Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 pagoda over time. The pagoda can be reached easily from the city by bicycle if you cross the river from the main hotel area and ride along past the Citadel until you come to the railway bridge. Carry on down that road until you reach the pagoda. Entrance is free.The most pagoda’s seven-storey octagonal tower, built in 1884, is easily the most distinguishable feature of the complex.  Behind is the Dai Hung shrine, the main-hall. As well as bronze cast statues, it shelters some precious antiques: the bronze gong cast in 1677, the wooden gilded board with Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu's inscriptions (1714). On both sides of the pagoda are a room for the bonzes and a guest-room for visitors. Onks dressed in grey robes are seen going about their daily business, one could be seen walking his motorcycle through the bonsai trees behind the main complexThe temple also houses the A50 Austin motor vehicle in which Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963 against the Diem regime. The car, a rusted blue, is housed in a garage at the side of the complex. The famous photograph capturing the moment of Thich’s immolation, seated on

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

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

Lifers

 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