Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Mondulkiri - Cambodia's Eastern Borderlands - 30 July 2017

Mondulkiri is one of the more remote parts of Cambodia, only bettered by its northern near neighbour, Ratanakiri (or Ratanak Kiri). It’s rural, the country’s largest province and the most sparsely populated having just one town, which has barely 7,000 people. Politically, it’s a fairly new entity having been carved off neighbouring Kratie Province, to the west in 1961. To the east it borders Vietnam, where it touches the southern reaches of Tây Nguyên, known as the southern or central highlands, that country’s physical spine.The road from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom (or Senmonorom) , Mondulkiri’s capital, is marked with signs to the border with Vietnam, advertising hoardings, mainly for beer and politicians. The beer comes mainly in the colour red, and politics in blue; the ruling party having moved from sky blue to the medium shade of the opposition. Some may call that subtle undermining of the democratic process. Both sides of the border share similarities of ethnic hill tribe minorities, distinct and often at odds over the centuries with the lowland regimes. Here is the Khmer Leou or Montagnard, the collective name given to the various indigenous ethnic groups of Cambodia's highlands. This is a region and people apart. Tourism is relatively new, burgeoning, and outsiders not always welcome. To know the past is to understand why.The recent history has been violent, some of it on a scale not seen in human history. During the First Indochina War, against the French

Pham Ngu Lao, Saigon - The Place To Stay - 2 June 2017

Pham Ngu Lao sits in Quan (District) 1 not far from the Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh City. There are a number of streets with the name Pham Ngu Lao along the southern boundary of the Central Park of Saigon and the “Love Lake”. The main street, Bui Vien, has been referred to as a seething sea of humanity, but that’s true of Saigon generally. 

Vung Tau, Viet Nam - Waiting for the Weekend - 7 May 2017

The main road from Saigon into the coastal city of Vung Tau is named for Võ Nguyên Giáp, Vietnam’s greatest military figure of the 20th century, maybe ever, and it’s first ever four-star general. The road is broad, an 8-lane dual carriageway with lanes for motorcycles of which Vietnam has many, and is lined with manicured trees and rows of

Sihanoukville: Super Tuk-Tuks and Keystone Kops - 21 April 2017

Sihanoukville on the gulf of Thailand is fast becoming a destination on Cambodia's tourist trail, and has always been popular with locals. The trip from Phnom Penh takes about five hours by road and can be a little hair-raising. As a tip I’d avoid using minivan services. While they promise to get you there faster than larger buses, and usually

Dor Aray Sat near Phnom Penh - 15 February 2017

Areyksat Village (or Dor Aray Sat) is a Cambodian rural village typical of hundreds across the Kingdom of Wonder. Small, quiet, a few shop houses, a dirt road running through the middle. On hot still days motorbikes and the odd vehicle throw up a layer of dust coating the buildings, the roadside vegetation, and everything else. Sometimes one of

Vientiane - Please Slow Down - 24 November 2016

Vientiane is probably the most laid back capital city in Southeast Asia. This is maybe because Vientiane is capital of Southeast Asia’s quietest country, the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, or the Lao PDR. It’s so laid back there’s a standing joke that this should stand for “please slow down”. If Bangkok is a megalopolis, Saigon a

Nong Khai - Naga City - 21 October 2016

Nong Khai sits at the very northeast of Thailand on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. Locally, it’s known as Naga City, after the mythical serpents said to inhabit the Mekong – the city is filled with literally hundreds of serpent images. Nong Khai is also known for its temples, rocket festivals and great balls of fire – the latter a natural