Michael Batson

Travel Writer





The Golden Triangle - Life and Death in the Middle Mekong - 24 February 2016

They say knowing things in the Golden Triangle is much more dangerous than not knowing them. One journalist reported rather it’s better to be ignorant than complicit, and it’s better to be complicit than dead. This watery intersection has had lots of things though arguably few of them on the surface of it, good things. These have included; ethnic militias, civil wars, gambling, smuggling, drugs, human trafficking, piracy, rogue paramilitaries, and genocide, all at the notoriously lawless region of the Mekong where Laos, Burma, China, and Thailand intersect. The area is an historical geographic crossroads, linguistically and culturally also. Now it’s a site of rapidly shifting geopolitics as China muscles in, and fast increasing trade – both licit and illicit. These days you can throw in tourism. Let’s face it, anything for a buck.The locals refer to this river junction as Sop Ruak where the Mekong meets the Ruak River, which comes out of the Shan hills. For tourists it’s the meeting point of three nations and two rivers and usually visited by day tours run from the Thai city of Chiang Mai. You get lunch, a menu of destinations packed into a day, and lots of driving. There are bars, restaurants, tacky tourist shops selling wares and souvenirs, and boat rides across the river. It’s all fairly innocuous on the surface of it. A short ride from the tri-border meeting point of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand you can get an education on the history of opium, all 5000 years of it

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