About Walter Mason

(photo by David Lenton)

Walter is a travel writer and speaker with a special interest in spirituality.
Born in 1970 I spent my childhood in rural North Queensland, including some years doing correspondence school on a remote tin mine. On returning to “town” I devoted my life to singing, acting and the arts, and was constantly performing from the age of 12 – 17.

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

For many years I was a bookseller, working at Berkelouw’s on Oxford St., and later at Adyar, the famous metaphysical bookshop in the Sydney CBD. I 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 I worked in various low-level roles in publishing, mostly in the area of sales and marketing.

I first visited Vietnam in 1994, and have been back many times since (so many I have lost count – somewhere between 9 and 12). Most notably I spent 3 months there in 1996 travelling the country with an eccentric Vietnamese-Australian Buddhist monk, living in remote monasteries and hermitages; in 1999 I spent 6 months at the Ho Chi Minh Social Sciences University studying the Vietnamese language; and I spent three months travelling and writing Destination Saigon over 2008/2009.

My latest book, Destination Cambodia, was published in September 2013 by Allen & Unwin.

A lifelong interest in Eastern spirituality saw me involved with a quasi-Buddhist cult in my early 20s, but when the female leader (an overseas Vietnamese) stopped being a nun and dyed her hair platinum blonde I switched to a more orthodox form of Vietnamese Buddhism, inspired by the 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. Since the death of my beloved grandmother I have been re-connecting with the beautiful religion she lived, a simple Christianity characterised by love, acceptance and respect for all people. These days I am very hesitant to call myself a Buddhist, a Christian, or anything, really.

In 2005 (at the age of 35) I returned to University and did an undergraduate degree in English. On graduation I took the prize for the most outstanding degree in the humanities. I went on to do my Honours degree (1st Class), for which I received the University Medal. My Honours thesis was on the motif of the lonely queer in the writings of Sumner Locke Elliott. These days I am a part of the University of Western Sydney’s prestigious Writing & Society Research Unit, where I am pursuing my PhD on the history of self-help books in Australia.

My partner of 20+ 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.

I live in Cabramatta, and attend a Vietnamese Buddhist temple weekly, as well as going to church!

Contact details & links
Destination Saigon the book
Destination Saigon Twitter
Destination Saigon Facebook group


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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