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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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  • 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

  • Port of call: Klang, Malaysia

    Posted on October 27th, 2010 Nicolas No comments

    SE_ASIA_MAPI have just been informed that my container arrived in Malaysia, earlier than scheduled. I am – as some of you guys had guess – in Guam, a small island in the western Pacific Ocean. Guam is a U.S. territory and 200,000 Americans populate the island south of Japan. I always have been curious about this place, and I am glad I visited it. What strikes me the most compared to the places I have been recently is the silence within the island. I could not believe it the first day when, after arriving at 5 a.m. at the airport, I walked to the beach. Since I landed in India, there was noise everywhere, and now I could not hear a thing. Another surprise was awaiting me. People here actually stop to let you cross the streets. No need to run and risk your life!
    Of course there are some drawbacks. The cost of life here is similar to the mainland United States, so it is hard to see all these dollars flying away. On one recent night I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, a delicacy I didn’t enjoy in months, but how painful it was when I received the check. US$9, an amount I could live on for several days in the developing world.
    The cheapest hotel I found here is the Pacific Bay Hotel, where I stay for a little bit less than US$50 a night.

    Around Tamuning, a lot of luxury shops for tourists.

    Around Tamuning, a lot of luxury shops for tourists.

    I shall fly back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 29. From there I will drive north and complete an Asian loop which will include Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I am pretty excited about my upcoming adventures which should feature beach and jungle background as well as great food. I don’t expect any visa difficulty but will have to stop in Bangkok to get a new passport, mine being full (again…).

    Most tourists are Japanese. The island is too far from the U.S. mainland to attract Americans.

    Most tourists are Japanese. The island is too far from the U.S. mainland to attract Americans.

    It is unclear what will be the route after I complete this segment. I may drive back to Kuala Lumpur, or I may ship back the truck to the United States. If I choose to do that, I would continue my trip east by foot through China, South Korea and Japan. I would go by train through China and way of sea to South Korea and Japan.
    But I am going ahead of myself, and should get ready for a lot of surprises in Southeast Asia.