Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 come they do in their thousands from all over Vietnam, Asia and further afield. To get there, most tourists take the minibus from Hanoi, booking through one of the many bookings offices in the Old Town.  At the quayside visitors are divided between the day-trippers and those staying overnight on one of the many boats offering cabins, water sports, trips to some of the many islands, and cruising.Local legend has it that when the Vietnamese were fighting the Chinese invaders (there’s been a few) the gods sent a family of dragons to help defend the land.  This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long Bay – hence the name Vinh Ha Long, “Bay of the Descending Dragons” – and began spitting out jewels and jade.  The jewels then turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form barriers to repel the invaders.  The people kept their land safe and formed what later became Vietnam.Conflict with Vietnam’s neighbours dominates the bay’s history the way it dominates Vietnam itself.  On three occasions the multitude of channels between the islands the Vietnamese army stopped the Chinese from landing.  In

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

Angelina in Ha Noi

Wednesday 19 May 2010Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of Ho Chi Minh, founder of modern Vietnam. Though he died over 40 years ago, and did not live to see the unification of the country after the defeat of America in 1975, his picture is still everywhere.Out walking on my first night in town, I bumped into Quoc next to the “Lucky


 Monday 17 May 2010Thailand has been accepting tourists increasingly in their droves since the Vietnam War, when American GIs kicked off the whole tourist thing using the country attractions to escape their war experiences. US military planners used other parts of the country to stock, supply, maintain and operate their mass machinery of

Black, white and red all over - in the Kingdom of Smiles

 Thursday 13 May 2010If you’re going to arrive late at night by plane in a city it may as well be Bangkok, at least it’s open. The travellers’ advice centre in the terminal advised me that staying in my chosen area down by the river was inadvisable as the police would soon start clearing out the Red Shirt demonstrators. After giving it