Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Korea's DMZ - The Cold War's Last Hot Spot - 25 May 2016

The 4km wide Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas is the most fortified stretch of territory on the planet. The last hot spot of the Cold War. It’s heavily laced with land mines. Reportedly 6,000 artillery pieces are lined up facing each other on both sides. Tens of thousands of highly-trained soldiers armed to the teeth patrol along its barbed wire fences. There are tank brigades and to combat these, scores of anti-tank units. Then there are numerous batteries of self-propelled high velocity weaponry poised. Should either side attempt invasion, Korea would plummet into all out conflict within hours. Given few people ever venture into the narrow strip, why would you, nature has flourished with the territory something of an animal wonderland. Like Chernobyl but without the reactor. Species not found elsewhere in Korea have taken up residence. I guess they all tread lightly. All up it’s quite a surreal place to visit. Following World War Two, the Korean peninsula was divided, rather causally, between US and Soviet controlled territories along a line drawn-up by two US colonels decided on in their lunch break. The Koreans weren’t consulted. One of the colonels, Dean Rusk, later became US Secretary of State, but not because of that. Soviet troops left back in 1948. US forces never have. Seventy years on and things still aren’t settled. Like a messy divorce, only involving columns of tanks, high-tech weaponry and 24-hour propaganda. Tour operators in Seoul will take

Gyeongju - Ancient Korea - 21 April 2016

Looking at the urban industrialised landscape of present-day Korea, it’s hard to see any traces of history.  South Korea has modernized at an astonishing rate, perhaps faster than any other nation in the last half-century. In that time they've gone from exporting wigs to the world's eighth-largest economy. Korea’s answer to development has been

Monument to Democracy, Thai-style - 28 March 2016

Near the main backpacker centre of Khao San Road in Bangkok is the Democracy Monument. Most backpackers wouldn’t know it’s there or if they scan the guidebooks thoroughly enough may give it the quick once over. Largely, it’s ignored or given scant regard. The social life of the bars and restaurants having more appeal, and the guided tours are

Chiang Rai - The Very North Of Thailand - 3 January 2016

If you head north from the tourist mecca of Chiang Mai you come to the confusingly named city of Chiang Rai. One-tenth the size of its more famous southern neighbour, Chiang Rai sits near the very top of Thailand, and is one of the country’s oldest cities.It’s an interesting part of the country; a blend of cultures from neighbouring Myanmar

Return to Boeung Kak Lake - 1 December 2015

I recently revisited “lakeside” the area of my first stay in Phnom Penh years ago. The entrance is along Street 93, behind Calmette Hospital off Monivong Boulevard, one of the city’s major thoroughfares. Street 93 is narrow, barely one car-width wide off which run various alley ways. At the entrance is Al-Serkal mosque, Cambodia’s largest

To Live and Die in Southeast Asia - 25 September 2015

Death and taxes are the only things certain in life so they reckon. Well death anyway, some people never pay taxes. Where you choose to live invariably impacts on where you’re likely to die, even how. Some expats choose to live in Southeast Asia and some die there too. Expats who choose to live in Southeast Asia can be misfit, mercenary