Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Hoi An - Living in the Past - 24 January 2019

Hoi An is a firm favourite on the now well beaten tourist path in Vietnam. Together with the less popular destination for backpackers, Da Nang (or Danang, previously Tourane to the French), it marks about the half way point geographically in the “S” shape bend of Vietnam, the top of the bulge into the South China Sea. The tourists come here because everyone tells them to, it’s in all the guidebooks and a “must see” in Vietnam. The open tour buses shuttle them in and out again. They follow all the other tourists, hang around in the same bars and restaurants, exchange stories-or they did before smart phones killed conversation, buy clothes from the town’s many tailor shops and ship them back home. While Danang is more the reserve of package tourists, mainly Russians, Hoi An is a stop for those “doing” Vietnam on the circuit for getting Vietnam “done”. I first came to Hoi An by train back in 2006 from Nha Trang on the Unification Express, the premier rolling stock of Vietnam railways. The French finally connected Saigon with Hanoi by rail in 1936 as part of their infrastructure investment in Vietnam, the jewel in the crown of their Southeast Asia ‘colonies’. They didn’t build a train station at Hoi An, so the train stopped in Danang, Vietnam’s fifth largest city, just up the coast. After some argument at Danang railway station with various taxi drivers I grabbed a cab with an English couple and a Swede.  We left Danang on a dual carriageway that ran south

Nha Trang - The Real Contender - 26 December 2018

Many places lay claim to being the best bay in the world, but Nha Trang has serious qualification and is a real contender.  It is called the best beach in Vietnam, in a country full of beaches and is frequently ranked by travel magazines as among the best bays in the world. Locally it’s also known by some as the Pearl of Vietnam and by

Mui Ne - The Sheltered Cove - 30 November 2018

I went to Mui Ne (M-oo-e Nay) on my first visit to Vietnam in 2006. Back then it was, as it is today, a bolt-hole for the Saigonese, and had been added to the foreign tourist destinations a few years earlier. Tourists started coming here in the mid-1990s to see a solar eclipse albeit, thanks to certain guidebooks, by mistake, and wound up at the

Silk Island, Cambodia - 30 September 2018

To reach Silk Island from Phnom Penh you head over the Japanese Bridge on National Route Six. Once over the bridge you arrive onto a sliver of land squeezed between the Tonle Sap, the river that flows from the great lake in Cambodia’s north, and the Mekong, the river that comes from China.The Japanese “Friendship” Bridge isn’t the

The Tale of Two Tyrannies - 20 August 2018

Have you heard the joke about the elections in Cambodia and Zimbabwe? There isn’t one but perhaps there should be. Both countries have been effectively in the grip of single party rule for over 30 years. Both countries recently held elections with altogether predictable results, the incumbent parties won, again; Zanu-PF ((Zimbabwe African

Hua Hin, Queen City - 20 May 2018

I’ve been past Hua Hin on the bus and on the train a few times, always at night. Usually there’d be a brief stop to drop people off or pick them up; so my impressions were generally fatigued, blurry and in darkness. I’ve flown over the beach resort as well, an entirely different perspective and one with a subsonic, high altitude detachment. The

Never The Same Place - 17 March 2018

Someone once said you never really recapture the first level of enchantment you found with a place after the first few visits. That invariably things change, and that while you hope those changes mean local people see improvements in life, that for you, things are never the same again. If I look back on the places I’ve been, I think that’s