Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Australia versus North Korea, Phnom Penh 1965 - 1 July 2020

In 1965 Cambodians witnessed one of the more unusual footballing events; World Cup playoffs on home soil not involving their own country. The two matches between Australia and North Korea were played in Cambodia as neither country had diplomatic relations with each other and Cambodia was the only country with diplomatic relations with both willing to host the event. The games were played over “home and away” in the newly completed Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, opened just the year before. The matches were watched by an estimated 115,000 spectators half of whom, on strict instructions from Cambodia's mercurial head of state Prince Sihanouk, cheered for each of the two teams. This was the first ever World Cup qualifying campaign for both countries. Since then Australia has qualified for the finals five times, and North Korea twice. The matches marked Australia’s first foray into mainstream international football forging links with Asia that culminated in Football Federation Australia’s embrace of the Asia Confederation in 2006. North Korea emerged onto the world sporting stage from shattering war and famine, and went on to make history in England in 1966 being the first Asian country competing in the World Cup finals to defeat a ranked nation, Italy, before being knocked out of the competition by a Eusebio-inspired Portugal. Their exploits on the global sporting stage were later made into a film ‘The Game of Their Lives’ in 2002 by British documentary film director

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

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