Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Life and Times of the Happiness Guesthouse Phnom Penh - 8 October 2015

It's hard not to be impressed with the value for money of hotels and guesthouses in Cambodia's capital. Every time I go there I discover some new place and give it a try. And then there are the old favourites and one in particular, the Happiness Guesthouse.I first stayed at the Happiness back in 2011. It was recommended to me by a mate, Kiwi Paul. He seems to have a nose for the gems. Over time I’ve stayed there for days, and sometimes weeks on end. At times I have virtually been living there paying by the month. I like there’s a wide range of patrons from the regular to the itinerant, local to tourist. It’s popular with Khmers, and for people like me, a kind of home away from home.It’s a long way from my first trip to Phnom Penh over ten years ago, and the guesthouse fare then on offer. These were basic, largely full of backpackers, a narrow set with eyes only for Lonely Planet who viewed the DVD, The Killing Fields, and not much else. To be fair rooms could be had for as little as $2, though these were for the real budget traveller or the downright desperate, there being a few of both.At Happiness I’ve met teachers, retirees, backpackers, students, families, even people doing PhDs living there. At times there’s almost a community feel to the place, with a core of regulars based there. Then there’s the constantly revolving door of guests, a perpetual turnover of people coming and going. A pile of bags is usually left by reception, as people leave for a few days

To Live and Die in Southeast Asia - 25 September 2015

Death and taxes are the only things certain in life so they reckon. Well death anyway, some people never pay taxes. Where you choose to live invariably impacts on where you’re likely to die, even how. Some expats choose to live in Southeast Asia and some die there too. Expats who choose to live in Southeast Asia can be misfit, mercenary

Phnom Penh's Traffic Woes Set to Continue - 24 August 2015

Phnom Penh’s municipal authorities have come up with a proposal to cure the capital of its increasing traffic congestion – banning buses. To be clear they’re not talking about municipal bus services in the city, there are none. But from 2016, all buses travelling to Phnom Penh from outside the city will have to establish new bus stations on the

Expats about Phnom Penh - 30 June 2015

Some people go to Cambodia for a holiday. Others never go home. Here are a few I've met.Davey – bar managerDavey was from Hull. This struck a chord with me as I once went out with a lass from Hull or ‘ull. I was able to tell him I’d been down to the old Boulevard ground to watch Hull FC play rugby league. That I knew of the Hull Cheese, a

Dazed and Confused - Saigon to Phnom Penh by Bus - 1 May 2015

I like the differences about Asia, not the similarities. If it was all the same I’d stay home. On a recent trip from Saigon to Phnom Penh I was struck by the way things in Asia have a curious way of disappearing. I don’t mean ordinary things like keys or even your wallet. I mean things like passports and people. And then just as curiously they

Ben Thanh Market - High Pressure Sales - 4 April 2015

Cho Ben Thanh, or Ben Thanh Market is the most celebrated and regularly visited of Saigon’s markets and probably the city’s biggest tourist trap. It’s a hive of commercial activity and the sights are an assault on the senses. But the experience however, is not always pleasant. In contrast to neighbouring Laos and Cambodia, “No” in Vietnam seems

Dalat - Misty Mountain Hop - 1 March 2015

If you’re tired of the heat in tropical Vietnam you can do what the colonials used to do, head for the hills. A few hours by road from Saigon is Dalat (or Da Lat), the capital of Lam Dong, and a stop on the route to the coastal wonder of Nha Trang. Dalat was an escapist hill top retreat built for French colonials, a surreal touch of the French

Vietnamese Cafe Street 51 Phnom Penh - 31 January 2015

The sidewalk Vietnamese coffee shop on Street 51 in Phnom Penh can be a great place to spend an evening watching life go by and can also serve to catch up on the latest developments. If you’re lucky you can meet some interesting characters worth the effort and some others you rather had just passed on by.Cambodia's small ethnic Vietnamese