Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Sexy Beast - 12 September 2011

Near the Walkabout Bar, located off Street 51 is The Pub. The sign outside says “Great Food, Cheap Beer”. Draught beer is $1 on account of it being the low season. In fact, I was the only customer. The Khmer woman behind the bar poured my brew as I studied the décor; white washed walls, high ceiling and dark stained timber, a step up from the inside of some other establishments in this area of Phnom Penh, known for its bars. Once upon a time the central police station was the next block down, but that didn’t discourage acts of random gun violence in the street, including one incident that saw the nearby Heart of Darkness night club closed for six months. The Walkabout is full of taxi-girls and pudgy expats casting furtive glances about the place. The décor resembles a railway station toilet or police holding cell, and is probably best not viewed under a strong light, dim and grungy does it. By comparison The Pub is a breath of fresh air, and I like the décor. Near the door are movie posters of Michael Caine in Get Carter, and Ray Winstone, poolside in yellow trunks from Sexy Beast. “Great film” I said, “one of my favourite actors”. The slightly built European behind the bar agreed. He had the face of a smoker, a skin of leather with deep lines. He said his name was Garry. We exchanged a running commentary on the film and others of the same genre. “My theme bar” he said casting his eyes along the walls “British gangster flicks”. I suspect Garry wouldn’t be out of

Le Royal in Phnom Penh - 29 August 2011

Hotel Le Royal is located hotel is located at 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, a wide boulevard near Sangkat Wat Phnom, from which the city derives its name. Formerly, the street was known as the Avenue Joffre, and sat in the heart of the French Quarter. It’s certainly one of the capital’s smartest addresses, adjacent the former National Library now

The Eeriest Place on Earth - 18 August 2011

The ruins of the French hill station at Bokor Mountain have been called “the eeriest place on Earth” by one travel writer. Semi-deserted, shrouded in mist, open to the wind from all directions, chilly, and ravaged by time and the residue of warfare with the walls pockmarked by bullet holes, and the landscape contaminated by unexploded ordnance –

Kampot - You Can Pay Later - 12 August 2011

The sleepy provincial capital of Kampot is located at the base of the Elephant Mountains and a few kilometres up the estuary on the banks of the Prek Kamping Bay River. With its smaller coastal neighbour, Kep, and the larger tourist town, Sihanoukville, this former haunt of the French colonial elite makes up what is sometimes referred to as the

A Trip To The Dentist - 31 July 2011

Please note that since this article was written the Chhuon Meng Thmey Dental Clinic, and the dentist referred to, Dr Sok Chenh Chhean, are no longer recommended by the writer.  I don’t much like going to the dentist, let’s face it who does? They cause you grief and cost you money, and if you need major work doing, then they can cost you a

Phnom Penh - The Empire Strikes Back - 19 July 2011

After several visits I can see Phnom Penh is changing; its buildings, attitudes, cars and infrastructure. Some things haven’t changed; transport, the people, politics, the disparities in wealth, and the poverty. Taxis from Phnom Penh International Airport charge out at a standard US$10 for the ride into the city. Cambodia still runs on its

The Plain of Bagan - 12 July 2011

Entry to the ancient site at Bagan for foreigners costs US$10, also payable as €10 or 9000 Burmese kyats, regardless of the length of your stay. If you’re travelling by bus you get hauled off on the outskirts of town to pay at a small booth on a dusty road.Better value then than Angkor in Cambodia which charges out at US$20 per day and the

The Road to Bagan - 5 July 2011

When the agent at Seven Diamonds travel booked my bus ticket I distinctly heard the English word “foreigner” mentioned. I paid 1000 kyat more than at my hotel for the ticket to Bagan but the hotel charged 2000 kyat to take you to the bus station whereas Seven Diamonds’ fee included the pick-up. The agent told me the bus took five hours, though

Mandalay - The City of Gems - 2 July 2011

Mandalay is home to one million people and is the second-largest city in Myanmar. The city is regarded as the commercial hub of the north of the country. It was Burma’s last royal capital, and has been immortalised in books, poetry and song.“The Road to Mandalay” coined by Rudyard Kipling, refers to the journey up the Ayeyarwaddy River from