Michael Batson

Travel Writer

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Travelogue

Fla-Flu at the Maracanã - 8 July 2021

I once criss-crossed swathes of South America for four months by road, rail, and on water, with some flights in-between travelling from place-to-place, city-to-city, and country-to-country. The overwhelming impression you get of South America is one of diversity followed by its scale, it’s huge; Argentina is the eight-largest country in the world but is still dwarfed by its neighbour, Brazil. I went to Brazil by road from Paraguay. I travelled from Curitiba (voted Brazil’s best big city to live, and noted for its radical, progressive ideas) by bus to São Paulo, a megalopolis, and the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. São Paulo is Brazil’s industrial engine and financial centre, and goes on for miles. From there I went to Rio de Janeiro (“January River” and named for Saint Sebastian) along a freeway which took an age to clear the limits of Brazil’s urban colossus. If São Paulo is a man-made concrete jungle with a population bigger than most countries, Rio is a spectacular natural wonder, for as they say; “God spent six days making the rest of the world, then saved the seventh for Rio”. There I was lucky to see some of the city’s more famous sights and eye-catching spectacles including a football match but not just any game anywhere. I saw two of the biggest clubs in the world play one of the world’s biggest local derbies in the world’s football biggest stadium, an experience which has stayed with me to this day. A couple of people at my hotel, in the

Brisbane to Cairns - 6 June 2021

When I first went to Australia as a teenager I hitchhiked from Melbourne to Cairns, about 3000kms (roughly 1800 miles) by road. You get a sense of the size of Australia when you realise that as far as north as Cairns (pronounced by the locals as “Cans”) is from Melbourne, there is still another 1100kms before you reach Cape York at the Torres

Ten Songs - 5 May 2021

Music can be a very personal thing. For a lot of people music is associated with specific events or times, with people and places, various phases of relationships – good and bad. Music can cover a whole range of emotions.  It can be uplifting or soothing but is rarely both in the same song or piece of music, unless your name is Beethoven

The Bình Xuyên and the Battle of Saigon - 7 April 2021

By 1954 Bay Vien (“Bay the Seventh”), an illiterate gangster once impoverished and homeless, had become the richest man in Saigon with immense wealth at the head of a criminal-military organisation thousands strong, and the key to the French presence in Cochinchina. He was the leader of a powerful Vietnamese criminal enterprise decreed by the

East Coast, New Zealand - In Your Own Time - 10 February 2021

Go east they say, it’s the wild side of New Zealand. The East Cape (the Eastland) of New Zealand’s North Island stretches 344kms by road along route 35 from the small town of Ōpōtiki to Gisborne – there’s a shorter route through the Waioeka Gorge on route 2 but you miss all the fun – though the Waioeka has its own attractions. I have driven from

Bars I Have Known - 7 January 2021

Bars can be a great way to meet people, find work, make contacts and get the low down on the local scene where ever you are. They can be melting pots and social intersections. You can meet all kinds of people in all kinds of bars. I have come across: the well-travelled, the educated, the literate, the well-heeled and those not, the working and

'Our' Man in Tokyo, Richard Sorge - 8 December 2020

This Travelogue piece follows on from Richard Sorge; ‘The Spy from Baku’ and ‘The Spy in Shanghai’. Richard Sorge was a master of bluff and a manipulator extraordinaire as well as being a great actor, important for a spy. Being a spy also made him a born liar, the two sharing similar traits, and as with all spy stories the lines between

The Spy in Shanghai - 18 November 2020

This piece follows on from Richard Sorge, Part One, ‘The Spy from Baku’. Richard Sorge was arguably the greatest spy of the 20th century. Ian Fleming, a spy who become a writer, called him the “most formidable spy in history”. John le Carré, a spy who wrote books and later a bestselling author of espionage once called Fleming’s chief