About Walter Mason

(photo by David Lenton)

Walter is a writer, speaker, teacher and tour leader with a special interest in spirituality.

Born in 1970 he spent his childhood in rural North Queensland, including some years doing correspondence school on a remote tin mine. On returning to “town” he devoted his life to singing, acting and the arts, and was constantly performing from the ages of 12 – 17.

In 1988 he moved to Bathurst to study Theatre at Charles Sturt University. In 1991 he went to UNSW to study Chinese. He didn’t manage to graduate from either of these courses.

For many years Walter was a bookseller, working at Berkelouw’s on Oxford St., and later at Adyar, the famous metaphysical bookshop in the Sydney CBD. He later moved into a key role in a buying group for independent booksellers, and spent several years working with many of the most famous and long-established bookshops in Australia. Later he worked in various low-level roles in publishing, mostly in the area of sales and marketing.

Walter Mason first visited Vietnam in 1994, and has been back many times since (so many he has lost count – though over 20 by now). Most notably he spent 3 months there in 1996 travelling the country with an eccentric Vietnamese-Australian Buddhist monk, living in remote monasteries and hermitages; in 1999 he spent 6 months at the Ho Chi Minh Social Sciences University studying the Vietnamese language; and he spent three months travelling and writing Destination Saigon over 2008/2009 (published by Allen & Unwin in 2010).

Walter's second book, Destination Cambodia, was published in September 2013 by Allen & Unwin.

A lifelong interest in Eastern spirituality saw him involved with a quasi-Buddhist cult in his early 20s, which evolved into him switching to more orthodox forms of Buddhism, being particularly inspired by the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. One of Master Nhat Hanh’s central teachings is that all religion is inspired from a place of goodness, and one of his most famous books is Living Buddha, Living Christ. For many years Walter has been hesitant to call himself a Buddhist, a Christian, or anything, really.

In 2005 (at the age of 35) Walter Mason returned to University and did an undergraduate degree in English. On graduation he took the prize for the most outstanding degree in the humanities and went on to do his Honours degree (1st Class), for which he received the University Medal. His Honours thesis was on the motif of the lonely queer in the writings of Sumner Locke Elliott. For some years he was part of the University of Western Sydney’s prestigious Writing & Society Research Unit, where he pursued a PhD thesis on the history of self-help books in Australia. Though he finished writing his thesis, it remains unsubmitted.

Walter's partner of 30+ years, Thang Ngo, is a prominent Vietnamese-Australian community leader, having served for many years as an independent on the Fairfield City Council, representing the Cabramatta district. Thang is a celebrated food writer and advertising executive.

He lives in Cabramatta, and attends a Vietnamese Buddhist temple weekly, as well as going to church!

Walter is president of the NSW Dickens Society (2021). He is a popular literary lecturer throughout Australia, as well as a teacher of film and literary history. He teaches courses and workshops in creative writing and mindfulness.

Contact details & links

Destination Saigon the book
Destination Saigon Twitter


Unknown said…
Walter, I am sitting in a hotel room in Hoian, looking out over a field of water spinach tended by two elderly couples. Every morning they rise to cut the spinach before the heat of the day sets in.

I have just finished reading your book and wanted to let you know that I loved it. As a long time Indonesianist just discovering Vietnam for the first time I found much that was familiar and much that was enlightening about the little things I have been observing in my travels.

Thank you for taking the time to tell your stories.
Walter Mason said…
Simon, thank you so much for your feedback, and I hope you are having a marvellous time in Hoian!
Anonymous said…
Hi Walter,

Nice book you have there. Hope to see more coming.
giang said…
Hi Walter,
Hi Walter,

I'd just like to say thank you so much for your inspiring book.
I've got your book from my friend and I really loved it. It impressed me on the way you reflect things happening in Vietnam, especially "Losing hope in Hue"...

Warmest wishes from Tra Vinh,Vietnam ;)
giang said…
Hi Walter,

I'd just like to say thank you so much for your inspiring book!

I've got your book from my friend and I really loved it!It's impressive on the way you reflect things happening in Vietnam, especially "losing hope in Hue"...

Warm greeting from Tra Vinh, Vietnam ;)
Walter Mason said…
Well thank you Giang - and you are in one of my favourite places in Vietnam!
MInerva said…
Hi Walter,

A list of Vietnamese Buddhist Temples in Thailand can be found on the Quang Duc Temple (Vic) Website http://www.tuvienquangduc.com.au/vietnam/41chuaviet-thai.html

The names may be inaccurately spelt or the spacing between words may be wrong, but hopefully you may be able to sort out the details and find them all.

Good luck in your search.
Regards Minerva
Terry6082 Books said…
I have a bedroom full of books. I sell books online. Your book on Vietnam is the one I keep beside my bed to read a bit before I sleep. It is funny! Thank you.

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