Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 here two fucking days waiting to leave.”  His girlfriend informed me that yesterday their flight to Vientiane had been cancelled due to a flat tire, and the day before that the plane didn’t arrive.  All was not well in the former Kingdom of Elephants. The pair reminded me of a couple of California surfers with accents to match.  The young woman was in the middle of an animated exchange with the Lao Airlines representative behind the desk over the damage done to the cover of her pack.  While this was going on the man suddenly reached into his bag, looking for what I presumed to be some important piece of documentation, but what turned out to be his stubbie holder.  With this in hand he placed it on his bottle of beer and suddenly seemed relieved.  On closer inspection I realized that the bag cover the young woman was referring to, was in fact, a rain cover.  A flimsy article at best, it’s designed to prevent dirt and keep the bag little more than shower proof.  Hardly robust, placing it in a baggage compartment it would be easily damaged and seemed rather inappropriate usage.  Lao Airlines were doing their best to appease the

Kratie - Dolphin City - 20 June 2010

The city of Kratie is 300 kilometres by road north of Phnom Penh, on the Mekong River.  Aside from some spectacular sunsets viewed over the river, the town is known for being home to some of the rarest dolphins in the world.  Tourism, so often the harbinger of extinction for so much and so many, has probably, to some extent, saved these

Phu Quoc Island - The Isle of Dogs - 6 June 2010

At Ho Chi Minh City airport the woman from Vietnamese Airlines, resplendent in her national costume of white trousers with ankle-length dress split to the waist, struggled with an elderly Russian couple.  “Do you speak English?”  They spoke none and no Vietnamese either, not a word, so communication was reduced to sign language.  The man wore

The Heavenly Lady Pagoda and the Citadel of Hue

 Thien My Pagoda is older than any of the tombs I visited, and holds a more poignant place in the contemporary history of Vietnam. The pagoda which means “Heavenly Lady” in Vietnamese, is situated on hill on the outskirts of Hue overlooking the Perfume River. Originally built in 1601, several of the Nguyen kings added to and restored the

The Royal Tombs of Hue

Hue, population almost 300,000 has been called the heartbeat of Vietnam.  Its main attractions are the tombs of the Nguyen emperors, several notable pagodas and the remains of the ancient citadel.  The old town is located by the Perfume River (Song Huong) around the massive citadel. In 1993, UNESCO designated the complex of monuments in Hue a

Cat Ba Island

Wednesday 26 May 2010Richard was from southeast London, “the good part” he said, though I was unable to decipher which part that was. South was pronounced “sarf” but with two “F’s”. He and his girlfriend traveled light, they one bag each the size of a day pack. After the cruise they would head from Hanoi to Laos via Dien Bien Phu. He had a

The Bay of Descending Dragons

Tuesday 25 May 2010Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage site and the number one tourist attraction of the Vietnamese north east. This natural wonder is often touted by the Vietnamese as the Eight Wonder of the World.  Following the advent of “Doi Moi” –Vietnam’s policy of opening its economy to foreign trade – tourists can now visit the bay, and

The Girl in The Sandals - Ha Noi Army Museum - 21 May 2010

Last time I was herein Ha Noi the Army Museum was closed. Also called the Military History Museum, it’s well worth a visit. Entry is reasonable at 20,000 dong (just over US$1) and the same again if you wish to take photos. The price is standard price for entry to cultural centres, designed for affordability for Vietnamese, who pay the same price