Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 was at one time capital of the Lanna Kingdom, known as the Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields. In the local language Chiang Mai means New City, Chiang being “city” and Mai meaning “new”. So-named because it was the new capital of Lanna, succeeding its northern cousin Chiang Rai, which even today sits in its shadow.   A key feature of Chiang Mai is the old town with its narrow lanes and historic buildings surrounded by a moat and the remnants of the town’s defensive wall. The city is promoted as one of the few places in Thailand where it’s possible to experience both historical and modern Thai culture coexisting side by side with centuries-old chedis (stupas) and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. I like some of the so-called boutique hotels, the convenience stores however, I can do without. Fortunately, these multinational eyesores have largely been kept at bay from the old town.  Today Chiang Mai is laid back. In winter, when I last visited, the nights are cool and the days sunny and mild. Thais can be seen wandering about in jackets. Tourists breakout their polar fleeces. When I asked if my room was fan

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

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