Press clippings on Travelfish

In a nut shell

Can Wiki Travel?

By Tim Wu
Excerpts below, you can read the full story on Slate.
Posted Friday, April 6, 2007, at 6:05 PM ET
...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.
...
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."
...
In the end, my trip was saved by Travelfish.

No weight, no worries --- The Travelfish guidebook to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam

JAKARTA, July 12: Southeast Asia is one of the fastest changing travel regions in the world.

"So why do travellers spend almost US$60 on more than two kilograms of out-of-date guidebooks, when they can get everything they need online and it won't cost them a cent?" asks Travelfish.org co-founder Stuart McDonald.

Travelfish.org, an online travel guide to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, turns three on Wednesday. As a gift to its readers, the site has just posted guesthouse listing number 2,500 -- cementing its status as the most comprehensive travel planning website to the region.

"I've crossed paths with travel writers working for the legacy publishers and I always walk away knowing it's a winning solution we've hit upon," says McDonald.

"A guidebook writer can best hope to read their review in print nine months after they wrote it. For Travelfish researchers, it can be as little as nine minutes -- all they need is an internet cafe."

For co-founders Stuart McDonald and Samantha Brown it's been three very satisfying years. "We started off just the two of us, travelling widely in Thailand," says Brown. "And now here we are with half our fourth country (Vietnam) covered and plans being drawn up for a fifth."

Travelfish has the field covered, with up to 10 researchers expanding and updating the site at any one time.

Travelfish has grown into something more than just another guidebook on the web, says McDonald. "There's free-PDF formatted travel guides -- which users can customise for content and layout -- a lively forum, sample vacation plans, photo galleries, postcards, feature stories, FAQs, maps and more."

Even the competition find Travelfish useful.

"When I'm planning an update, Travelfish is at the top of my bookmarks," says one travel writer for a major publisher, who would rather remain anonymous.

"Unlike other travel sites, I know that a real, independent person has been to the hotel and written the Travelfish review. I don't need to wade through the endless PR propaganda you find elsewhere, or look at years-old photos of the only decent room in the house," he says.

"Travelfish has no direct relationships with hotels, so it can label a five-star hotel an over-priced, overrated dump without worrying that it's going to cost them money. It's total guidebook independence with the immediacy of the web. I love it."

Travelfish readers can make reservations through partner websites, but many listings cannot be booked online.

"These are family-run businesses in the back-blocks of the countryside without a website, fax or even regular electricity," says McDonald. "If you want to read about places like that and get off the beaten track in Southeast Asia, Travelfish is your best option."

So when you're planning your next trip to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, you can either wander down to your local bookstore and shell out US$60 for two kilograms of out-of-date research or log on to an up-to-the-minute resource that weighs nothing: Travelfish.org, the website other travel writers use.

Notes:
Two kilograms based on the weight of the latest releases of Lonely Planet's Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam guidebooks. US$60 based on cost of the same titles purchased through amazon.com.

The Lobby like Travelfish -- May 26, 2006

The kind people at Starwood and ElectricArtists have put together some very nice words about Travelfish -- describing it as invaluable!

"Travelfish.org Asian Travel Guide
Though it's geared a little more towards students and backpackers, the extensive (and free) guide to travel in the countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam at Travelfish "dot org" is invaluable for all sorts of travellers to the region. Says the homepage: "Find Southern Thailand's best islands, go trekking out of Luang Prabang in Laos, explore Cambodia's Angkor Wat and savour the charm of Vietnam's capital, Hanoi."

In any case, you'll find regional overviews, a trip planner, a membership registry/login for the free detailed guides, firsthand travel features and, of course, the #1 strength of using the Internet as a guide: quickly and regularly updated information on guides and entries, as well as message boards with up-to-date commentary and miscellaneous chatter. If you're planning a southeast Asian trip, it's well worth your while to have a careful look over the boards here for useful information."

Thanks!

The Lobby

Footprint Laos - 4th edition -- April 2006

The friendly people over at Footprint have listed travelfish.org as the #1 online resource in their section on useful websites for travel to Laos.

"Up-to-date information on Laos is not easy to come by. The best bet is to browse Lao-related or Lao dedicated websites. The best sites, in our experience are:
www.travelfish.org"
(At the top of the list of nine Lao-related websites).

Thanks!

Food & Travel (UK) - Jan-Feb 2006

travelfish.org is a useful and informative site for south-east Asia based originally in Phnom Penh and covering Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in particular depth.

Food & Travel

Travelfish posts its 2,000th accommodation listing in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand

PHNOM PENH, August 08: Travelfish, the online travel guide to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand (www.travelfish.org) has just posted its 2,000th accommodation listing, cementing its status as the most comprehensive travel site in the region.

From the best plush hotels in Thailand to the tiniest family-run shacks in the depths of remotest Cambodia, Travelfish provides short and snappy reviews and photographs of a wide range of guesthouses, hotels and resorts to let independent travellers tailor plan trips to best suit them.

Written by Travelfish's team of anonymous reviewers, the listings are a fresh and sharp alternative to the PR-advertorial copy provided on most hotel reservation websites. Users can book via Travelfish for a limited number of properties but the real advantage of the site is its focus on accurate and unbiased information -- not on spin to get a user to book a room.

"When I read about a guesthouse, I want to know if it is underneath a flight path, next door to a sheet-metal workshop or above a 24-hour karaoke bar," says co-founder Stuart McDonald. "And likewise, I want to know if the staff are genuinely helpful and the style something special. Only by giving the user the good and the bad can they make a truly informed decision about where they want to stay. And in our corner of the world, no other site comes close for comprehensiveness."

Co-founder Samantha Brown, a journalist who also oversees Travelfish's editorial content, says the reservations model for websites authomatically cuts out a huge range of fascinating places for travellers to stay in the mostly underdeveloped region.

"The vast majority of charming places in Cambodia and Laos cannot be booked in advance -- but these are places that travellers really should know about. It's important to us to give travellers as much information about their choices both before they travel and while they're on the road."

Those planning ahead can build their own guidebooks, customising the content they want from the site and the layout they prefer and download it to print off if they want to hit the road with a Travelfish guidebook.

"People don't realise that a guidebook is nine months out of date by the time it hits the shops. I can have lunch at a new Phnom Penh cafe and pop a review of it into the system immediately afterwards. Not only will it be on the site for users to see, it will also be included in the next guidebook printed out," she says. "Traditional guidebooks simply cannot compete."

With its increasing popularity, Travelfish is launching partnerships with traditional media, providing weekly travel articles to the Bangkok Post, Thailand's leading English-language paper, and reviewing sublime hideaways for In Residence, a new Bangkok lifestyle magazine.

"With Travelfish, we saw the opportunity to deliver refreshingly different travel content to our readers," says Pongpet Mekloy, travel editor at the Bangkok Post. "They often visit places most people have never heard of. And when you read their articles, you'd say to yourself: 'okay, that's another place, I'll have to go'".

Joel Quenby, editor of In Residence, jumped at the opportunity to get onboard with Travelfish. "One of the great things about working with Travelfish is the resorts don't know how to handle them -- their writers refuse junkets and pick the places they want to review. The writers slip well under the radar and the resort doesn't know they've been reviewed until they read it in the magazine and it is way too late for spin. Our readers appreciate the value in that."

Travelfish is the website other travel writers turn to.

"Early on, I received an email from one of the most famous of the Southeast Asian travel-guide writers complimenting us on the site -- I was thrilled to receive it, and it showed us even then, when we listed about 50 places to visit, that we were on the right track. Now with over 2,000 accommodation listings across 300 individual destinations -- plus more than 500 restaurant reviews -- we've come to the conclusion that we've created a monster."

Gadling, the blog for engaged travel for adventurers mentions Travelfish - June 24, 2005

Travelers interested in Southeast Asia, in particular Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, will be very interested in this site called Travelfish.

The site has very specific, traveler-written guides to these places, providing information on the best unspoit beaches, the best food, where to go in Laos to find "mist shrouded Lao mountains" and "luxury lodges for a hilltribe trek". In some ways, I actually think the site is better than Lonely Planet, because for each place they actually provide listings and links to their recommendations.

So yes, the site is actually quite good. Well organized, nicely designed and chock full of good information. If you are planning a trip to this region, I urge you to check out Travelfish.

Engaged travel for adventurers

Futuristic online travel guide Travelfish launches with a swish

BANGKOK, July 12: You've just finished a 16-hour train trip and you're trying to find a guesthouse listed in your 1,000-page, doorstop of a guidebook. The guesthouse is not there. You thumb the map again, trudge around the block in the tropical heat and collapse in a heap, muttering and fuming at the useless tome.

Moments of desperation like these are over with today's launch of Travelfish, the online travel guide for independent travellers to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Now you can access accommodation, restaurant and sightseeing information that is completely up-to-the-minute. Browse www.travelfish.org or download your personalised eFish by compiling information on your chosen destinations into one slim, targetted guide to print out or consult online as you travel.

Welcome to the future of independent travel.

Travelfish is a privately-held Australian company producing original travel content to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Aimed at backpackers and independent travellers, Travelfish currently lists more than 1,100 budget guesthouses, hostels and hotels spread across more than 100 destinations in the region. More information is being added weekly.

Membership is free and permits travellers to comment on listings, rate lodgings and download e-Fish.

"No longer will independent travellers have to wait a full guidebook life cycle of one to two years before getting their hands on updated content," says co-founder Stuart McDonald.

"With Travelfish, new information is added or updated on the site -- and in your personal e-Fish -- as soon as one of our field researchers keys it in. No traditional guidebook publisher can compete with that."

Travel information in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand is changing rapidly but Travelfish has a team of roving researchers regularly providing updates while travellers on the road also make contributions. Travelfish researchers cover destinations anonymously and all listings -- good and bad -- are free.

"Travelfish will revolutionise the way independent travellers source their information and stay informed while on the road," says co-founder Samantha Brown.

About Travelfish
Founded in 2003, Travelfish is headquartered in Sydney, Australia, and maintains research hubs in Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Luang Prabang.

For more information, please visit www.travelfish.org.



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