Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

The Bizarre Temple at Banglamung - 28 May 2012

About 100 kilometres southeast from Bangkok at Banglamung near Pattaya in Chonburi is the Sanctuary of Truth, one of the strangest sights in Thailand. Touted as “The Magnificence of Heaven Recreated on Earth”, the Sanctuary of Truth is a huge structure made entirely of carved wood and looks like a temple of the bizarre from some giant film set.You can see all manner of things in Pattaya, go-go girls, steroid induced body builders, or the more mundane like bland shopping malls; but then there are things you don’t altogether see at home, like the Temple of the Bizarre.The Sanctuary, also called Wang Boran or Prasat Mai in Thai, began life in 1981 the brainchild of Thai business man, Lek Viriyaphant, an eccentric millionaire. Also known as Khun Lek, this peculiar character was responsible for other bizarre projects such as Ancient Siam (formerly known as Ancient City), a park covering 200 acres in the shape of Thailand; and the Erawan Museum, known for its known for its giant three-headed elephants.The Sanctuary building itself is located behind a fortified wall, like those used to mount cannon on a small peninsula, Cape Rachvate. Access is down the side streets off Naklua Road which runs north from Pattaya, the signs hidden amongst dozens of others and therefore difficult to see. The beach front here along this part of the coast is full of upmarket resort hotels where the tourist information is now almost all in Russian, marking the arrival of Thailand’s latest wave of

On Deadly Roads - 20 May 2012

Someone once said that nowhere is a good place to have a traffic accident but in Cambodia it can be worse than most other places.Travel in Cambodia can be wonderful and a real eye opener but it’s a fact that almost four people a day die on roads in Cambodia, and hundreds more are injured in thousands of crashes.For victims, foreigners and

Nahkon Ratchasima - The Gateway to Isaan - 7 May 2012

Northeast of Bangkok is Nahkon Ratchasima, capital city of the province of the same name, and lauded as the gateway to the great northeast of Thailand. This area is known as Isaan and home to 25 million people; a country within a country, the rice bowl of Thailand, and the poorest region in the land.The city, also called Korat (or Khorat) a

Mangroves and Mountains - Koh Kong - 27 April 2012

Koh Kong is about six hours by bus from Phnom Penh, part of it along Cambodia’s most dangerous road and the rest through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, the Cardamom Mountains.National Route Six heads west from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville across the flat expanse of Kompong Speu, a province known in Cambodia for its numerous

Where the New Years are Big and Plentiful - 20 April 2012

New years are big and plentiful in Cambodia, they recognize three in total; the international day; Chinese New Year and the Khmer New Year of these the latter two are by far the more celebrated, all these in a country already awash with public holidays.The Cambodian New Year or Chaul Chnam Thmey, which in Khmer literally means “Enter new

Cambodia, the Elephant and the Deep Blue Sea - 12 April 2012

It’s a big deal when the world’s second most powerful political figure calls by and for Cambodia,a small country, it’s no different especially now, in this, Asia’s century. The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, arrived in Phnom Penh on a state visit, a trip that coincided with Cambodia hosting the annual ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian

The Rain Gamblers - 31 March 2012

In a land dominated by agriculture where the monsoon is both too hot and too short, water comes to dominate living for most Cambodians caught between floods and drought. In northwestern Cambodia this feature of society manifests itself in the form of rain gambling.Although gambling on rainfall is a casual pastime in other parts of Cambodia (and

Sam Mountain Lady & The Million Dollar Hill - 8 March 2012

If you’re planning on experiencing the marvels of river travel to Cambodia from Vietnam on a budget, tour operators on both sides of the border will quickly dispel your notions of wonder and romance. Instead you get a two-day ordeal, much of it by road, and punctuated with a stay in a grimy hotel amongst the poorest I’ve seen in Vietnam.Pity

The Jewel in the Crown - 28 February 2012

Yogjakarta is the jewel in Java’s tourist crown and next to Bali the place where most visitors to Indonesia want to come. Yogjakarta (or Jogyakarta) is the only province in the Republic of Indonesia headed by a monarch, courtesy of a bitter civil war fought between two royal brothers of the then Kingdom of Mataram in the 18th century. One wanted