Can Wiki Travel?
Touring Thailand with only the Internet as my guide.
My Web travel project was on the verge of complete meltdown until I chanced on a different, and also mostly free, site named Travelfish.org. Unlike Wikitravel, Travelfish is a professionally written site, but it prominently features sections for volunteer feedback. It only covers Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. But Travelfish is good.
Travelfish serves as a reminder that sharp writing, not neutral points of view, is what makes a guide useful. Here's how Travelfish describes Tonsai at Railay:
The vibe here is mellow, introspective, and slow-paced. … Let's put it this way—two popular bars here are called Chill Out and Stoners. Pictures of Bob Marley abound. What, do we gotta spell it out for you?
Nope! I get it. Burner/hippie vibe, clientele possibly weak on hygiene, a place where people like to get high. That's the kind of thing that either you like or hate, but at least you know.
How about Phi Phi?
A paradise lost. … Old school travellers may well loathe what they see when they get off the boat, but when all is said and done, the natural beauty of the island is still there to be enjoyed …
How about Patong, a popular resort town in Phuket?
Call us killjoys, but this place is a hole. … A truly ugly tapestry of the surreal, debauched and depraved.
Now that's advice I can use.
Travelfish also had extensive accommodation listings—unlike Wikitravel—since it pays people to do the annoying work of visiting hotels. What makes the accommodation reviews even stronger is that Travelfish encourages individualized feedback from its readers, comments that function rather like the user reviews on Amazon.com. And these comments are most useful when they say: "You're wrong, Travelfish: This place sucks." For example, Travelfish loves a place on Koh Phi Phi called "Tropical Garden Bungalows":
Illustration by Rob Donnelly.