Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Return to Boeung Kak Lake - 1 December 2015

I recently revisited “lakeside” the area of my first stay in Phnom Penh years ago. The entrance is along Street 93, behind Calmette Hospital off Monivong Boulevard, one of the city’s major thoroughfares. Street 93 is narrow, barely one car-width wide off which run various alley ways. At the entrance is Al-Serkal mosque, Cambodia’s largest. Inaugurated in 2015 by Hun Sen it was privately funded by Dubai money; somewhat fitting then as it borders a sea of sand. Boeung Kak Lake was once a vibrant community, a backpacker ghetto with cheap restaurants and bars and basic rooms for rent. Today, a struggling community is staging a revival on the edge of a desert. Where once fishermen cast their nets and sunsets were viewed over a serene area of aquatic biodiversity, there’s now a barren expanse with ruined houses half-filled with sand, all pumped in.  The disappearance of Boeung Kak Lake is as much a symbol of the greed and avarice of Cambodia's ruling elites as it is testament to the indomitable human spirit of its ordinary citizens. This is especially true of some of the least empowered of Cambodian people; its women, who have led the protests at dislocation, and now the resurgence of what remains of this disrupted community. The Boeung Kak fiasco attracted both national and international attention. Hillary Clinton got involved, while the World Bank suspended loans to the Cambodian government. There were high profile incidents like the arrests of lakeside women, some

To Live and Die in Southeast Asia - 25 September 2015

Death and taxes are the only things certain in life so they reckon. Well death anyway, some people never pay taxes. Where you choose to live invariably impacts on where you’re likely to die, even how. Some expats choose to live in Southeast Asia and some die there too. Expats who choose to live in Southeast Asia can be misfit, mercenary

Phnom Penh's Traffic Woes Set to Continue - 24 August 2015

Phnom Penh’s municipal authorities have come up with a proposal to cure the capital of its increasing traffic congestion – banning buses. To be clear they’re not talking about municipal bus services in the city, there are none. But from 2016, all buses travelling to Phnom Penh from outside the city will have to establish new bus stations on the

Expats about Phnom Penh - 30 June 2015

Some people go to Cambodia for a holiday. Others never go home. Here are a few I've met.Davey – bar managerDavey was from Hull. This struck a chord with me as I once went out with a lass from Hull or ‘ull. I was able to tell him I’d been down to the old Boulevard ground to watch Hull FC play rugby league. That I knew of the Hull Cheese, a

Dazed and Confused - Saigon to Phnom Penh by Bus - 1 May 2015

I like the differences about Asia, not the similarities. If it was all the same I’d stay home. On a recent trip from Saigon to Phnom Penh I was struck by the way things in Asia have a curious way of disappearing. I don’t mean ordinary things like keys or even your wallet. I mean things like passports and people. And then just as curiously they

Ben Thanh Market - High Pressure Sales - 4 April 2015

Cho Ben Thanh, or Ben Thanh Market is the most celebrated and regularly visited of Saigon’s markets and probably the city’s biggest tourist trap. It’s a hive of commercial activity and the sights are an assault on the senses. But the experience however, is not always pleasant. In contrast to neighbouring Laos and Cambodia, “No” in Vietnam seems

Dalat - Misty Mountain Hop - 1 March 2015

If you’re tired of the heat in tropical Vietnam you can do what the colonials used to do, head for the hills. A few hours by road from Saigon is Dalat (or Da Lat), the capital of Lam Dong, and a stop on the route to the coastal wonder of Nha Trang. Dalat was an escapist hill top retreat built for French colonials, a surreal touch of the French