Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Palace Closed but Killing Fields Open - 12 December 2011

It was a Saturday morning and I cut down the short street from Preah Sisowath and Boulevard Samdech Sothearos to the Royal Palace, on the Phnom Penh riverside. From the side of the road the tuk-tuk driver asked where I was going. “Palace closed” he said “but Killing Fields open” and grinned.I have been to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh once before, but have never been to Cambodia’s second most popular tourist attraction, the mass execution ground outside Phnom Penh at Choeung Ek.I’d rather go to the Palace and headed to the main entrance where the commoners and foreigners, and the common foreigners like me, can enter.The Palace is a large compound of manicured gardens and a collection of buildings located on an entire prime city block adjacent the Tonle Sap river and surrounded by a peach-coloured crenellated defensive wall (kampaeng) interspersed with quaint pill boxes, most of which are deserted.The buildings include the: Throne Hall, Moonlight Pavilion, Chan Chhaya Pavilion, Hor Samran Phirun and the famous Silver Pagoda. The spire of the Throne Hall, which in Khmer is called the “Sacred Seat of Judgement, is 59-metres high and at night is lite up all the way to the top.The Palace is home to the King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni, the latest in a line of Norodoms, and now, after his return from a long stint in China, the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia’s highest profile statesman.The Palace opening hours are 8am-11am and in the afternoon from 2pm

Strength Through Oi - Cowboys & Expats - 30 November 2011

One of the interesting things about living in Cambodia is some of the expats you meet. There are some weird and some wonderful foreigners who have chosen, for a variety of reasons, to relocate to the self-styled Kingdom of Wonder. Some are here out of genuine love of the place. They’ve come here for everything that’s different about living

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

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