Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Milford Sound - 2 September 2020

Milford Sound lies in Southwest New Zealand in the Fiordland National Park, the largest and fourth oldest of the country’s 13 national parks, the fifth largest park of its kind in the world  and part of the Te Wāhipounamu (Greenstone) World Heritage Site. It has been judged the world's top travel destination in an international survey, and referred to as New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling once called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. If New Zealand still had the Pink and White Terraces, long since disappeared in volcanic eruption, Milford Sound might just be the ninth wonder. Every year about one million visitors see it up front and in person. Most come by car or by bus, some fly and some by sea, and about 14,000 people take three days just for the privilege of walking there. Milford Sound is a paradox, for while it attracts streams of visitors it is located in an area with some of the most remote coastline, in one of the world's most remote countries. The Māori named the sound Piopiotahi after the thrush-like piopio bird, one of some 53 bird species now extinct since people first reached New Zealand 1000 years ago. For centuries Māori came from near and far for hunting and fishing, and also the pounamu or greenstone (jade) used for carvings and in war. John Grono, a Welshman, “discovered” the sound in 1812 whilst on sealing expeditions, often taking 10,000 skims at a time. Milford Sound is in fact not a sound at all, but a fjord

Flying High with the Bolivian Air Force - 6 May 2020

Travelling in Bolivia is a challenge of world-renown, one of those destinations your mother warned you about. The roads are rough, few are paved. The terrain is intimidating with high mountains and deep gorges best described as lethal. Transport infrastructure is rudimentary or was when I went in 1991, especially air travel. Safety leaves much

Aeroflot Skies - 4 April 2020

Back in the day in the early 1990s, the cheapest way to fly from Europe to Asia was on Eastern bloc airlines. Polish Airlines (Polskie Linie Lotnicze-LOT)) was one option, while Aeroflot was another. After the Berlin Wall came down LOT, previously known as Aerolot and one of the oldest airlines in operation, began moving back to using Western

Poipet - In a Galaxy, Far, Far, Away - 25 February 2020

The border crossing between Aranyaprathet in Thailand and Poipet, or Krong Poi Pet, in Cambodia is marked by a dying waterway, the Nam Sai, choked and putrefied with the detritus of modern life. The Nam Sai (which ironically means “clear stock” as in soup, in Thai) roughly marks the border. In some places it is the border, while in others it

Borderlands - Aranyaprathet and Poipet - 27 January 2020

 In the early 2000s I made two trips into Cambodia by road from Thailand. These were my first ever visits to the country. The route I took was the same many visitors took back then, and many still do, from Aranyaprathet and Poipet, though much has changed in terms of infrastructure. I’ve heard it said peoples’ impressions of Cambodia are

Hotel Cambodiana and the River Mekong - 22 December 2019

One of my favourite pastimes in Phnom Penh is sitting poolside at the Hotel Cambodiana watching the river traffic go by. Norodom Sihanouk came up with an idea for the hotel and even contributed early drawings for bungalows, before it morphed into a full-blown hotel, then one of the biggest in town. It was built, but not finished, during the

Royal University of Phnom Penh - 19 November 2019

Most visitors to Phnom Penh entering the city along the road from the airport would not see one of the architectural splendors of a city once known as “The Pearl of Asia”. Probably because it’s on the other side of the dual carriageway, and more probably they’re not looking for it. The Royal University of Phnom Penh faces what is now known as