Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 combination of both Nahkon and Ratchasima, is 260-kilometres from Bangkok and can be reached by bus, train and plane from the Thai capital. The motorway system in this part of Thailand is fast, a product of US-inspired design during the 1960s, when their air force used the city as a base for its B-52 operations in the war with Vietnam.Traditionally, Nahkon Ratchasima has sat astride the division of Thai and Lao cultures on the western edge of the sun baked Korat Plateau. Today the area is regarded as bi-lingual and bi-cultural and also retains a strong Khmer influence.Much of Isaan makes a mockery of the concept of modern geo-political boundaries.International tourism to Nakhon Ratchasima is still relatively new, and as such there are not yet many international hotel brands. This is changing, and new boutique and other 5 star hotels are opening. The province, rich in Khmer culture, is a popular destination for Thai tourists exploring their own country, and increasingly, foreigners and expats looking to get away from Bangkok, and alternatives to the usual fare offered tourists.English is not widely spoken in this part of Thailand

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

The Big Durian - 21 February 2012

On the city scale of things Jakarta rates as a megalopolis. Its population is currently estimated at 10 million but depending on where you draw the boundaries of Indonesia’s capital, the larger metropolitan region has up to 18 million souls with predictions that the total population will top 30 million in just a few years.Jakarta is a heaving

The Only Tuk Tuk I Ever Liked - 16 February 2012

The only tuk-tuk I ever liked isn’t a vehicle and has nothing to do with driving it’s a peninsula on Samosir Island at Lake Toba in central northern Sumatra. Lake Toba (Danau Toba) has been a backpacker drop-in chill-out place for years. You can get there by taxi from Medan for 65,000 rupiahs (about US$8) and depending on traffic, takes 4-5