Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 World Heritage site.  Prior to this, between 1975 and 1990, the Vietnamese government was in danger of pulling many of the “feudal” Nguyen relics down, or at least letting them rot, as politically incorrect symbols of a corrupt past.Hue is more laid back than either Ha Noi or Saigon. Cyclo riders are a constant irritation. Their use as a bona fida means of hired transport has been largely relegated to the novel. Cyclists are still commonly seen on the streets of the old imperial capital. Taxis are now a common sight on Vietnamese streets. Cars, especially Japanese and Korean are more frequently seen, and everywhere of course, is the motorcycle. I’m especially fond of the Vespa, though it’s vastly outnumbered everywhere by its Japanese rivals. At night the moto riders and cyclos prowl the streets preying on pedestrians, “where you go?” “you want massage?” This is invariably followed by inquiries from them about drugs and prostitution. One who kept pace with my friend and I down the street, having exhausted the list of questions twice delivered a parting shot of “fuck off”  in good English before wheeling his bike around and heading

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

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