Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Yangon - The End of Strife - 28 June 2011

A visitor once described swooping down to Rangoon and central Burma’s “flat green, soggy plains overwhelmed by angry monsoon clouds in unbearable heat.” Yangon formerly known as Rangoon, is barely more than an hour by plane from Bangkok and six-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT but in some ways is light years away from the rest of the world, a country largely ostracised by many in the rest of the global community, being placed on a par with pariah states like North Korea.Yangon International Airport is the country’s only link with the outside world, a pristine and bright display case to welcome the few visitors to this reclusive land. There are three lines for Myanmar citizens, two for foreigners and an entire counter for diplomats. The plane from Bangkok was nearly empty but business class was nearly full, with what turned out to be some delegation judging by the official looking reception on hand to greet them.The runway is busy with an endless stream of military transport planes, mainly of aged Soviet vintage, and jet fighters landing and taking off.For reasons best known to themselves Myanmar’s secretive military rulers, the State Peace and Development Council, once formerly known by their Orwellian acronym, SLORC (the State Law and Order Restoration Council), moved the country’s capital several hundred kilometres inland in 2003 to the relatively obscure site of Naypyidaw. Some Burma observers surmised that this was down to sheer paranoia, the fear of invasion

Burmese Days - 24 June 2011

Practical Information - Republic of the Union of Myanmar – Visitor GuideMany visitors I met using guidebooks complained that information on cost and travel, especially travel times, was incorrect, so here's an update.VisasVisitors to Myanmar require a visa. This can be either a tourist of business visa. Visas are available from the Embassy

Langkawi - The Jewel of Kedah - 22 June 2011

The chatty and helpful lady at the Penang Tourist Office by the dockside sold me my ticket to Langkawi. “Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before sailing” she said “and ask the bus driver to drop you here outside the door, not at the bus stop, which is someway down the road.” I did and he did. All Penang’s modern bus fleet, air-conditioned

Penang - Pearl of the Orient - 18 June 2011

Penang was Britain’s oldest colonial possession in Southeast Asia, the place where Raffles had started his overseas career with the East India Company. It was also breathtakingly beautiful. It was said that few places merited the title Pearl of the Orient as much as Penang, with its fringe of perfect beaches, its variegated interior of spice

Kuala Lumpur - City of Towers - 14 June 2011

In the 1850s Malaysia’s future capital, Kuala Lumpur, was a mining settlement fought over by rival Chinese gangs. The conflict often resulted in open warfare, prompting the British who then ruled the Federation of Malaya to step in, least the lucrative work at the mines ceased altogether.During its early times, Kuala Lumpur had many other

Melaka - Guns, God and Museums - 12 June 2011

One of the wonders of travel is that you go somewhere you’ve never been before anywhere in the world, know not a soul, arrive tired, hungry and with nowhere to sleep, and within a relatively short space of time be settled in like you’ve been there all your life.I can’t replicate the appreciation of that doing anything else.Early morning in

Singapore - Waiting To Exhale - 9 June 2011

Singapore is a sea-level blip barely north of the Equator. Once upon a time it was sparsely populated, disease-infested island ringed by mangrove swamps. Needless to say it had one of the unhealthiest climates in the world and was the kind of graveyard that killed off people in their droves.Until the early 1800s it was a backwater, a bit part

The Mother of Cities - 31 May 2011

Asuncion is the capital and largest city of landlocked Paraguay, a country rarely on the radar and for most, off the beaten track. Steamy tropical heat, tin-pot dictators, violence, tragedy and cultural melting pot, Paraguay seemed to fulfil stereotypical views for many of Latin America.True, during its history, Paraguay has suffered

Smoking TNT and Drinking Dynamite - 22 May 2011

It has been said that if the bones of all the slave labourers who died toiling in Potosi’s silver mines to make Spain rich were laid end-to-end, they’d stretch all the way from Bolivia to Madrid.Before Britain and its Commonwealth, there was another empire on which it could truly be said “the sun never sets”. The Kingdom of Castile dominated