Michael Batson

Travel Writer





The Jewel in the Crown - 28 February 2012

Yogjakarta is the jewel in Java’s tourist crown and next to Bali the place where most visitors to Indonesia want to come. Yogjakarta (or Jogyakarta) is the only province in the Republic of Indonesia headed by a monarch, courtesy of a bitter civil war fought between two royal brothers of the then Kingdom of Mataram in the 18th century. One wanted to acquiesce with Dutch colonial rule, which threatened use of Javanese slaves by the Dutch company, the VOC, and the other did not. The latter triumphed and independence retained even after creation of the Indonesian republic in 1947, which approved the city’s special status as reward.The Sultan’s palace (Kraton) is at the far end of Marlioboro, the main shopping street, across a barren square, formerly the army’s training ground. It’s a low level affair and rather underwhelming. There are two large open air buildings open to the public. One houses a miniature model of the palace complex the vast majority of which is hidden away behind massive green doors. There are a couple of display rooms with mannequins dressed in royal costumes from down the ages. Aside from those there is a small museum comprising two rooms, one with portraits of royals and the other pictures of various early model cars, and that’s it.Outside the city limits is what everyone comes to Yogjakarta to see, the impressive Buddhist temple of Borobudur. Tours can easy be arranged through the city’s hotels or the many tourist shops around town. They’ll take you

The Big Durian - 21 February 2012

On the city scale of things Jakarta rates as a megalopolis. Its population is currently estimated at 10 million but depending on where you draw the boundaries of Indonesia’s capital, the larger metropolitan region has up to 18 million souls with predictions that the total population will top 30 million in just a few years.Jakarta is a heaving

The Only Tuk Tuk I Ever Liked - 16 February 2012

The only tuk-tuk I ever liked isn’t a vehicle and has nothing to do with driving it’s a peninsula on Samosir Island at Lake Toba in central northern Sumatra. Lake Toba (Danau Toba) has been a backpacker drop-in chill-out place for years. You can get there by taxi from Medan for 65,000 rupiahs (about US$8) and depending on traffic, takes 4-5

Medan - Python Eating City - 11 February 2012

Medan, in northern Sumatra (or Sumatera) is a two-hour flight from Bangkok and the third largest city in Indonesia.  Indonesia is sometimes described less as a country and more of a polyglot Javanese empire run by central government from Jakarta and backed by the country’s formidable military, the TNI.For years parts of Indonesia did their

Sin City Pattaya - 8 February 2012

A t-shirt in Thailand says “Good guys go to heaven but bad guys go to Pattaya.” Pattaya, about a 90-minute drive southeast from Bangkok, looks like Australia’s Surfer’s Paradise from afar and has about as much charm but arguably more character.Anthropologists and some sociologists might even find it fascinating, psychologists too. Visitors

Jimmie the Knife - 5 February 2012

The old phrase “Putting your arse on the line” took on a whole new meaning in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh recently, when a young American resident was shot on his way home from a bar.Heading home in the early hours of Sunday morning, Jimmie aged 24, was approaching Norodom Boulevard, one of the city’s main thoroughfares from Street 172

Who Killed Chea Vichea - 1 February 2012

US documentary film maker, Bradley Cox once said “hero” is one of the most over used words in the English language. Interviewed about his 55-minute documentary “Who Killed Chea Vichea” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, Cox commented “I don't know if I ever met an honest-to-goodness hero in the flesh until I met Chea

Hollywood in Cambodia - 16 January 2012

Cambodia has proved a challenge for film makers over the years. For most movie goers, the enduring cinematic image is that of Roland Joffe’s The Killing Fields, set during the Khmer Rouge era, though the film itself was shot entirely in Thailand, and slated for its Hollywood depiction of events.Other films however, did make it to the