Michael Batson

Travel Writer





The Museum of Bats - 20 November 2011

The National Museum of Cambodia sits along the western side of the large square in Phnom Penh also bordered by the Royal Palace, Street 178 and grand French colonial mansions near the Riverside on Boulevard Sothearos, not far from where the Tonie Sap River merges with the Bassac and Mekong rivers. It is the largest historical, cultural and archaeological museum in the country and houses the world's largest collections of Khmer artefacts, including prehistoric items, stone, bronze and wood sculptures, ceramics and ethnographic objects. All up the collection contains over 14,000 items, from prehistoric times to periods before, during, and after the Khmer Empire, which dominated much of present day Southeast Asia, from the borders of Myanmar east to the South China Sea and north to Laos. Of these items only about 1900 are actually on display at any one time, over 12,000 more pieces are in the basement waiting to be categorized and displayed.The museum is a beautiful building of red sandstone and black gables inspired by the traditional Khmer style. By international standards it’s not large but it’s certainly eye-catching. It was designed by a Frenchman, George Groslier, a man much given to Arts de Khmer.  Work on the museum began in 1917 and was completed in time for Khmer New Year two-and-a-half years later on 13 April 1920, when inauguration of the new museum was attended by King Sisowath and senior French officials. Two new wings were added in 1923. The building

Return of the King - 8 November 2011

The Kingdom of Cambodia has the last remnant of royalty in the territories that were part of what was once known as French Indochina. The Emporer Bo Dai abdicated in Vietnam in 1945, and the communist Pathet Lao, ironically led by a former royal, had the entire Laos monarchy locked up in 1975.Cambodia is awash with public holidays, many with a

Land of the Lobsters - 28 October 2011

Takeo Province lies to the south of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. To the north and east it borders with Kandal, to the west with the provinces of Kampong Speu and Kampot, and to the south with Vietnam. It has a predominantly rural population of almost one million, jammed into an area barely 3500 kilometres square. Takeo is often referred to

Water, Water Everywhere - 17 October 2011

Though situated miles inland the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is dominated by water. Previously the city was known in Khmer as Krong Chaktomuk meaning "City of Four Faces".  The name is derived from the “X” formed by the junction of the three rivers that meet in the capital; the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap. Cambodian history too has been

Lady Boys, Viagra and Elephants - 4 October 2011

That's got your attention... Someone once called Koh Chang “the last paradise islands in South East Asia” though I think it’s too late for that.I first came to Koh Chang when there was nothing here but a few places where bamboo huts with thatched roofs were strung along the island’s western beaches. Access was by fishing boat and you walked

The Russian Market - 20 September 2011

The Russian Market or Psar Toul Tom Poung (Psar is market in Khmer) is popular among tourists, expatriates and the local Cambodians. Don’t come if you’re expecting an air-conditioned surround with all the bells and whistles. It’s basic, hot like a sauna, and when it rains in Phnom Penh the floor floods. Moto riders delivering goods take their

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

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 –