Michael Batson

Travel Writer





You'll Never Ride Alone - Traffic in the Pearl of Asia - 20 June 2012

Road traffic in Cambodia is a wonder laced with danger. More than mere transport, for the expat observer it can provide hours of entertainment and at times, sheer amazement in a country where the mere mundane can be both fascinating and photogenic. It provides the pulse of life, a hive of activity, the sheer energy that is life in the country the self-style Kingdom of Wonder and its capital, Phnom Penh.The city has an estimated 900,000 motorcycles for about 1.2 million inhabitants, most of which appear to be on the roads at the same time. There are also over 230,000 vehicles competing for space on city roads from wretched heavy trade to luxury cars; a sign of development according to the authorities, and not rampant corruption.Riding in traffic here is either exhilarating or frightening, depending on your personality.  I find it both. My rented motorbike is a model unlikely to attract much attention from thieves according to Kieran, the shaven-headed Irishman who owns Little Bikes rentals. Kieran knew the pitfalls of travelling on Cambodia’s roads, and of owning a bike rental business. “Keep your money in your pocket and away from the cops,” he said noting the local constabulary’s reputation for eliciting bribes “Riding that thing they’ll think you’re too poor,” he added.Recently, he’d negotiated the return of one of his big road bikes from the police compound after one of his clients had been arrested for drug trafficking and the bike was seized along with the rest

Great Walls of Glass - 9 June 2012

Changi International Airport at Singapore is much like the city itself; neat, ordered, clean almost sterile, and almost wholly without character, though to be fair the city has Little India and Chinatown.Changi is an airport like many others but run with all that efficiency synonymous with the island state. Singapore has two great qualities

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

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