Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 blessed with the country’s finest old Buddhist temples. Chief amongst them is Wat Xieng Thong, the Temple of the Golden City.  This former royal monastery is a complex of graceful wooden structures in the classic Luang Prabang style with its elegantly curved roof sweeping low to nearly ground level. Also in Luang Prabang is the former royal palace, now a museum, and well worth a visit.While most visitors come to see this and other sights, the town is home to another less popular destination, but one that should be on every visitor’s list of “must see” places, the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme, for Lao has the unwanted distinction of being per capita the most heavily bombed nation in the world. In the early 1960s, US president Kennedy made a policy statement guaranteeing the peace and neutrality of Laos.  To ensure these objectives successive US administrations ordered destruction on a neutral country, the like of which has never before been witnessed in the history of human kind.  More than half-a-million US bombing missions were carried out between the years 1964 to 1973.  This equates to one plane load of bombs

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

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