Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Vung Tau, Viet Nam - Waiting for the Weekend - 7 May 2017

The main road from Saigon into the coastal city of Vung Tau is named for Võ Nguyên Giáp, Vietnam’s greatest military figure of the 20th century, maybe ever, and it’s first ever four-star general. The road is broad, an 8-lane dual carriageway with lanes for motorcycles of which Vietnam has many, and is lined with manicured trees and rows of colourful flowers. To drive to Vung Tau involved crossing waterways, both over and under, and on impressive new roads of the 51A Expressway. Vietnam’s infrastructure has gone up in the world.Vung Tau is a city of over 200,000 people and has reputedly more inexpensive guesthouses and hotels than anywhere else in Vietnam – over 300. That’s more than major cities, and more than tourist destinations like Hoi An. Along with Mui Ne, further north, Vung Tau forms part of the coastal retreats for upwardly mobile Saigonese. Vietnam is after all, virtually one long beach.Vung Tau had been a favourite getaway for the French colonials and the wealthy of Saigon stretching back to the 1900s, a trend that continues today. The city’s hotels run from luxury four-star operations to mini hotels and guest houses. There are many more going up and the cityscape is dotted with tower blocks waiting to be finished. Sure it lacks the beaches of Nha Trang and Mui Ne further north, but Vung Tau’s biggest selling point is the convenience of its location close to Saigon. Let’s face it; living in a city like Saigon, Vietnam’s largest, with over seven million

Sihanoukville: Super Tuk-Tuks and Keystone Kops - 21 April 2017

Sihanoukville on the gulf of Thailand is fast becoming a destination on Cambodia's tourist trail, and has always been popular with locals. The trip from Phnom Penh takes about five hours by road and can be a little hair-raising. As a tip I’d avoid using minivan services. While they promise to get you there faster than larger buses, and usually

Dor Aray Sat near Phnom Penh - 15 February 2017

Areyksat Village (or Dor Aray Sat) is a Cambodian rural village typical of hundreds across the Kingdom of Wonder. Small, quiet, a few shop houses, a dirt road running through the middle. On hot still days motorbikes and the odd vehicle throw up a layer of dust coating the buildings, the roadside vegetation, and everything else. Sometimes one of

Vientiane - Please Slow Down - 24 November 2016

Vientiane is probably the most laid back capital city in Southeast Asia. This is maybe because Vientiane is capital of Southeast Asia’s quietest country, the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, or the Lao PDR. It’s so laid back there’s a standing joke that this should stand for “please slow down”. If Bangkok is a megalopolis, Saigon a

Nong Khai - Naga City - 21 October 2016

Nong Khai sits at the very northeast of Thailand on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. Locally, it’s known as Naga City, after the mythical serpents said to inhabit the Mekong – the city is filled with literally hundreds of serpent images. Nong Khai is also known for its temples, rocket festivals and great balls of fire – the latter a natural

Cambodia's Kem Ley - Every Country Needs One - 18 August 2016

It’s over a month and a week since Dr. Kem Ley, perhaps Cambodia’s most prominent independent political commentator, was gunned down in broad daylight in a Phnom Penh cafe. On the surface of it, Ley’s killer was a loner with a personal grudge, however, it’s widely assumed his death was all about cold, hard calculation and orchestrated high up

Panmunjom on the DMZ - 26 June 2016

To get to the village of Panmunjom, at the point where North and South Korea meet on the DMZ, you cross the Tong-il Bridge on Highway One from Seoul. Seoul, South Korea’s bustling capital of over 10 million, is referred to as the “Han River Miracle” a statement on the unprecedented rise of one of the great post-WWII economic achievements