Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

War Remnants Museum in HCMC - 29 September 2014

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a somewhat harrowing experience. The displays and images are a sobering reminder of Vietnam’s recent violent history and demonstrate what belligerent industrial nations can do to largely peasant ones.  They record a raft of human emotion, suffering, persecution and orchestrated destruction from French colonial rule to war with the US. Vietnam’s journey to independence and reunification has been decades long and costly. Three million Vietnamese died during the war with the US (two million were civilians) two million people were injured, and 300,000 are still officially missing. Vietnamese losses are all the more breath-taking when considering the thousands who died during the war against the French and the million or so who perished during the famine of 1943-44, when the Japanese stripped Vietnam of its rice harvest for export to feed their own population. The latter two are not featured at the museum, though aspects of France’s colonial regime are. Neither is the role of Britain which, in 1945, sent soldiers to subjugate the Vietnamese. The museum has several themed sections. The one on chemical defoliants demonstrates the extremes to which nations will go to achieve their aims.  The results of this are grotesque and tragic. Siamese twins born deformed are displayed in a large jar next to a baby born with a grossly enlarged head as results of some 80 million litres of defoliant dropped on Vietnam by the US.  This

Reunification Palace - The Dragon's Head - 31 August 2014

Near the centre of present day Ho Chi Minh City sits the Reunification Palace, a relic of Vietnam’s more recent past and a symbol of its present, and probably future too. HCMC, or Saigon as it’s still widely referred to, has many iconic buildings. There’s Notre Dame Cathedral, City Hall, the Opera House and the wonderful Central Post Office

Sihanoukville on the Costa del Cambodia - 1 August 2014

In an attempt to avoid going stir-crazy in Phnom Penh, you can take a bus to Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s only deep-sea port and leading beach resort area on the Gulf of Thailand.  The French named it Sihanoukville, the Cambodians Kampong Som. Some expats refer to it as “Snooky” and others, largely Anglophiles, refer to it as the

Chiang Mai - Rose of the North - 4 July 2014

In the far north of Thailand sits the city they call the Rose of the North. Foreign tourists have been travelling there for years, its history however, runs far deeper than that. Chiang Mai sits at the confluence of cultures. The past and present, has been dictated by ethnicity, culture, language, trade, war, religion and empire. Chiang Mai

Getting the Travel Blues - 31 May 2014

One of the best things about travelling used to be the people you met doing the same things you were. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met in life have been those out there, where your lives intersect. As Jack Kerouac pointed out; travel is useful, it feeds the mind.Travellers' meetings can be those in which one learns more about

Jim Thompson and the Order of the White Elephant - 7 May 2014

When I first visited Jim Thompson’s house a decade ago, I was already much taken with the idea of living in Asia. After seeing the house I was sure I wanted to return. I was envious of Thompson and what he had created, a farang in Asia living his dream, comfortably off. There was also Thompson’s murky past as a WWII operative, full of intrigue

Letter to the Jakarta Post - April 2014

I travel widely in Southeast Asia and recently visited Indonesia after an absence of several years. I was disappointed with the state of tourist infrastructure at the budget end compared with other countries in the region.  In particular hotels are of poor quality and overpriced. For 250,000 rupiah (US$27) in Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia you

Anti-Government Protests in Bangkok - Taking It To The Streets

On Sunday, 22 December 2013, Thailand’s opposition parties staged major demonstrations in the country’s capital designed to disrupt traffic and tell the government they wanted major reform of government processes. The crowds promised to be among the largest ever assembled in the history of the Kingdom. They had already announced they would be