Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Kanchanaburi - On The River Kwai - 8 July 2019

The small city of Kanchanaburi sits at the base of the Tenasserim Hills on the edge of the flood plains of the Chao Phyra, the River of Kings, in what was once jungle. The hills border Myanmar and shelter the Kingdom of Smiles from the typhoons of the Andaman Sea. They also provide a physical barrier between the two countries, long-time rivals and dynastic adversaries and have played a part in putting this small regional centre in western Thailand on the map. Kanchanaburi has been famous in contemporary times for its war history, the river Kwai and a movie named after it about the aptly named ‘Death Railway’. The effort to connect one country with the other by rail by Japan for the purposes of empire and warfare is what gave the bridge on the River Kwai its infamy. But there’s more to Kanchanburi. It also has a decades-old reputation as a laidback backpacker destination on the Thailand circuit, like a Thai island but without a beach. These days it rather more gentrified with a small resident expat community and close enough for anyone to make it over from Bangkok. My first memories of Kanchanaburi was years ago and of floating bungalows, a jungle curry so hot I couldn’t taste let alone eat, and a police officer in brown, sporting a handgun with a barrel so long it resembled artillery. The town had rows of traditional wooden shophouses, and still does. The town was small enough to walk around or cycle and I’m pleased to say that can be done today. There

Places I’ve Stayed – A World-Wide Guide – 31 May 2019

I’ve stayed in everything from a 5-star hotel in Singapore to a decrepit pension in Cairo resembling a building site, to a bed and breakfast in a high-rise in the backstreets of communist Budapest. I’ve slept in huts made of branches on the beach in the Sinai Peninsula, on a promenade in Monaco with the pavement for a pillow, bamboo huts in the

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

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