Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 Nations) 2012 summit.Special preparations had been made in Phnom Penh for his visit and the holding of the ASEAN summit. National flags were flying along Norodom Boulevard, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and along the riverside. Police be they federal green-shirted gendarmerie with their heavy weaponry or brown-shirted police with small arms, close off access to the boulevard with such regularity as to make commuting even more of troublesome, a process than reduces the locals to an even more powerless state, far removed form access to the powers that be.Phnom Penh was awash with 10,000 security personnel packing AK-47s and Glocks. Cambodian military vehicles – blackened Hummers and SUVs – uniformed soldiers in their camouflage, motorcycle outriders aplenty, demining teams and police of many types with plain clothes bodyguards surrounding the summit’s facilities. In Cambodia this can take a relaxed air with traffic police sitting under the Frangipani trees.To reduce traffic congestion trucks were banned from the city for the duration of the summit, though trucks in the capital are relatively few in number and do little to slow

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

Medan - Python Eating City - 11 February 2012

Medan, in northern Sumatra (or Sumatera) is a two-hour flight from Bangkok and the third largest city in Indonesia.  Indonesia is sometimes described less as a country and more of a polyglot Javanese empire run by central government from Jakarta and backed by the country’s formidable military, the TNI.For years parts of Indonesia did their

Sin City Pattaya - 8 February 2012

A t-shirt in Thailand says “Good guys go to heaven but bad guys go to Pattaya.” Pattaya, about a 90-minute drive southeast from Bangkok, looks like Australia’s Surfer’s Paradise from afar and has about as much charm but arguably more character.Anthropologists and some sociologists might even find it fascinating, psychologists too. Visitors

Jimmie the Knife - 5 February 2012

The old phrase “Putting your arse on the line” took on a whole new meaning in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh recently, when a young American resident was shot on his way home from a bar.Heading home in the early hours of Sunday morning, Jimmie aged 24, was approaching Norodom Boulevard, one of the city’s main thoroughfares from Street 172