Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Never The Same Place - 17 March 2018

Someone once said you never really recapture the first level of enchantment you found with a place after the first few visits. That invariably things change, and that while you hope those changes mean local people see improvements in life, that for you, things are never the same again. If I look back on the places I’ve been, I think that’s true.Dahab was a sleepy Bedouin village on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula. It’s a prime spot. There’s a permanent onshore breeze blowing. Natural air-conditioning in a place that had no electricity, not back then. I was even told the name means “cool” though in Arabic it’s “gold”. The peninsula lies between the Suez Canal and forms the Gulf of Aqaba, part of the Red Sea. You can complete the aquatic trifecta swimming in the Med, the Dead, and the Red seas. In the mid-80s Sinai had just been handed back to Egypt by the Israelis, not that the Arabs that lived there cared much about that. They were just doing their own thing and didn’t consider themselves part of any political entity or subject to arbitrary borders imposed by outsiders.The Bedouin had lived there for centuries. Their homes were rough breeze-block structures topped off with corrugated iron. They drove about in brand new brightly coloured Japanese pick-ups. Their kids played with whatever came to hand. Tourism was a few backpackers staying in rudimentary lodgings on the beach. There was no floor just sand, and the walls and roof were made from local materials

Kampong Chhnang - Port of Pots - 4 December 2017

Kampong Chhnang is world famous in Cambodia for its earthenware pots, sold from one end of the country to the other in every market, and used for all kinds of things by all kinds of Cambodians, rich, the few; and the poor, the many. National Route Five runs right through the town and the eponymous province, which is landlocked, fertile, and

Pailin, Way Out West - 12 October 2017

Cambodia for years has had a Wild West reputation. Though changing rapidly like much of Asia, Cambodia is still a bit rougher around the edges than many of its neighbours. This reputation still runs true for the tiny border province of Pailin (pronounced “Bye Lin”) and its eponymous capital. My first attempt to get to Pailin, the dusty gem

Ratanakiri - Mountain of Jewels - 2 September 2017

Ratanakiri (or Ratanak Kiri) known as the “Mountain of Jewels” for all the gemstones dug out of the ground, is arguably Cambodia's most isolated and lawless province, tucked away on the borders with Laos and Vietnam. Sure there are other places that fit one or other of those descriptors like; Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey to the north on the

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

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.