Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 border with Thailand, where little happens aside from the odd border dispute with the much larger Thailand over a hilltop temple, but Cambodia's northeasterly most province is in a league of its own. It should be rich, you know like the Democratic Republic of Congo, with gems and tropical timber worth a fortune, but war, corruption, murder, smuggling, slavery, ineptitude and weak governance puts a stop to all that. The province, one of the country’s largest by area, certainly has a reputation for some less than savoury actions. Recently the controversial governor of the province’s prison, an officer embroiled in an inmate sex scandal and accused of culpability in the escape of five other inmates was promoted, to the chagrin of some and the surprise of nobody.Local Architecture Banlung is the provincial capital and about as far from Phnom Penh as you can get and still be in Cambodia, just 500kms by some routes. There’s an airport no one uses, save for a few aid flights. The roads have improved slightly, and so has the transport. Further road transport improvements are now courtesy of China Aid; a sign of 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. 

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