Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 “Costa del Cambodia”.The town was established as the main port town in the late 1800s to serve the needs of the French Protectorate of Cambodge (Cambodia). Kampot remained the main port for Cambodia until the 1950s, when the main port was shifted to Sihanoukville, just along the coast, to accommodate the deeper keels of larger vessels.Nowadays Kampot’s claim to fame is as a sleepy provincial town noted for the charm of its colonial architecture which lines the side streets of the riverfront promenade. Its also the jumping off point for Bokor Hill Station and national park, with its views out over the Gulf of Thailand to Phu Quoc Island and Vietnam.To get to Kampot from the capital Phnom Penh by bus costs US$5 and takes 5-6 hours. These days it takes longer to negotiate Phnom Penh’s increasingly congested streets. Modern black SUVs compete for road space surrounded by swarms of motorcycles, and heavy vehicles overladen with freight dodge pedestrians and lines of roadside stalls.Foreigners are invariably placed in the suicide seats at the front of buses, affording a view of all the near misses, traffic irregularities, and

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

Yangon - The End of Strife - 28 June 2011

A visitor once described swooping down to Rangoon and central Burma’s “flat green, soggy plains overwhelmed by angry monsoon clouds in unbearable heat.” Yangon formerly known as Rangoon, is barely more than an hour by plane from Bangkok and six-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT but in some ways is light years away from the rest of the world, a

Burmese Days - 24 June 2011

Practical Information - Republic of the Union of Myanmar – Visitor GuideMany visitors I met using guidebooks complained that information on cost and travel, especially travel times, was incorrect, so here's an update.VisasVisitors to Myanmar require a visa. This can be either a tourist of business visa. Visas are available from the Embassy

Langkawi - The Jewel of Kedah - 22 June 2011

The chatty and helpful lady at the Penang Tourist Office by the dockside sold me my ticket to Langkawi. “Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before sailing” she said “and ask the bus driver to drop you here outside the door, not at the bus stop, which is someway down the road.” I did and he did. All Penang’s modern bus fleet, air-conditioned