Michael Batson

Travel Writer





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 hours.The taxis are small, cramped people wagons, usually Toyotas or other Japanese makes. If you’re lucky you can get the front seat affording more space for longer European limbs, or try and get a seat in the second row. The last row of seats at the rear of the vehicle are cramped and seat you in the “crumple zone” designed to absorb a rear end crash, which on Indonesian roads seems decidedly likely.Driving in Sumatra is accompanied by much flashing of headlights, flicking of indicators and blasting of horns, all seemingly without any effect whatsoever. All you get is a cacophony of sound that drivers and pedestrians are so used to they take virtually no notice anymore. Vehicles exiting driveways and side streets sometimes are accompanied by someone wearing a visible vest blowing a fluorescent whistle and waving a small stop sign; which most drivers promptly ignore. Some towns sport signs against use of horns within their environs, which are also ignored by all and sundry.Sumatra’s roads are crowded and narrow. Choked with trucks and buses, taxis overtake in the least space possible, usually when faced with an imminent head-on

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

Who Killed Chea Vichea - 1 February 2012

US documentary film maker, Bradley Cox once said “hero” is one of the most over used words in the English language. Interviewed about his 55-minute documentary “Who Killed Chea Vichea” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, Cox commented “I don't know if I ever met an honest-to-goodness hero in the flesh until I met Chea

Hollywood in Cambodia - 16 January 2012

Cambodia has proved a challenge for film makers over the years. For most movie goers, the enduring cinematic image is that of Roland Joffe’s The Killing Fields, set during the Khmer Rouge era, though the film itself was shot entirely in Thailand, and slated for its Hollywood depiction of events.Other films however, did make it to the

Palace Closed but Killing Fields Open - 12 December 2011

It was a Saturday morning and I cut down the short street from Preah Sisowath and Boulevard Samdech Sothearos to the Royal Palace, on the Phnom Penh riverside. From the side of the road the tuk-tuk driver asked where I was going. “Palace closed” he said “but Killing Fields open” and grinned.I have been to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh once

Strength Through Oi - Cowboys & Expats - 30 November 2011

One of the interesting things about living in Cambodia is some of the expats you meet. There are some weird and some wonderful foreigners who have chosen, for a variety of reasons, to relocate to the self-styled Kingdom of Wonder. Some are here out of genuine love of the place. They’ve come here for everything that’s different about living