Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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.  South Korea is busy preparing for the time when the two Cold War adversaries will be reconciled. There’s a government agency responsible for unification. They want to avoid the sudden massive cost Germany was exposed to when incorporating the moribund east into the republic. So in Korea they’re readying themselves gradually, laying the groundwork. The four-land motorway is ready as is the rail line. One day containers from the Asian tiger economies will roll from Busan to the transport hubs of Europe, shaving days off the same journey by ship. But not this year.  The Koreas have no border as such. Rather they are separated by a 4km-wide zone along a unilaterally designated partition. The US chose it. The other power at the time, the Soviet Union, raised no objections as Stalin was preoccupied in Europe. The locals were never consulted. It’s reportedly the most heavily fortified strip of land on the planet, ironic then, for an area supposedly “demilitarised”. The north has much natural wealth, while the south has the industry and innovation. Both Koreas are highly militarised, regimented and socially conservative. One embraced

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

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