Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Silk Island, Cambodia - 30 September 2018

To reach Silk Island from Phnom Penh you head over the Japanese Bridge on National Route Six. Once over the bridge you arrive onto a sliver of land squeezed between the Tonle Sap, the river that flows from the great lake in Cambodia’s north, and the Mekong, the river that comes from China.The Japanese “Friendship” Bridge isn’t the white-knuckle ride it once was. The bridge takes you to Chroy Changvar, the peninsula formed as part of the Quatre Bras, the riverine “four arms” at the centre of Phnom Penh. Traffic was a maelstrom, four wheels went on the road, two wheels dominated the footpath. Pedestrians were largely absent and likely just as well. Few people walk in Cambodia unless you’re either very poor, or don’t have far to go. The bridge has been joined by a more recent Chinese construction built in record time, which now performs this feat for those heading into the city, while the older Japanese construct takes you away, to Silk Island and further Batdambang and on towards Thailand. The bridges perfectly illustrate the changing of the guard of foreign influence with the “Chinarising” of Cambodia. The West is so yesterday.Maintenance on the bridge, once damaged in the civil war, has been neglected over the years and is now well overdue. It’s an accident waiting to happen, much like traffic in the kingdom. Urban myth has it that to “bless” the new Chinese built construction, a garment worker was kidnapped and sacrificed by being thrown into the Mekong.The

The Tale of Two Tyrannies - 20 August 2018

Have you heard the joke about the elections in Cambodia and Zimbabwe? There isn’t one but perhaps there should be. Both countries have been effectively in the grip of single party rule for over 30 years. Both countries recently held elections with altogether predictable results, the incumbent parties won, again; Zanu-PF ((Zimbabwe African

Hua Hin, Queen City - 20 May 2018

I’ve been past Hua Hin on the bus and on the train a few times, always at night. Usually there’d be a brief stop to drop people off or pick them up; so my impressions were generally fatigued, blurry and in darkness. I’ve flown over the beach resort as well, an entirely different perspective and one with a subsonic, high altitude detachment. The

Never The Same Place - 17 March 2018

Someone once said you never really recapture the first level of enchantment you found with a place after the first few visits. That invariably things change, and that while you hope those changes mean local people see improvements in life, that for you, things are never the same again. If I look back on the places I’ve been, I think that’s

Kampong Chhnang - Port of Pots - 4 December 2017

Kampong Chhnang is world famous in Cambodia for its earthenware pots, sold from one end of the country to the other in every market, and used for all kinds of things by all kinds of Cambodians, rich, the few; and the poor, the many. National Route Five runs right through the town and the eponymous province, which is landlocked, fertile, and

Pailin, Way Out West - 12 October 2017

Cambodia for years has had a Wild West reputation. Though changing rapidly like much of Asia, Cambodia is still a bit rougher around the edges than many of its neighbours. This reputation still runs true for the tiny border province of Pailin (pronounced “Bye Lin”) and its eponymous capital. My first attempt to get to Pailin, the dusty gem

Ratanakiri - Mountain of Jewels - 2 September 2017

Ratanakiri (or Ratanak Kiri) known as the “Mountain of Jewels” for all the gemstones dug out of the ground, is arguably Cambodia's most isolated and lawless province, tucked away on the borders with Laos and Vietnam. Sure there are other places that fit one or other of those descriptors like; Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey to the north on the