Michael Batson

Travel Writer

Vietnam

Cambodia

Other

Travelogue

Landmines, Temples and Crocodiles - Siem Reap - 30 April 2013

The town itself stretches north to south along the Siem Reap River and east to west along National Route Six.  Siem Reap literally means “Siam Vanquished” and was the administrative and spiritual centre of the bloodthirsty Khmer Empire, which rivaled the Roman in size before it somewhat mysteriously crumbled.  Siem Reap has been receiving visitors for over 100 years and is actually a cluster of old villages which originally developed around individual pagodas and later overlaid with a French colonial-era centre.  Its development was gradual at first and then snowballed. Today the town has its very own international airport with visitors flying in direct from as far afield as China and Korea.The roads have improved too. The once notorious route from the Thai border, a distance of barely 150kms, used to take over seven hours due to the appalling state of what passed for a highway. It was a journey I had made twice. Now you can drive from the border town of Poipet in two-three hours. The same road will bring you from Battambang. There is also an overpriced fast ferry plying the nearby Great Lake to and from Phnom Penh.For decades the region was controlled by the Thais. In 1906 Thailand ceded control of Siem Reap to the French. Thereafter it became an autonomous military region for a period.In 1979 journalist John Pilger had seen a mass grave of several thousand people at Siem Reap, “many of whom had been beaten to death, the splintered skulls attested to that.”  To

Hua Lamphong and the Siam Railway - 30 March 2013

In the Pathum Wan District near the geographic centre of Bangkok sits Hua Lamphong, the city’s premier train station. Officially, it’s known as the Bangkok Railway Station, but nearly everyone calls it Hua Lamphong or “Who Lam Pong” depending on your pronunciation.  Hua Lamphong was once the grand old lady of the Siam Railway. These days it’s

The Tinat Restaurant - Phnom Penh - 28 February 2013

On the corner of Streets 154 and 51 is one of the best value diners in Phnom Penh, the Tinat Restaurant. The Tinat isn’t included in any guidebook, a blessing in disguise, and the hard working Khmer-Chinese owners do nicely anyway, thanks very much.It’s not on any list of places you want to be, there are no Michelin chefs, no fancy décor, and

Farewell to the King - 01 February 2013

In Phnom Penh on 4 February 2013, the final chapter in the life of one of Asia’s most extraordinary characters will be played out – the cremation of the former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk. The fact that the King Father as he is known, has been dead for three months is just another facet of a long, fascinating and at times, controversial

Some Like It Hot - On Samui Time - 05 January 2013

From the air under the tropical sun Ko Samui looks like a green jewel, an emerald bordered with a white sandy fringe and palm trees surrounded by light blue water. It doesn’t look too bad from the sea either. However you arrive, you’ll soon settle into the easy pace of island life.Officially, there are seasons in the Gulf of Thailand

Rub a Dub Markets - 02 December 2012

One of the most easily identifiable landmarks in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is the New Market or Psar Thom Thmey or simply Psar Thmey. Psar is market and Thom in Khmer means big or grand, so it’s the "New Grand Market". The market sits one block east of one of Phnom Penh’s main thoroughfares, Monivong Boulevard, towards the river occupying