Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Vietnamese Cafe Street 51 Phnom Penh - 31 January 2015

The sidewalk Vietnamese coffee shop on Street 51 in Phnom Penh can be a great place to spend an evening watching life go by and can also serve to catch up on the latest developments. If you’re lucky you can meet some interesting characters worth the effort and some others you rather had just passed on by.Cambodia's small ethnic Vietnamese community exist side-by-side with the native Khmers, a relationship history will tell you has been anything but amicable. Present day government relations between the two appear friendly enough with official bilateral talk of development, peace and cooperation. But the past has witnessed massacres, cross-border spats, invasion, territorial land claims, and racial hatred. Over time the two groups have inter-mixed, and for Cambodians southern Vietnam is always Kampuchea Krom, that part which was once theirs. Here in the heart of Phnom Penh is a microcosm of the present day ethnic dynamic. The Cambodian hair salon rents the pavement space to Vietnamese for their coffee shop and restaurant stall for US$300 per month, the two each paying half the monthly rent. The Vietnamese put up shop from about 6pm, and stay until the wee small hours. The stall consists of two hand carts and some trestle tables with small plastic chairs for seating. To set up they wheel it in and when finished simply wheel it all away. The hand carts are heavy and will arrive with much of the food accompaniments already prepared. Wheeling them up from the road

Boeung Kak - The Lake That Disappeared - 9 December 2014

Many visitors to the Cambodian capital today would be unaware the city once had a lake. Boeung Kak Lake (usually “Bong Kak”) was the largest urban wetland in Phnom Penh. All up it was 90 hectares (222 acres) of water, aquatic weeds and wildlife. The lake was located in the north of the city bordered by the railway, Calmette Hospital, and a

War Remnants Museum in HCMC - 29 September 2014

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a somewhat harrowing experience. The displays and images are a sobering reminder of Vietnam’s recent violent history and demonstrate what belligerent industrial nations can do to largely peasant ones.  They record a raft of human emotion, suffering, persecution and orchestrated destruction from

Reunification Palace - The Dragon's Head - 31 August 2014

Near the centre of present day Ho Chi Minh City sits the Reunification Palace, a relic of Vietnam’s more recent past and a symbol of its present, and probably future too. HCMC, or Saigon as it’s still widely referred to, has many iconic buildings. There’s Notre Dame Cathedral, City Hall, the Opera House and the wonderful Central Post Office

Sihanoukville on the Costa del Cambodia - 1 August 2014

In an attempt to avoid going stir-crazy in Phnom Penh, you can take a bus to Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s only deep-sea port and leading beach resort area on the Gulf of Thailand.  The French named it Sihanoukville, the Cambodians Kampong Som. Some expats refer to it as “Snooky” and others, largely Anglophiles, refer to it as the

Chiang Mai - Rose of the North - 4 July 2014

In the far north of Thailand sits the city they call the Rose of the North. Foreign tourists have been travelling there for years, its history however, runs far deeper than that. Chiang Mai sits at the confluence of cultures. The past and present, has been dictated by ethnicity, culture, language, trade, war, religion and empire. Chiang Mai

Getting the Travel Blues - 31 May 2014

One of the best things about travelling used to be the people you met doing the same things you were. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met in life have been those out there, where your lives intersect. As Jack Kerouac pointed out; travel is useful, it feeds the mind.Travellers' meetings can be those in which one learns more about

Jim Thompson and the Order of the White Elephant - 7 May 2014

When I first visited Jim Thompson’s house a decade ago, I was already much taken with the idea of living in Asia. After seeing the house I was sure I wanted to return. I was envious of Thompson and what he had created, a farang in Asia living his dream, comfortably off. There was also Thompson’s murky past as a WWII operative, full of intrigue