Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Slow Road to the Fast City - Phnom Penh to Saigon - 31 May 2103

The road from Phnom Penh was narrow, uneven and the much promised leg room for passengers only held true if you were Cambodian.  Traffic was slow, often reaching a near crawl behind agricultural machinery towing trailers packed with passengers or avoiding bicycles or overloaded motos, all competing for too little space offered on National Route One, the main road to Vietnam.  Everyone who could, would overtake everyone who couldn’t, adding to the chaos as dump trucks careered onwards into the oncoming traffic.  There was no shoulder for overtaking, no road markings.  Shop fronts and houses almost touched the tarmac, a metre or two in it at best. At one point a marquee for a wedding occupied part of one lane, the guests were sitting in the road.To make matters worse two of the guests from the local were on the bus. Both were from down Surrey way somewhere.  They had shared the table next to mine and oblivious to others had reported their activities in monotonous tones.  Every time one of them spoke, she reminded me of Victoria Beckham, and she made about as much sense.Not only had they spent the last two nights eating and drinking within earshot, they were now seated across the aisle.  In a loud, whining voice “Posh” was imparting her knowledge of what is worth “doing” in Vietnam to some geezer half-way down the bus, who had allotted eight days to getting Vietnam “done”.Roads in the kingdom have much improved, thanks largely to foreign assistance. Paradoxically

Landmines, Temples and Crocodiles - Siem Reap - 30 April 2013

The town itself stretches north to south along the Siem Reap River and east to west along National Route Six.  Siem Reap literally means “Siam Vanquished” and was the administrative and spiritual centre of the bloodthirsty Khmer Empire, which rivaled the Roman in size before it somewhat mysteriously crumbled.  Siem Reap has been receiving

Hua Lamphong and the Siam Railway - 30 March 2013

In the Pathum Wan District near the geographic centre of Bangkok sits Hua Lamphong, the city’s premier train station. Officially, it’s known as the Bangkok Railway Station, but nearly everyone calls it Hua Lamphong or “Who Lam Pong” depending on your pronunciation.  Hua Lamphong was once the grand old lady of the Siam Railway. These days it’s

The Tinat Restaurant - Phnom Penh - 28 February 2013

On the corner of Streets 154 and 51 is one of the best value diners in Phnom Penh, the Tinat Restaurant. The Tinat isn’t included in any guidebook, a blessing in disguise, and the hard working Khmer-Chinese owners do nicely anyway, thanks very much.It’s not on any list of places you want to be, there are no Michelin chefs, no fancy décor, and

Farewell to the King - 01 February 2013

In Phnom Penh on 4 February 2013, the final chapter in the life of one of Asia’s most extraordinary characters will be played out – the cremation of the former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk. The fact that the King Father as he is known, has been dead for three months is just another facet of a long, fascinating and at times, controversial

Some Like It Hot - On Samui Time - 05 January 2013

From the air under the tropical sun Ko Samui looks like a green jewel, an emerald bordered with a white sandy fringe and palm trees surrounded by light blue water. It doesn’t look too bad from the sea either. However you arrive, you’ll soon settle into the easy pace of island life.Officially, there are seasons in the Gulf of Thailand

Rub a Dub Markets - 02 December 2012

One of the most easily identifiable landmarks in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is the New Market or Psar Thom Thmey or simply Psar Thmey. Psar is market and Thom in Khmer means big or grand, so it’s the "New Grand Market". The market sits one block east of one of Phnom Penh’s main thoroughfares, Monivong Boulevard, towards the river occupying