Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Seven Hours to Son My - 22 April 2019

I once spent over seven hours on the back of a motorbike to go from the tourist town of Hoi An south on National Route 1 to Son My in central Vietnam, and back again. The trip was an endurance test in how uncomfortable small motorbikes can be on large European frames on Vietnamese roads. Travelling on National Route 1 (or 1A), which runs 2300kms from near the Chinese border to Ca Mau Province in the Mekong Delta on the Gulf of Thailand, was an education in Southeast Asian driving habits. After dark, the roads are a dangerous place to be with local traffic being what it is. Road fatalities are all too common during daylight and worse at night. It was a long day in the saddle all to see a memorial to a brutal massacre. On that occasion back in 2006, I’d gone because when in Ho Chi Minh City I had read an article in the English language newspaper, the Viet Nam News, that 15 students from US high schools were engaged in volunteer work in Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam.  The programme, part of a Vermont-based organization, sends US students to developing countries to teach English, build houses for local residents and to do charity jobs during their summer vacation, paid for by their parents.  When they arrived in mid-June to stay at Son My village, none were aware that more than 500 civilians were massacred there by US soldiers during the American war.  Whether this was an omission on the part of the organizers or the Vietnamese is unclear, likely

Marble Mountains and China Beaches - 21 March 2019

South central Vietnam has its share of people-made wonders but hereabouts has its natural attractions also. Just south of Danang squeezed between the South China Sea and the rapidly encroaching suburbs of Vietnam’s fifth-largest city are the Marble Mountains (Ngũ Hành Sơn). Holy hideaways used down through the ages by the Cham peoples through to

Hoi An - Living in the Past - 24 January 2019

Hoi An is a firm favourite on the now well beaten tourist path in Vietnam. Together with the less popular destination for backpackers, Da Nang (or Danang, previously Tourane to the French), it marks about the half way point geographically in the “S” shape bend of Vietnam, the top of the bulge into the South China Sea. The tourists come here

Nha Trang - The Real Contender - 26 December 2018

Many places lay claim to being the best bay in the world, but Nha Trang has serious qualification and is a real contender.  It is called the best beach in Vietnam, in a country full of beaches and is frequently ranked by travel magazines as among the best bays in the world. Locally it’s also known by some as the Pearl of Vietnam and by

Mui Ne - The Sheltered Cove - 30 November 2018

I went to Mui Ne (M-oo-e Nay) on my first visit to Vietnam in 2006. Back then it was, as it is today, a bolt-hole for the Saigonese, and had been added to the foreign tourist destinations a few years earlier. Tourists started coming here in the mid-1990s to see a solar eclipse albeit, thanks to certain guidebooks, by mistake, and wound up at the

Silk Island, Cambodia - 30 September 2018

To reach Silk Island from Phnom Penh you head over the Japanese Bridge on National Route Six. Once over the bridge you arrive onto a sliver of land squeezed between the Tonle Sap, the river that flows from the great lake in Cambodia’s north, and the Mekong, the river that comes from China.The Japanese “Friendship” Bridge isn’t the

The Tale of Two Tyrannies - 20 August 2018

Have you heard the joke about the elections in Cambodia and Zimbabwe? There isn’t one but perhaps there should be. Both countries have been effectively in the grip of single party rule for over 30 years. Both countries recently held elections with altogether predictable results, the incumbent parties won, again; Zanu-PF ((Zimbabwe African

Hua Hin, Queen City - 20 May 2018

I’ve been past Hua Hin on the bus and on the train a few times, always at night. Usually there’d be a brief stop to drop people off or pick them up; so my impressions were generally fatigued, blurry and in darkness. I’ve flown over the beach resort as well, an entirely different perspective and one with a subsonic, high altitude detachment. The