Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Phu Quoc Island - The Isle of Dogs - 6 June 2010

At Ho Chi Minh City airport the woman from Vietnamese Airlines, resplendent in her national costume of white trousers with ankle-length dress split to the waist, struggled with an elderly Russian couple.  “Do you speak English?”  They spoke none and no Vietnamese either, not a word, so communication was reduced to sign language.  The man wore dark glasses throughout the entire exchange.  The woman had bright orange hair.  Together their skin was so white it gave new meaning to the term “White Russian”. A reminder then of the privilege which comes from being a native English speaker, where communication in such far-off places can be of relative minimum effort.  For when it came to the turn of my mate Paul and I, she opened our passports and said hello, smiled a wonderful smile, and asked if we wanted the seats near the emergency door “more leg room.” When airline staff in Vietnam hand you your baggage receipts, don’t lose them, or you’ll never get out of the terminal at your destination.  Lucky then the Vietnamese man following me through the security check noticed that the flimsy gum holding the receipt to my passport had released the all important barcodes, and picked them up from the floor handing them back.  I suggested that we buy that man a beer, but in an instant he was gone.In Vietnam, economy class passengers board the plane first while business class passengers are asked to wait. As a foreigner you are required to produce your passport at airports

The Heavenly Lady Pagoda and the Citadel of Hue

 Thien My Pagoda is older than any of the tombs I visited, and holds a more poignant place in the contemporary history of Vietnam. The pagoda which means “Heavenly Lady” in Vietnamese, is situated on hill on the outskirts of Hue overlooking the Perfume River. Originally built in 1601, several of the Nguyen kings added to and restored the

The Royal Tombs of Hue

Hue, population almost 300,000 has been called the heartbeat of Vietnam.  Its main attractions are the tombs of the Nguyen emperors, several notable pagodas and the remains of the ancient citadel.  The old town is located by the Perfume River (Song Huong) around the massive citadel. In 1993, UNESCO designated the complex of monuments in Hue a

Cat Ba Island

Wednesday 26 May 2010Richard was from southeast London, “the good part” he said, though I was unable to decipher which part that was. South was pronounced “sarf” but with two “F’s”. He and his girlfriend traveled light, they one bag each the size of a day pack. After the cruise they would head from Hanoi to Laos via Dien Bien Phu. He had a

The Bay of Descending Dragons

Tuesday 25 May 2010Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage site and the number one tourist attraction of the Vietnamese north east. This natural wonder is often touted by the Vietnamese as the Eight Wonder of the World.  Following the advent of “Doi Moi” –Vietnam’s policy of opening its economy to foreign trade – tourists can now visit the bay, and

The Girl in The Sandals - Ha Noi Army Museum - 21 May 2010

Last time I was herein Ha Noi the Army Museum was closed. Also called the Military History Museum, it’s well worth a visit. Entry is reasonable at 20,000 dong (just over US$1) and the same again if you wish to take photos. The price is standard price for entry to cultural centres, designed for affordability for Vietnamese, who pay the same price

Angelina in Ha Noi

Wednesday 19 May 2010Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of Ho Chi Minh, founder of modern Vietnam. Though he died over 40 years ago, and did not live to see the unification of the country after the defeat of America in 1975, his picture is still everywhere.Out walking on my first night in town, I bumped into Quoc next to the “Lucky


 Monday 17 May 2010Thailand has been accepting tourists increasingly in their droves since the Vietnam War, when American GIs kicked off the whole tourist thing using the country attractions to escape their war experiences. US military planners used other parts of the country to stock, supply, maintain and operate their mass machinery of

Black, white and red all over - in the Kingdom of Smiles

 Thursday 13 May 2010If you’re going to arrive late at night by plane in a city it may as well be Bangkok, at least it’s open. The travellers’ advice centre in the terminal advised me that staying in my chosen area down by the river was inadvisable as the police would soon start clearing out the Red Shirt demonstrators. After giving it