Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 reappear, sometimes on cue.I’ve made the trip between these two cities many times; by boat, by plane and by bus. As the crow files the distance between them is only 240kms, 170kms in Cambodia and 70kms in Vietnam. By plane is fastest, flight time under an hour. By boat is the most interesting but can take two days. The cheapest route is by bus but it’s also time consuming. By bus can take all day and lead to some interesting observations.On my last trip from Saigon I bought my bus ticket off one of the many travel agents in the side alleys off Pham Ngũ Lão, a Vietnamese who spoke English with an Australian accent. Wishing to avoid the usual melee at Cambodian immigration I opted for him to get me a visa, for which I paid extra. Despite assurances all would be arranged, he phoned me the night before the bus left to inform me I could get my passport back in the morning before the bus left. I’d asked him where the bus left from. “Just up the road mate.” I assumed this to be the main road near the park where most buses left for Cambodia. But then you know what they say about making assumptions.The Australian-Vietnamese travel

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

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

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