Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Korea - The North, the South and the Moon - 31 October 2010

Korea is two lands with a penchant for the greatest choreographed spectacles on Earth, big industries and the world’s largest weddings, all divided by the world’s most heavily fortified military zone and one of only two last vestiges of the Cold War. The Korean people appear polar opposites divided politically, militarily and ideologically between north and south but they’re much closer than they think, culturally aligned and both sharing a propensity for cults of personality. The Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK) is one of the world’s most secretive and internationally isolated states. Today barely 1,500 people a year visit North Korea. Only special guided trips, arranged for tourists are permitted by Pyongyang. Travelers are accompanied by official guides, only permitted in certain areas, and can be asked to delete "objectionable" photos from their digital cameras. From its artificial creation after World War Two following division of the Korean peninsula along a line drawn arbitrarily by the US military, the DPRK has been ruled militarily by the Kim family with their cult-of-personality and its gulags (Amnesty International estimates some 200,000 people sit in various detention facilities there). Until the 1980s, the South was dominated by brutal military rule, corruption, and rabid anti-communism, a trait shared with its captains of industry, and religion, such as the Unification Church, or the Moonies. From the time of the generals to the

Nullifying the Opposition - 18 October 2010

According to the game’s commentators, rugby league is apparently all about banana kicks and nullifying the physicality of the opposition, or something like that. The Rugby League Four-Nations is about to take place in Australia and New Zealand from October until November 2010 featuring the host nations, England, and the 2009 Pacific Cup

It's The News But Not As We Know It - 11 October 2010

The media in Britain covers the whole spectrum from the ridiculous to the sublime, whereas New Zealand just has, well, the mediocre.At the recent annual television media awards, Television New Zealand (TVNZ) News  beat the competition to be named news channel of the year for New Zealand in a competition of two, well, three – almost.Hardly a

Let the Games Begin - 3 October 2010

The Commonwealth Games are here. Terrorism, racism, burning effigies, exploitation, poverty, masses of security and, oh yeah, then there’s the sport.The XIX Commonwealth Games are about to get underway in the Indian capital, New Delhi, but not without more than it’s share of problems associated with hosting multinational sporting events.  The

Never mind the Traffic

Never mind the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City or murderous roads in Bolivia, driving in New Zealand can be just as lethal.New statistics show New Zealand road deaths are among the highest in the world per capita, alongside Cambodia, Malaysia, Lithuania and Slovenia.Per capita, Kiwi road deaths last year were the ninth highest, with 8.9 deaths

Boca Juniors - The Chocolate Box and the Cake Tin - 24 August 20

The Wellington Phoenix football team has only been around for a handful of years playing against teams from Australia in the Hyundai-sponsored A-League.  For a team with a mix skilled squad they recently managed a remarkable feat, beating a team with one of the greatest pedigrees, Boca Juniors from Argentina.Granted Boca had left most of their

Ayutthaya - Venice of the East - 12 August 2010

Ayutthaya (or Ayuthaya, or even Ayodhaya. No matter how you spell it, its pronounced ah-you-tah-ya.) was the former royal capital of Siam from the mid-fourteenth century until the late eighteenth century.  You wouldn’t know it to visit it, but the city is more-or-less an island bisected by a myriad of canals.  Located an hour’s drive north of

Luang Prabang - The Jewel of Laos & UXO - 19 July 2010

Luang Prabang, the jewel of Laos, a UNESCO heritage site, situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Kham rivers is home to 32 pagodas, and famous chill out place for overseas visitors.  Once the capital of Lane Xang, the Kingdom of a Million Elephants, Luang Prabang is the old royal city of Laos.  The peaceful town beside the Mekong is

Life of Pakse

The young man at the departure counter at Pakse airport placed a large bottle of Tiger beer on the desk.  “Starting early mate?” I enquired.  He informed me that it was the second to last cold bottle of beer left in the entire terminal.  I was unclear if that was because he had drunk the rest.  “I’m so over this place man,” he said.  “Been