Port Moresby has a bad reputation. Papua New Guinea conjures images of steamy jungles, of verdant hillsides, of distant tribes with bones dangling from their noses. Its name seems to reach out and say: Come here if you want adventure! Come and see nature in the RAW! What is doesn’t usually conjure, at least to me, was violence and mayhem. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s edgy capital, is a place to avoid if the media is to be believed. Travel advisories warn of the extreme violence that can befall a visitor foolish enough to step off a plane there. The chance of being robbed is very high, they say. The chance of meeting a bad guy is almost probable. The chance of being hacked and thrown into a cockroach infested pit something to consider. The main ... read more

“Welcome to El Salvador; my name is Edgar,” grinned a stocky man in his late thirties. Edgar possessed an enviable shock of black hair, and his friendly face made me warm to him straight away, which was great since he was going to be my guide for the next few days. “Is this your first time here?” His accent was thick but perfectly understandable. I nodded. “It’s good that tourists are starting to come. This is what the government wants and what I want.” He led me outside into the blinkingly bright sunshine. “Wait here, I’ll get the car. I should only be a couple of minutes.” With that he was gone, leaving me alone to take in this most dangerous of Central American cities. El Salvador was the edgiest country of my trip. The mention ... read more
El Salvador has the best car plates in Central America
Chicken bus
Musicians in downtown San Salvador

The French founded Kingstown in the year 1722. Back then, it was a mosquito-infested settlement of rudimentary wooden dwellings with a small port to service transport ships. A few years later, the French grew weary of the heat and passed it over to the British. Then the British passed it back to the French, who scratched their heads and wondered what to do with their tropical slice of island. In the end, they decided to do what all the other islands were doing and planted some sugar cane, coffee and tobacco. Today, instead of sugar cane or coffee, bananas are the country’s biggest money-maker, closely followed by tourism. Being one of the latter who enjoyed eating the former, I was looking forward to seeing as much as I could in the one day at my disposal. ... read more

Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina » South » Mostar November 25th 2016

Mostar is full of winding cobblestone alleys with Turkish-style bazaars and small coffee houses where people sit drinking from tiny cups. Minarets compete for space with church spires, and, at certain times of the day, the Muslim call to prayer battles with the ringing of bells across the river. But the centrepiece of Mostar's old town is definitely its famous bridge. The Legend According to legend, an Ottoman called Mimar designed the bridge. When Suleiman the Magnificent had commissioned him to build it, Mimar had trembled with fear. He knew the bridge had to span thirty metres, something unimaginable in those days. But that wasn't the source of his angst; it was more to do with the sultan. As well as being magnificent, Suleiman was cruel, notorious for his love of gruesome executions. Mimar knew he ... read more

Africa » Djibouti » East » Djibouti City November 10th 2016

Litter was everywhere. It was as if a dumper truck had simply spewed its contents into the street. Random men were lazing about in whatever shade they could find – inside doorways, under trees, besides walls – all of them chewing khat, the ubiquitous drug of choice for men along the horn of Africa. For thousands of years, from the wilds of Yemen to the northern reaches of Kenya, millions of East African men (and sometimes women) had been chewing away on lumps of green leaves to get their stimulation. From what I could see, the men of Djibouti loved it, for all were munching away on the government-approved euphoria, cheeks bulging, teeth stained green. Every morning, fresh lorry loads arrived from neighbouring Ethiopia, which was then distributed among local khat sellers, who sold ... read more

Middle East » Iran » South » Kish Island October 28th 2016

To be honest, I was a little nervous about visiting the Islamic Republic of Iran. Aside from the possibility of police detainment, there was also the threat of kidnap. In 2007, Robert Levinson, an American private investigator, disappeared while visiting Kish Island and hasn’t been seen since. Nothing, not a whisker. Even so, I was intrigued by the Middle Eastern nation. Every report I’d read about it, aside from the ones about kidnappings, nuclear weapons and Ayatollahs, was positive, especially about the friendly folk who lived there. I just had to see it for myself. With only one day set aside for visiting Iran before jetting off to South Korea, I knew going to the mainland was out of the question: the visa hurdles were just too cumbersome. No, the only way was to fly to ... read more

Europe » Belgium » Hainaut » Charleroi August 2nd 2016

I woke up feeling fed up again. The reason was self-evident: it was my birthday and I was going to be spending it alone in a foreign city. And not just any foreign city, but Charleroi, one I knew next to nothing about apart from that it was in Belgium. I opened my laptop to find out more. What is Charleroi all about? Charleroi, it turned out, was the fourth largest city in Belgium. It was, by most accounts, a dump, long past its heyday, with some of the highest unemployment rates in Belgium. The city was wallowing in its faded industrial past and only had one tourist site of note – a photography museum. In 2010, a Dutch newspaper described Charleroi as the ‘ugliest city in the world’. More recently, a reviewer of ... read more

Europe » Latvia » Riga Region » Riga June 20th 2016

Bremen – Riga: Ryanair £27 I showed the old geezer in the driving seat the address of my hotel and he nodded. Off we set. As we left the airport perimeter, I tried to engage him in conversation. “No English,” he barked. I nodded, irritated by his casual rebuke. Maybe it was because he was sick of Englishmen visiting his city and causing trouble. I couldn’t blame him if that was the reason. Ever since low cost airlines had invaded Riga, young Brits had flocked to the Baltics. In 2008, things came to a head when the Latvian interior minister described British tourists as ‘dirty, hoggish people’. His comment followed the arrest of a drunken 34-year old British man caught urinating on Latvia’s most revered memorial – the Freedom Monument. The taxi hit a ... read more

Europe » Norway » Eastern Norway » Moss March 8th 2016

I suspect nobody outside Norway has heard of the town of Moss. And why would they? Moss is a small coastal settlement sixty kilometres south of the capital, Oslo, with nothing of note except a few factories, a small harbour and a museum. Locally, I suppose, Moss’s paper mills make it somewhat famous among the people who live in the region. And perhaps some of its factories ought to be more well-known, especially the one that manufactures key cards for international hotel chains. The town’s biggest draw is the Moss Industrial Museum. Inside this illustrious establishment, exhibitions of milling and papermaking equipment abound. The museum’s website claims it also runs workshops enabling local children to make their own paper. When I read that the museum was full of Norwegian glass, I vowed to visit it myself, ... read more

Africa » Comoros » Grande Comore May 9th 2015

The Comoros In the Comoros, I reached the lowest ebb of my trip around East Africa. Perhaps it was to do with the lack of sleep or maybe the fact I’d had enough of the heat and humidity of Africa. Or perhaps I simply missed home. The rain didn’t help much either. Thick, dark clouds had covered the entire country on our approach and, as the Kenya Airways jet descended below them, the beaches looked black and angry, pounded mercilessly by ferocious waves Thirty minutes before landing on Grand Comoros, it had been a different story. My flight had taken a scheduled stopover in Mayotte, the French dependency that had once been part of the Comoros. The ocean surrounding it was a mesmerizing palette of tropical blues. But then we’d taken off and flown ... read more
On approach to Mayotte
Mosque on the airport road

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