Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

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 National Union-Patriotic Front) in Zimbabwe and the Cambodia Peoples’ Party (CPP) in Cambodia. Cambodia’s leader Hun Sen, has been in power for 33 years, while this is the first election in Zimbabwe in living memory for many, where Robert Mugabe hasn’t been prime minister only due to his being ‘retired’ by the army – “terminated politically” -  and replaced by his former number two. Having enriched himself at the country’s expense during his long rule, and ruining the country economically, Mugabe is now living in palatial surroundings forced to live on a hardship allowance of just US$5 million a year. Yet while the fallout and post-election crackdown in Zimbabwe’s carries on being reported by many in the global media, events in Cambodia though remarkably similar in nature and impact on its people, have quickly dropped from view. Why is this?The answer may lie in the colonial past of both countries. Cambodia was late part of Francophone Indochina. The legacy of French ‘rule’ is still apparent in the architecture, food and other cultural mores. The world’s largest Alliance Française for example, is to be found in Phnom

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

Mondulkiri - Cambodia's Eastern Borderlands - 30 July 2017

Mondulkiri is one of the more remote parts of Cambodia, only bettered by its northern near neighbour, Ratanakiri (or Ratanak Kiri). It’s rural, the country’s largest province and the most sparsely populated having just one town, which has barely 7,000 people. Politically, it’s a fairly new entity having been carved off neighbouring Kratie