Michael Batson

Travel Writer





The Wonder of the Wander - Phnom Penh to Bangkok and Beyond - 29 July 2016

The Wonder of Wander: From Cambodia to Thailand By Tuk-Tuk, Plane, Bus, Train, Bus and Baht (shared) Taxi or Songthaew.Yesterday I travelled between Phnom Penh to the beaches south of the Thai capital Bangkok in a morning and was there by mid-afternoon. On other occassions I’ve done this entirely by road from Cambodia and it’s taken up to 12 hours. For the uninitiated, for those wanting to give it a go and those wondering what wandering about in countries where you’re alone, here is how you can spend your time – it’s the wonder of the wander. I have to confess to not being a novice at wandering about countries filled with millions of souls I do not know, whose language I do not speak, in climates at odds with my norm and yet, amongst all that I can still feel at home.At 4:30am Phnom Penh is dark but not dead. I walked from my hotel to Riverside along Street 130. The doors to my hotel were wide open, the night security guard fast asleep on the couch. A barang (foreigner) backpacker slept with one eye wide open and watched me leave. A Khmer woman carrying two infants stood at an intersection two blocks down. Her face revealed a recent severe beating; her eyes blackened, her cheek gashed and a large white plaster covered her entire forehead. Ice merchants transferred the first of the day’s product between vehicles. Others about were finishing their night, like a group of bar girls still heavily made-up tottering on impossibly high heels, giggling.On Riverside, the

Panmunjom on the DMZ - 26 June 2016

To get to the village of Panmunjom, at the point where North and South Korea meet on the DMZ, you cross the Tong-il Bridge on Highway One from Seoul. Seoul, South Korea’s bustling capital of over 10 million, is referred to as the “Han River Miracle” a statement on the unprecedented rise of one of the great post-WWII economic achievements

Korea's DMZ - The Cold War's Last Hot Spot - 25 May 2016

The 4km wide Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas is the most fortified stretch of territory on the planet. The last hot spot of the Cold War. It’s heavily laced with land mines. Reportedly 6,000 artillery pieces are lined up facing each other on both sides. Tens of thousands of highly-trained soldiers armed to the teeth patrol along its

Gyeongju - Ancient Korea - 21 April 2016

Looking at the urban industrialised landscape of present-day Korea, it’s hard to see any traces of history.  South Korea has modernized at an astonishing rate, perhaps faster than any other nation in the last half-century. In that time they've gone from exporting wigs to the world's eighth-largest economy. Korea’s answer to development has been

Monument to Democracy, Thai-style - 28 March 2016

Near the main backpacker centre of Khao San Road in Bangkok is the Democracy Monument. Most backpackers wouldn’t know it’s there or if they scan the guidebooks thoroughly enough may give it the quick once over. Largely, it’s ignored or given scant regard. The social life of the bars and restaurants having more appeal, and the guided tours are

Chiang Rai - The Very North Of Thailand - 3 January 2016

If you head north from the tourist mecca of Chiang Mai you come to the confusingly named city of Chiang Rai. One-tenth the size of its more famous southern neighbour, Chiang Rai sits near the very top of Thailand, and is one of the country’s oldest cities.It’s an interesting part of the country; a blend of cultures from neighbouring Myanmar

Return to Boeung Kak Lake - 1 December 2015

I recently revisited “lakeside” the area of my first stay in Phnom Penh years ago. The entrance is along Street 93, behind Calmette Hospital off Monivong Boulevard, one of the city’s major thoroughfares. Street 93 is narrow, barely one car-width wide off which run various alley ways. At the entrance is Al-Serkal mosque, Cambodia’s largest