Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 and culminating in his eventual disappearance, never to be seen or heard from again. As someone else famous once said, once you’re dead you have got it made.Thompson’s subsequent fame earned him the title of the Legendary American of Thailand. His house became a celebrated social centre with the nickname ‘the talk of the town.’ Not so much a lost soul like many expats, more like he was marooned in a sanctuary that is part museum, part house, part movie set, part Thai, and part European. He was Lord Jim, a real life incarnation of Conrad’s literary character.Thompson’s wartime journey took him from OSS agent in North Africa to Europe, Sri Lanka and on to Thailand. By the time he arrived in Bangkok however, Japan had surrendered. The post-war Bangkok Thompson found himself in was a melting pot of intrigue described amongst other things as ‘one huge arms bazaar’, stocked by supplies from surrendered Japanese garrisons and by Allied airdrops to the Seri Thai or Free Thai resistance.  According to academics and authors, Christopher Bailey and Tim Harper, ‘buying arms in Thailand was as easy as buying beer.’ The Filipinos and Burmese

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

New Zealand Football's Mexican Stand-Off - 20 November 2013

The play-off for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil second leg in Wellington on 20 November was in stark contrast to four years before at the same venue.  New Zealand had just been ‘thumped’ 5-1 by Mexico in the cauldron of the Azteca Stadium, one of football’s most iconic grounds. Prospects for qualification in the home leg were

Like a Hurricane - 28 September 2013

They call Chicago “The Windy City” but it has nothing on New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Whereas Chicago’s moniker was apparently derived for the hot air and rhetoric of local politicians, “Windy Wellington” is so named because it is just that, bloody windy; like a hurricane.Old sailors’ claimed that below latitude 40 degrees south there is

White Cockies Can Bite - 30 August 2013

On what was once the outskirts of Melbourne, at the foothills of the Dandenong Range in Scoresby, 25 km from Melbourne, are the Caribbean Gardens. There’s a lake, Lake Caribbean; markets, the Caribbean Market. Nearby are the Caribbean business park and a large display yard full of boats, Caribbean boats. The market is a drive away. Like just

Shake, Rattle and Roll - 26 July 2013

Wellington is one of the most earthquake-prone cities in one of the world’s most earthquake ridden countries, New Zealand. The city sits along a series of major fault lines where every day thousands of people live and work. On average, there is an earthquake every 30 seconds, most of them too small for people to detect. The “big one” locals tell