Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Ben Thanh Market - High Pressure Sales - 4 April 2015

Cho Ben Thanh, or Ben Thanh Market is the most celebrated and regularly visited of Saigon’s markets and probably the city’s biggest tourist trap. It’s a hive of commercial activity and the sights are an assault on the senses. But the experience however, is not always pleasant. In contrast to neighbouring Laos and Cambodia, “No” in Vietnam seems to be an invitation to an argument, especially from female vendors.Vietnam is that great contradiction, a country of full-blooded capitalists run by traditional communists, where the dollar and the dong rules. As far as markets go, Ben Thanh Market tends to bring out the best and the worst in Saigon markets and people. The sales techniques of some of the market’s stall holders would satisfy the legal definition of physical assault in most jurisdictions. A refusal to buy can result in you being manhandled, or, as is more frequently the case at Ben Thanh, woman handled.Because it gets so many tourists the prices at Ben Thanh are higher than at other markets. There’s a tendency for many of its stalls to be filled with tacky touristy items that you will see everywhere you go; and you get harassed, grabbed and pressured by sellers like at no other market in Saigon. It’s also a favourite haunt for thieves, and not just the ones charging daylight robbery, but a magnet for pickpockets.Located in the heart of Vietnam’s largest city, Ben Thanh market has long been viewed as a symbol of the country’s busiest economic hub. Every time I’ve

Dalat - Misty Mountain Hop - 1 March 2015

If you’re tired of the heat in tropical Vietnam you can do what the colonials used to do, head for the hills. A few hours by road from Saigon is Dalat (or Da Lat), the capital of Lam Dong, and a stop on the route to the coastal wonder of Nha Trang. Dalat was an escapist hill top retreat built for French colonials, a surreal touch of the French

Vietnamese Cafe Street 51 Phnom Penh - 31 January 2015

The sidewalk Vietnamese coffee shop on Street 51 in Phnom Penh can be a great place to spend an evening watching life go by and can also serve to catch up on the latest developments. If you’re lucky you can meet some interesting characters worth the effort and some others you rather had just passed on by.Cambodia's small ethnic Vietnamese

Boeung Kak - The Lake That Disappeared - 9 December 2014

Many visitors to the Cambodian capital today would be unaware the city once had a lake. Boeung Kak Lake (usually “Bong Kak”) was the largest urban wetland in Phnom Penh. All up it was 90 hectares (222 acres) of water, aquatic weeds and wildlife. The lake was located in the north of the city bordered by the railway, Calmette Hospital, and a

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

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