Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Russians in Southeast Asia - Here Today, Back Tomorrow - 21 January 2016

Over the last 20 years or so the numbers of Russians visiting Southeast Asia have gone from hardly any at all to a flood, and much like a flood have receded somewhat, but probably not for long. Russians now account for billions of dollars in tourism revenue in Southeast Asia and rank second after Chinese travellers in number. Thailand is by far their favourite destination, but they like other countries too, like Vietnam and Cambodia. Their Cyrillic alphabet is now plastered on sandwich boards and menus, and vendors in parts of the region have taken to learning some Russian words. The rest of us are having to get used to their peculiar dress sense, which seems to follow them the world over whether in Asia or not. One travel writer, writing on the influx of Russian tourists and accompanying sex workers to a cash-strapped Cyprus, said of Russians and their dress sense as; ‘easy to spot, thanks largely to a sartorial style originated by Englebert Humperdinck's costumier and watches the size of grapefruits.’ Throw in guys with pasty white skin, many overweight, in fake peaked sailor hats, loud polo shirts and overly tight football shorts often pulled high up around the waist, and you could be in Pattaya or Phuket. Generally, it must be said, Russians don’t seem to “do” casual dress well.During the Cold War Russian tourists were limited to Soviet-approved travel destinations like China, Turkey, Poland and Finland. Those countries once accounted for 80 percent of all

Chiang Rai - The Very North Of Thailand - 3 January 2016

If you head north from the tourist mecca of Chiang Mai you come to the confusingly named city of Chiang Rai. One-tenth the size of its more famous southern neighbour, Chiang Rai sits near the very top of Thailand, and is one of the country’s oldest cities.It’s an interesting part of the country; a blend of cultures from neighbouring Myanmar

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

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