James Galvin

Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

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Boat to Vienna


Vienna is just about an hour and a half up the Danube from Bratislava. Some nice views along the way, including that of the ruined Devín Castle near the Austrian/Slovakian border.

There are lots of small fishing lodges along the river on the Austrian side. I don’t know if these are for commercial or recreational fishing, but some of them are using large nets on the river.


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What a great surprise. Slovakia is a fantastic country to visit. And Bratislava must be one of the best capital cities in Europe. The historic city centre is ideal for mulling around for a few days. Except on a Friday, because that’s when groups of aggressive nuns with beer bellies and English accents start to appear. Come here from Monday to Thursday and you won’t be disappointed.

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Ulu Temburong


Brunei looks like a small country on the map, but there’s a lot of wilderness here. The government carved out a small corner for tourism, and the rest is well protected. Getting to Temburong national park is a bit of a long haul from Bandar Seri Begawan, by public boat up the river then bus overland for an hour then a small longboat up to the national park.

Don’t touch the trees because some of them have poison bark and others are infested with “exploding ants” that might commit kamikaze, rupturing their abdomen in order to hurt you with their sticky, toxic, yellow goo. Bamboo trees are often infested with ants all the way through, because of the hollow centre.

At the top of a hill, a metal staircase climbs up in the sky towards a birdwatching viewing platform. These rainforests continue for hundreds of miles through Borneo, crossing three different countries, and are home to a...

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A brisk walk across the border at San Ysidro - prairie dogs popping up and down as you go past. What a stark contrast from one side to the other. I’m trying to think of other borders I have crossed… there’s usually some kind of a gradual transition - mixed-culture / multi-lingual areas close to the border, fading as you drive further into the country. But Tijuana is a blast of colour and warm air and music the second you arrive and it feels a million miles away from San Diego.


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Discovering Singapore’s Hidden Charm


Modern. Efficient. Expensive. Clean - sometimes even “sterile”. Fashionable. Orderly. Futuristic. These are words that I’ve heard to describe Singapore. Not necessarily in a disparaging way. These things appeal to some, but not to others. This was my first experience of Singapore in 2009 on a short stopover.

Some travellers to South East Asia are looking for something different, and they can be dismissive of a Singapore that appears work-centric, industrialised, commercial. At first glance, it looks manufactured or inauthentic. The scale of Marina Bay Sands built on reclaimed land to house the giant Casino, infinity pools, VIP areas, and endless shopping zones. Sentosa, with artificial beaches, overpriced beach clubs trying too hard. Gaudy Clark Quay, where shopfronts have an upper story made to look like village townhouses… but they are just decorations. Rooftop bars...

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Driving from the airport to the city, I was struck by the sudden realisation that there were few houses and lots of trees. Why the hell did I bring my family to Helsinki? I’ve stayed in some very bleak places in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, and wondered if that’s what I should expect. What do I know about Finland? Nokia, reindeer meat, vodka, saunas, and a high suicide rate.

What a relief when we got closer and a vibrant city appeared, beautiful architecture, wide open boulevards and squares, lively markets, leafy parks, and a harbour full of boats. What’s more, the weather was glorious throughout - 23°C with a mild sea breeze. Salmon with every meal, and lots and lots of cherries.

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Freezing in Morocco

I had to get out of Fontainebleau because it was so cold and there was nothing to do. Went to the nearest place where I thought I’d find a bit of sunshine. So I showed up to Marrakesh in my t-shirt. Probably should have googled first.

Crossing over the mountains, less than two hours outside the city we were actually hit by a blizzard. Even colder than France. Luckily I found a place selling goat wool hoodies (with a particularly pointy hood) that would serve to keep me warm.

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Now I am a Boiled Prawn

Writing this post is a sensitive task for me. Every word I type causes painful feelings. Not for any sentimental reasons, but because each keystroke sends a shiver of discomfort through my sun-charred, aloe-vera soaked arms. My back and shoulders are covered in blisters and my face is swollen and red.

Despite the agony, I am smiling as I think back to the cause of this distress. An hour baking on the bow of a speedboat crashing through the Indian ocean, the heat of the sun offset by a cool, stiff breeze. I knew I would pay the consequences, but I was immobilised by the sheer sense of freedom and satisfaction. I just sat there with a smile on my carbonising face.

I have always been fascinated by the Whale Shark (that deserves capitalisation). The world’s largest fish - “as big as a double-decker bus”. As a teenager, I was inspired by Tim Severin’s book, “In Search of Moby...

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