Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 the residents will periodically hose down the road in an effort to reduce dust to manageable levels, but eventually time and heat force them to give up. The village is a stone’s throw from one of the world’s most famous waterways, the Mekong River, it's offshoot, the Bassac, and is at the junction with the Tonle Sap. It’s located in Kandal Province, a flat rice growing land, full of agricultural plantations, and prone to flooding in a country where the monsoon is both too hot and too short. People here farm and fish. Others work long hours in the stifling garment factories springing up which employ hundreds of thousands of Cambodians across the country, mainly young women, in sweatshop conditions. Areyksat is unspectacular, and not especially unique, except that it’s not hidden away in some far off part of the country. It’s not on the mains grid and not everyone has running water but Areyksat is barely a mile from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. A bit further as the crow flies from where the country’s prime minister resides on a street lined with houses some of which wouldn’t be out of place in Beverly Hills or

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

Cambodia's Kem Ley - Every Country Needs One - 18 August 2016

It’s over a month and a week since Dr. Kem Ley, perhaps Cambodia’s most prominent independent political commentator, was gunned down in broad daylight in a Phnom Penh cafe. On the surface of it, Ley’s killer was a loner with a personal grudge, however, it’s widely assumed his death was all about cold, hard calculation and orchestrated high up

Panmunjom on the DMZ - 26 June 2016

To get to the village of Panmunjom, at the point where North and South Korea meet on the DMZ, you cross the Tong-il Bridge on Highway One from Seoul. Seoul, South Korea’s bustling capital of over 10 million, is referred to as the “Han River Miracle” a statement on the unprecedented rise of one of the great post-WWII economic achievements

Korea's DMZ - The Cold War's Last Hot Spot - 25 May 2016

The 4km wide Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas is the most fortified stretch of territory on the planet. The last hot spot of the Cold War. It’s heavily laced with land mines. Reportedly 6,000 artillery pieces are lined up facing each other on both sides. Tens of thousands of highly-trained soldiers armed to the teeth patrol along its

Gyeongju - Ancient Korea - 21 April 2016

Looking at the urban industrialised landscape of present-day Korea, it’s hard to see any traces of history.  South Korea has modernized at an astonishing rate, perhaps faster than any other nation in the last half-century. In that time they've gone from exporting wigs to the world's eighth-largest economy. Korea’s answer to development has been