Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Mui Ne - The Sheltered Cove - 30 November 2018

I went to Mui Ne (M-oo-e Nay) on my first visit to Vietnam in 2006. Back then it was, as it is today, a bolt-hole for the Saigonese, and had been added to the foreign tourist destinations a few years earlier. Tourists started coming here in the mid-1990s to see a solar eclipse albeit, thanks to certain guidebooks, by mistake, and wound up at the beach at Phan Thiet, which in their ignorance, they called Mui Ne. These days nearby Rang Beach is also referred to mistakenly as Mui Ne, so it’s becomes quite confusing. It probably doesn’t matter in the scheme of things as the bus drivers know where you want to go, and even if you’re heading somewhere else you’ll get dropped there anyway to be thrown at the mercies of the local transport operators. Hopefully these aren’t like Ha Noi taxi drivers – never ones to let where you want to go get in the way of where they want to take you.Mui Ne’s population is small, just 25,000, and the town is officially a ward of Phan Thiet, capital of Bình Thuận Province. The whole province is a geographic paradox. It has lakes, forests and rivers, peaks up to 1500m, beaches and coral reefs. It’s also one of the most arid areas in Vietnam yet one-third of the land is given over to rice cultivation.Phan Thiet was named for Hamu Lithit in the Cham language. Bình Thuận was part of the principality of Panduranga in the Champa Empire. The Chams once populated a series of independent principalities in central and southern Vietnam, which today is

Silk Island, Cambodia - 30 September 2018

To reach Silk Island from Phnom Penh you head over the Japanese Bridge on National Route Six. Once over the bridge you arrive onto a sliver of land squeezed between the Tonle Sap, the river that flows from the great lake in Cambodia’s north, and the Mekong, the river that comes from China.The Japanese “Friendship” Bridge isn’t the

The Tale of Two Tyrannies - 20 August 2018

Have you heard the joke about the elections in Cambodia and Zimbabwe? There isn’t one but perhaps there should be. Both countries have been effectively in the grip of single party rule for over 30 years. Both countries recently held elections with altogether predictable results, the incumbent parties won, again; Zanu-PF ((Zimbabwe African

Hua Hin, Queen City - 20 May 2018

I’ve been past Hua Hin on the bus and on the train a few times, always at night. Usually there’d be a brief stop to drop people off or pick them up; so my impressions were generally fatigued, blurry and in darkness. I’ve flown over the beach resort as well, an entirely different perspective and one with a subsonic, high altitude detachment. The

Never The Same Place - 17 March 2018

Someone once said you never really recapture the first level of enchantment you found with a place after the first few visits. That invariably things change, and that while you hope those changes mean local people see improvements in life, that for you, things are never the same again. If I look back on the places I’ve been, I think that’s

Kampong Chhnang - Port of Pots - 4 December 2017

Kampong Chhnang is world famous in Cambodia for its earthenware pots, sold from one end of the country to the other in every market, and used for all kinds of things by all kinds of Cambodians, rich, the few; and the poor, the many. National Route Five runs right through the town and the eponymous province, which is landlocked, fertile, and

Pailin, Way Out West - 12 October 2017

Cambodia for years has had a Wild West reputation. Though changing rapidly like much of Asia, Cambodia is still a bit rougher around the edges than many of its neighbours. This reputation still runs true for the tiny border province of Pailin (pronounced “Bye Lin”) and its eponymous capital. My first attempt to get to Pailin, the dusty gem