Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 aircraft, while Aeroflot still had a stable of  Soviet-designed and built planes and was cheaper in price. So Aeroflot it was.At that time Aeroflot was the largest airline in the world by fleet size. They had a complete monopoly over the Soviet Union airspace and routes. In fact, it was said that for every eight passengers up in the air flying in the world at any given time, one of them was flying Aeroflot. In the end it was a trip on a major global carrier like none other I’d experienced.Aeroflot (“Airfleet”) started life under the Bolsheviks in 1923, when the country first declared sovereignty over its airspace. The name “Aeroflot” was officially adopted in 1932 as the name for the entire Soviet Civil Air Fleet. The following year, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Congress set out development plans for the civil aviation industry as part of one of their Five-Year Plans. Expanding Soviet air capacity changed as it had to, during the Great Patriotic War when all resources turned to military functions, with repercussions for life in the Soviet Union including transport, for years to come. A trip from London’s

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

Living on Street 178 – Part Three – 5 October 2019

All the apartments I’ve rented in Phnom Penh have been on streets with a number ending in an eight. There was Street 108 (Oknha Ing Bun Hoaw Avenue across from Freedom Park near the old colonial quarter), Street 258 (Long Nget Street), and the three apartments I’ve had on Street 178 (Samdach Preah Sokun Meanbon Street). The last apartment I

Down on the Corner, Out in Street 178 - 2 September 2019

My second apartment on Street 178 was in 2007. I got the apartment through my mate, Kiwi Paul, who I had met earlier that year in the Riverside Bar on Sothearos Boulevard. The Riverside is a corner bar in a grand colonial building in rustic colours with white shutters, unlike many of the other colonial era buildings in Phnom Penh, which are

Living on Street 178 - Phnom Penh - 3 August 2019

Street 178 in Phnom Penh runs in a straight line west to east from one of the city’s main boulevards, Monivong, and finishing at another, Sisowath, at the Tonle Sap near the junction with the Mekong River. It is bisected by another of the city’s main thoroughfares, Norodom Boulevard – Street 41, which runs from Wat Phnom, from which the city

Kanchanaburi - On The River Kwai - 8 July 2019

The small city of Kanchanaburi sits at the base of the Tenasserim Hills on the edge of the flood plains of the Chao Phyra, the River of Kings, in what was once jungle. The hills border Myanmar and shelter the Kingdom of Smiles from the typhoons of the Andaman Sea. They also provide a physical barrier between the two countries, long-time rivals