Photo: A walk in the fields near Tetebatu, Lombok.

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Posted by eastwest on 28/8/2012 at 08:29

So this is it. My last post and start of a self imposed exile. Coincidence has it that this will be my 700th post.

I haven't posted for a while now after a few years of contributing.
The reason? I don't agree anymore with many things here.

- In my opinion travelfish started of well (at least since I "discovered" it) but for me it has lost its relevance. The listings in several sections haven't been updated for years (3 and counting for some areas). This I find unacceptable for a travel website. Even the old fashioned guide books are more up-to-date than this website. Seriously, I can't take a website serious that doesn't look after its core reason of existence.

- It seems that this site has now evolved about blogs and the forum. The first are sometimes fun to read but that's about it. The latter is being spoiled by some hardcore posters (I won't name names) enjoying debating many topics other than travelling. While I have taken part in some it seems to me that this needs to be cut back.

- I'm not a (budget) backpacker. I still have the interest to experience culture, food and many things SE asia has to offer but the focus on "cheap" here is not for me. Countless reviews articles can be found on streetfood but as a serious foodie it pains me to see comments and sneers about better establishments and prices. I do not get the feeling that any reviewer has any background in cooking. "Cheap = good" here. Not only is that unfair to many businesses. It's also unfair to the traveler who might miss out on something different. That old backpacker "better than the other tourist" seems to be enhanced here and not getting less.

I'm sure I won't be missed, just the same as I discovered that I didn't miss travelfish. People (and websites) move on and grow apart. No hard feelings from my side.

It's been enjoyable and sometimes even fun and I wish everyone the best here

#1 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by exacto on 28/8/2012 at 09:16

I'll miss you. Given your background in banking, I particularly appreciate your insights on money and finance questions, as well as your on-the-ground perspective on Cambodia and other places. I'm sorry to see you go.

In my travels through southeast Asia I've come across the researchers from more than one of the hard copy, old-fashioned guidebooks. While those books may be reprinted every year or two, I know from conversations with those researchers that not every listing gets updated with every new edition, and that the researchers themselves have very little time to cover all the places they are supposed to visit. Guidebooks are exactly that - a guide to point you in the right direction. Figuring out the details is the biggest part of the adventure and a lot of the fun, at least for me.

No place is perfect and I think Travelfish has its weaknesses. I nearly stopped dropping by a few years ago over concerns about hyper-aggressive posters too. But even with the blemishes, we have a lot of fun here and some of my friends are people I've met here.

Best wishes.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,660
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Posted by MADMAC on 28/8/2012 at 10:36

Me too. Sorry you're leaving - although I too am cutting back. Wish you the best in the future.

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by daawgon on 28/8/2012 at 11:34

I agree that a few things on TF are in dire need of updating, but I also know that the founders of this site are more than willing to accept criticism and make changes. Have you approached them with your suggestions? As to this forum, I feel that any public forum has to be "open" to all viewpoints. I can feel for your foodie thoughts, as I too am a perfectionist in many areas. You have to remember that the youth are more attracted to this site because of it's casual approach, and sometimes I feel the same way.

Travelfish is still the best site for SE Asian information, and I feel it's improving in several areas.

#4 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,114

Posted by somtam2000 on 28/8/2012 at 18:05 admin

Hey Eastwest,

Before anything else, obviously am sorry to hear about the self-imposed exile.

I'll quickly go through your points and then (hopefully without sounding too defensive!) explain where we're going with each. I'd actually planned on doing a post explaining all of the following, but, well, just haven't had time -- things have been kinda busy.

On stuff being out of date
I agree. Some sections are badly (nay, woefully) out of date. I can't say more regarding this other than we are working on it and it is sometimes very challenging to find reliable writers!

On the forum/blog evolution
The forum has always been the most popular part of the site as a whole. As I'm sure you can imagine taking a balanced hand at moderation and keeping things under control (and polite!) can be a challenge at times. Regarding the blogging, we've made a deliberate effort to push the blogs. More on that below.

Focus on cheap
I'm not really seeing that -- if anything we receive more complaints from people saying we've shifted up-market! We're trying to focus primarily on flashpackers, then backpackers then the mid market. We're flashpackers at heart.

On being missed
If I wasn't going to miss you I wouldn't be writing this before my morning coffee!

A bit of history
Travelfish has been around a little over eight years. For the first few years, I did almost all of the research. Over time, as the site grew, and particularly once I had kids, it wasn't practical/desirable to be on the road continually. So, we started employing writers who would travel to and update sections of the site. The plan was that every place we covered would be updated roughly once a year, but, as you rightly point out, that hasn't always been the case. Some places have been updated more frequently -- others far less (I think the worst is about 7 years).

The main failing with this approach is that I'd send a writer to X, they'd be there for a few days or weeks and would leave so we'd end up with a snapshot of the place, that would be untouched till they next returned.

To address this problem, we've employed a bunch of writers -- 16 in all -- who write for us every week -- in most cases twice a week. Overall this is over 100 new stories a month -- more new travel information than we have ever published before. Their work forms the backbone of the blogs and these writing is then rewritten in a shorter format into the destination guide.

You can see the latest stream of blog entries here

And just regarding your culture food query, I'd point you to a few entries which I hope will illustrate the direction some of the blogs can take. As without the blogs, most of this kind of material would never have made it onto the site.

Lucky Pho

Old TakuaPa market

Thonburi culture behind Wat ARun

Baan Lao flute making

This rewriting and repopulating of the destination guide started three weeks ago (when we took on our first full time employee). So things will take a while to get up to speed.

So I guess what I'm saying is that yes, I agree with you and many of your concerns are absolutely warranted, but we're not ignoring them -- we are working to try and address them. Unfortunately it's simply not editorally possible/ cost practical to update everywhere all the time. We now have writers in: Bali, Bandung, Singapore, Langkawi, Ko Samui, Bangkok(2), Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Saigon, Hoi An, & Hanoi + two more cities that I can't announce just yet.

So how about rather than a self-imposed exile, you opt for a self-imposed sabbatical and drop by in a month or so and see how we're doing?

If not, glad to hear you found the site useful in the past.

Cheers & good travels


#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 06:05

I, along with a Thai buddy of mine, am probably going to ride north from Muk either the end of October or sometime in November. If I do, I'll take some notes and give you some updates.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somtam2000 on 29/8/2012 at 20:33 admin

Hey Madmac,

That would be great -- thanks. Have just received a big update on Ubon Ratchathani which will be coming onto the site in the coming weeks -- had forgotten how good the food is out there.

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 21:58

There's an iItalian restaraunt out there I love. Wonder if he including it. Just up the street from the Laitong (sp?) hotel. My wife and I always eat there when we go there. Our last dinner there was really great.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somtam2000 on 29/8/2012 at 22:05 admin

Spago? If so she got it...

#9 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 22:08

I think there's only one - so that must be it. I don't remmeber the name. Great place though. not much to look at, but fantastic food, good wine... Wife and I had a really romantic dinner there.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by sayadian on 30/8/2012 at 02:32

I'd like to take issue with one of your bloggers.The piece on lakeside, Phnom Penh by Abigail.
She states:
'.....but the tourist businesses have closed down or moved on.'

Well, she obviously hasn't been there in awhile because the Number 10 guesthouse is still going and so is the wonderful, friendly GreenWall restaurant which specialises in pizzas and Italian food at rock bottom prices and there are other businesses still up and running. The owners of these establishments are struggling as it is without getting written off by lazy journalism. Perhaps a correction might be in order.

#11 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by somtam2000 on 30/8/2012 at 05:18 admin

Hi Sayadian,

Have alerted Abigail to your comment and I'm sure she'll post back once she finishes travelling.


#12 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 31/8/2012 at 00:28 TF writer

Hi Sayadian

There was an all important 'most' missing from my article, which I've now rectified.

My intention when writing was to help people who used to visit lakeside find their favourite businesses which are now in the wider city. I've had a few people wondering where Phiron was now (Dolce Vita) or whatever happened to Oh My Buddha. The fact is, most businesses have moved out or, sadly, just closed down. For the ones who are still there, I wish them all the best.

Most visitors to PP don't go to lakeside now - it's not the attractive, quirky place that we spend so many happy days and messy nights in. And that won't change. There's no lake any more. Having spoken with travellers who turned up there this year, on the back of out of date recommendations, they were disappointed/confused. If it's your first time at lakeside, there are no pleasant memories to fill in the gaps in the rubble.

For that reason, I don't recommend lakeside to visitors. I don't discourage them either, but if asked for my opinion, I mention the history of the development and add a few caveats. When I recently visited, I felt the atmosphere had changed, especially at night (I'm not just talking about the slight edginess that lakeside always had in the wee hours).

Please feel free to comment on my post and mention the businesses at lakeside that you favour. I wasn't intending to make business harder for those guys - the repos, bulldozers and sand suppliers have already done that and I'd hate to be lumped in with them.

#13 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179

Posted by sayadian on 31/8/2012 at 02:23

I quite understand what you are describing of Lakeside now and fully concur. I just felt a sense of deep exasperation, which you can probably feel in my post, that family businesses were being given the coup de grace by your omission.
Lakeside now is an ugly and intimidating place yet visitors do come just to get a feel of what the place once was.
All the longterm expats have moved out now (with the exception of one) so it is a sad place for me.
BKM was the last business to close it's doors but Green Wall is soldiering on and offers great food and free wi-fi.
The one bright spot is that any businesses that can hang on may (but this is Cambodia) benefit from the new access road which is supposed to be built but at the moment the whole project seems to be in a state of stasis due to the world recession.
BTW you didn't mention the 'New Lakeside' AKA Street 258. Although I can't say I'm very impressed with it.

#14 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 2/9/2012 at 09:49 TF writer

The area around St 19 and St 172 is probably the most rapidly developing with an eye on backpackers at the moment. Guesthouses that have been there for a while are expanding or improving their restaurant areas, and several new cafes and travel agents have opened up.

St 258 is probably quieter, likely due to location. Often pop into the Gekko for lunch - handy if you are the Naga end of town.

#15 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179

Posted by sayadian on 2/9/2012 at 23:16

I agree,I think it was a bad move.A bit out of the way.I'm in the Greenwall now.I hope they can keep going- It's a very friendly,family run business. I very rarely get down to Naga end,last time was the Russuan Embassy.There's a Thai restaurant set in s delightful garden called Boat Noodle just around the corner from that Phnom Penh 'tourist attraction sometimes referred to as The White Building.

#16 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by sayadian on 2/9/2012 at 23:31

Sorry about the typos my Android doesn't like the edit feature

#17 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

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