Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Grand Palace Bangkok - Dance of the Emerald Kings - 30 June 2013

The Grand Palace is a city within a city in the heart of Bangkok. It was built by royal decree when the kings owned all the land and held the power of life and death. To some extent Thai kings still do, due to Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws.It is said the palace is best first viewed from the Chao Phraya River, the city’s less than pristine waterway. Few visitors would realise that the Grand Palace is actually located on an island, albeit an artificial creation. Rattanakosin Island was created by Rama I in the 18th century to house the royal palace complex and chosen for its strategic location.Defensively, it was bordered by the river in the west and man-made canals in the east. The island is just over three kilometres square, and was originally surrounded by walls and watchtowers, the remnants of which remain. The layout of Rattankosin closely resembled that of ancient Ayutthaya on which it is modelled, though is much smaller in size.These days Rattanakosin has less than a watery feel. It has some key Bangkok landmarks including the National Museum, the magnificent Defence Ministry Hall, and Sanam Luang, still used for ceremonies and previously a cremation site. Nearby is Banglamphu, Bangkok’s main backpacker ghetto, which is less than regal. Once based on Khao San Road it has over time, spread across the northern corner of Rattankosin and beyond.“The palace is closed for tourists today”, said the Thai at one of the side gates. Pity I thought, having come all

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

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