Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Hotel Cambodiana and the River Mekong - 22 December 2019

One of my favourite pastimes in Phnom Penh is sitting poolside at the Hotel Cambodiana watching the river traffic go by. Norodom Sihanouk came up with an idea for the hotel and even contributed early drawings for bungalows, before it morphed into a full-blown hotel, then one of the biggest in town. It was built, but not finished, during the “Golden Age” of 20th century Cambodia referred to as ‘Sihanouk Time” in the 1960s but wasn’t completed and opened for a further 20 years due to war, and the political and economic chaos in Cambodia. Like some other things in Cambodia, the hotel encapsulates the country’s recent history—it’s aspirations, triumphs, tribulations, and challenges. The hotel sits at the junction of the ‘X’ formed by the Tonle Sap, Bassac, and Mekong rivers, the four arms of what the French called “Quatre Bras” and in Khmer is known as Krong Chaktomuk. When I first started visiting the hotel it had its own beach complete with deckchairs, that part of the riverbank visible in the dry season and submerged in the wet, when the river level rises almost 20m. The hotel then had its own jetboat moored on a floating pontoon, and a small pier complete with covered seating area for watching sunsets. Continuing reclamation has seen the beach and pier gone, replaced by a promenade which now extends the city’s riverside all the way to Koh Pich or Diamond Island, and runs right past the hotel. The river intersection is a wide expanse of water, maybe 1km

Royal University of Phnom Penh - 19 November 2019

Most visitors to Phnom Penh entering the city along the road from the airport would not see one of the architectural splendors of a city once known as “The Pearl of Asia”. Probably because it’s on the other side of the dual carriageway, and more probably they’re not looking for it. The Royal University of Phnom Penh faces what is now known as

Living on Street 178 – Part Three – 5 October 2019

All the apartments I’ve rented in Phnom Penh have been on streets with a number ending in an eight. There was Street 108 (Oknha Ing Bun Hoaw Avenue across from Freedom Park near the old colonial quarter), Street 258 (Long Nget Street), and the three apartments I’ve had on Street 178 (Samdach Preah Sokun Meanbon Street). The last apartment I

Down on the Corner, Out in Street 178 - 2 September 2019

My second apartment on Street 178 was in 2007. I got the apartment through my mate, Kiwi Paul, who I had met earlier that year in the Riverside Bar on Sothearos Boulevard. The Riverside is a corner bar in a grand colonial building in rustic colours with white shutters, unlike many of the other colonial era buildings in Phnom Penh, which are

Living on Street 178 - Phnom Penh - 3 August 2019

Street 178 in Phnom Penh runs in a straight line west to east from one of the city’s main boulevards, Monivong, and finishing at another, Sisowath, at the Tonle Sap near the junction with the Mekong River. It is bisected by another of the city’s main thoroughfares, Norodom Boulevard – Street 41, which runs from Wat Phnom, from which the city

Kanchanaburi - On The River Kwai - 8 July 2019

The small city of Kanchanaburi sits at the base of the Tenasserim Hills on the edge of the flood plains of the Chao Phyra, the River of Kings, in what was once jungle. The hills border Myanmar and shelter the Kingdom of Smiles from the typhoons of the Andaman Sea. They also provide a physical barrier between the two countries, long-time rivals

Places I’ve Stayed – A World-Wide Guide – 31 May 2019

I’ve stayed in everything from a 5-star hotel in Singapore to a decrepit pension in Cairo resembling a building site, to a bed and breakfast in a high-rise in the backstreets of communist Budapest. I’ve slept in huts made of branches on the beach in the Sinai Peninsula, on a promenade in Monaco with the pavement for a pillow, bamboo huts in the

Seven Hours to Son My - 22 April 2019

I once spent over seven hours on the back of a motorbike to go from the tourist town of Hoi An south on National Route 1 to Son My in central Vietnam, and back again. The trip was an endurance test in how uncomfortable small motorbikes can be on large European frames on Vietnamese roads. Travelling on National Route 1 (or 1A), which runs 2300kms

Marble Mountains and China Beaches - 21 March 2019

South central Vietnam has its share of people-made wonders but hereabouts has its natural attractions also. Just south of Danang squeezed between the South China Sea and the rapidly encroaching suburbs of Vietnam’s fifth-largest city are the Marble Mountains (Ngũ Hành Sơn). Holy hideaways used down through the ages by the Cham peoples through to