiet beach and spend the night there. In the morning, I pass the bridge and go back to the Peninsula, then drive north to the Thailand’s border. Everything there is straight forward, and it takes me only one hour to go through the Malaysia and Thailand customs and immigration procedures. The temporary import of the vehicle in Thailand is very easy, and I don’t even have to use my special document (the Carnet de Passage) to go through.

    Flooded road close to the Thailand border.

    Flooded road close to the Thailand border.

    The area around the border has been recently the theater of floods, and the road is sometimes still under the water. Regardless, it is not as bad as I was expecting, and I can put some miles behind. Late in the afternoon, the rain becomes very strong, and early enough I have to stop for the day.

    Too much rain to continue safely.

    Too much rain to continue safely.

    The rain is too sturdy and I can’t cook out, so I go to a roadside restaurant where I get my first Thai meal, which I was looking forward since a long time. Of course it is delicious. I also spend the night on the parking lot and fall asleep as the rain continues to fall.
    In the morning the sun is back and I can leave what turns out to be the city of Phatthalung.

    The Trans World Expedition made it to Thailand after almost 30,000 miles.

    The Trans World Expedition made it to Thailand after almost 30,000 miles.

    I am now going northwest toward Phuket. There, I will visit David who contacted me few months back to invite me to visit the island. Few years back David was also on the road with his family, and visited a lot of the places I have been to. When he arrived in Thailand, he decided he found his paradise and will stay here.
    I arrive in Phuket after a long day of driving and call him from a public phone.

    I saw people transporting pretty much anything during my trip, but this one is a first.

    I saw people transporting pretty much anything during my trip, but this one is a first.

    It turns out that he rents luxury villas in the paradisiacal island, and having one available in the Surin beach area, he invites me to forget my tent for few days and enjoy the huge west coast mansion. Of course, I accept.

    Close to Phuket.

    Close to Phuket.

    Few days with David and his girlfriend.

    Few days with David and his girlfriend.

    I spend three nights there. David takes me out at night, and in the daytime we visit the island or work on the truck. He has an old Land Cruiser, so he takes me out on off-road trails.

    Hitting the trails of Phuket in David old Land Cruiser.

    Hitting the trails of Phuket in David old Land Cruiser.

    The nightlife is famously crazy there, and it is quite a contrast after all the time I spend in Muslim countries. I am not use to drink that much and can’t say I take too much rest. There is a lot of European around, and they are out of their mind, especially in Patong, the sin capital of the Island.

    Night market scenes in Phuket.

    Night market scenes in Phuket.

    Knowing I have a lot of kids following my adventures, I will not post any nightlife pictures on this website; just know that it is pretty alarming.

    Phuket west coast.

    Phuket west coast.

    In the meantime, I get some news from my friend Vikas who I stayed with in Mumbai. He is able to take some time off, and we decide to meet in Bangkok. From there we will drive to neighboring Cambodia and explore the area. It is time to leave my friend David and go back on the road.

    The last beach before the bridge.

    The last beach before the bridge.

    I leave on Thursday morning and drive north. I cross the small mountains dividing the south of the country and reach the east coast.

    Crossing the central mountains.

    Crossing the central mountains.

    After nightfall, it takes me some times to find a good beach where I can camp for the night. Eventually I find the perfect spot north of Chumphon. The temperatures are lower as I go north it seems, which give me some respite as it is easier to sleep.

    Waking up on the beach close to Chumphon.

    Waking up on the beach close to Chumphon.

  • Warm-up trip in southwest Malaysia

    Posted on November 5th, 2010 Nicolas No comments

    The Petronas twin towers

    The Petronas twin towers

    The towers mall.

    The towers mall.

    The trip going back to Malaysia from Guam was a long one. It was not so much because of the distance, but mostly due to a long layover in Manila. I had to stay in the airport there for fifteen hours and slept most of the time. I then arrived at 1 a.m. at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Again, I slept on the spot and took a train early morning to get to Port Klang, where I was to meet my clearing agent and collect my vehicle. In the evening, after a long nap, I went to have diner for with Abu who is clearing the container on my behalf (contact info at the end of the post). Everything is well organized here, and it seems that I will be able to get the truck on the following day. It does indeed happen and on the Monday at 8 p.m. I am unlashing the vehicle which starts right away few minutes later.

    Bush camping in the Chinese cemetery.

    Bush camping in the Chinese cemetery.

    So far, transport from Bangladesh to Malaysia has been the easiest of all shipments. Nice people helped in both ports and prices were low. For the first time my truck arrived before me unlike in Mumbai where I had to wait for three weeks. I am now considering going back to Malaysia after my trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, to send back the truck to the U.S. Of course this decision will be driven by the quotes I will get.

    The Chinese cemetery overlooks the beach.

    The Chinese cemetery overlooks the beach.

    In the morning, I set off for one of the numerous supermarkets in the peninsula. It’s pretty exciting as I didn’t spot one since Dubai. It is very convenient for the traveler to find all needed items in one place. In many countries, you have to go to five or six shops to get what you need, which is very time consuming.

    Cooking in the forest close to Melaka.

    Cooking in the forest close to Melaka.

    I decide to do a little warm-up tour in the southeast, so I can make sure I have everything I need before I drive north to Thailand. I push toward Melaka, and setup camp for the night when I reach the west coast. I find a very quiet place on the beach bordering a Chinese cemetery. A little bit spooky, but definitely not the worst place I slept at.
    The second day, I drive inland and decide to camp in a forest just 40 miles from my start point. I take advantage of the rest of the day to inspect the truck and fix some little things. I noticed some Land Cruisers on the road, which means I should find easily parts for my vehicle in Kuala Lumpur.

    Very nice roads. It is like driving in France. Except on the wrong side of the road.

    Very nice roads. It is like driving in France. Except on the wrong side of the road.

    The expedition makes it to the Petronas towers.

    The expedition makes it to the Petronas towers.

    The following afternoon I drive back to the capital and stop on the way to a part shop. There, among other things, I get a set of front and rear bearings, brake pads, and fan and alternator belts. Most of it is just to have part handy if something happens. I am now really close to the goal and would not like to get stuck in some Laos mountain.
    In the evening I visit the famous Petronas twin towers which were the highest when built back in 1998. Nowadays, the Burj Dubai tower – which I visited few months back – stole the world record. Malaysia has more than an impressive skyline to share with the Emirates. Here too, oil money has boosted the country economy which grew steadily since the independence from the British in 1957. The part of the country I visited features infrastructure of great quality and roads as smooth as European highways. Thankfully, gas is less expensive here than in Europe, at $2 a gallon, which is the right price for me. Present everywhere, the street food is amazing and reflects the multicultural country. Malays are still a majority, but a quarter of the population is Chinese and ten percent Chinese.

    Welcome to Asia. Toyota kingdom.

    Welcome to Asia, Toyota kingdom.

    I slept yesterday night in the streets of the diplomatic enclave, in the center of the city. I doubt the authorities would appreciate to see me there one more night, so I plan to find myself another camping spot tonight, after a day visiting the city.

    Sleeping in the diplomatic enclave, Kuala Lumpur.

    Sleeping in the diplomatic enclave, Kuala Lumpur.

    Tomorrow, I will begin my drive toward the Thailand border, an area where floods took place in the recent days (see here the BBC story). Hopefully I will be able to make it through. Wish me good luck.

    KL skyline.

    Kuala Lumpur skyline. At the center, KL tower.

    NOTE FOR TRAVELERS:
    I was very happy with the agent who took care of the clearance. For the first time, I didn’t have to spend endless hours at the port. Everything was very well organized, and cheap. I requested quotes from several people, and he was the cheapest.
    Haji Mohamed Assir Bin Haji A.Mohamed Ariff
    Syarikat Aseantex Marine Services
    Tel : +603 31680000 Fax: +603 31671600
    Mobile: +6019 3266669