Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Borderlands - Aranyaprathet and Poipet - 27 January 2020

 In the early 2000s I made two trips into Cambodia by road from Thailand. These were my first ever visits to the country. The route I took was the same many visitors took back then, and many still do, from Aranyaprathet and Poipet, though much has changed in terms of infrastructure. I’ve heard it said peoples’ impressions of Cambodia are black or white—there is, they say, no in-between. You either don’t like it or you don't. Some others, like me, get bitten by the bug. A scholar with a much longer relationship with the country than I once referred to Cambodia as “a disease, benign, yet incurable”. These were the visits I got hooked on Cambodia. This is some of what I wrote and more, about those trips back then. The bus from Bangkok stopped at the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, the prelude to crossing into Cambodia.  Historically, the Khmer Empire had ruled much of modern-day Thailand, southern Vietnam too. Later, the Thais conquered Cambodia and were ceded part of the country. They looted the place. Not run-of-the-mill looting—jewels, gold and some artwork—this was absolute and utter, taking with them, according to witnesses, “even the dogs”. Later Cambodia got back the provinces of Battambang, Cambodia’s major rice growing area, and Siem Reap, the location of the ancient city of Angkor, the national symbol, and now a tourist mecca. From the bus we were deposited in a restaurant, no doubt an offshoot of the bus company, in the midday

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

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