Travelfish.org was launched in 2004 to help travellers to our favourite parts of Southeast Asia get the most out of their trips to the region, as well as to help off-the-radar places gain a little more exposure to the world. Our objective today pretty much remains the same, only with a few more countries added to our coverage.
Travelfish.org is an Australian company founded by former hard-copy guidebook writer Stuart McDonald and journalist/editor Samantha Brown. The couple have been based in various countries in Southeast Asia since 1997. They anxiously wait for their children to grow old enough to join the roving research team that assists them in nutting out the best places to stay, eat and see in Southeast Asia.
Sam and Stuart came up with the idea that transformed into Travelfish.org over a lazy weekend on Ko Maak in Eastern Thailand, 1998. At the time, Sam could write a bit, Stuart could code a bit and they both always packed a hammock.
Samantha backpacked around Southeast Asia in 1997-98 and loved it so much she settled in Thailand. There she worked stints at an embassy, newspaper and international news agency, longing for more backpacking holidays like the old days. Her top beach read is How Proust Can Change Your Life, she always forgets to pack flashlights and soap when travelling, and she wishes she didn't get ill reading in moving cars because she could use that time to read.
After backpacking around Southeast Asia, Stuart settled in Thailand too, working as an underpaid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer and a newspaper website developer. Before all those non-travel jobs he co-authored two travel guides, one to Vietnam and one to Thailand. He still spends a lot of time travelling and can sleep anywhere, anytime—even on the road to Bokor. Turns out he has narcolepsy! His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals. ... read more about Cindy Fan
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea. .. read more about David Luekens
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples. ... read more about Nicky Sullivan
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left. ... read more about Lana Willocks
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for more than two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s. ... read more about Mark Ord
Travelfish.org is not your average travel guide website, oh no! Consider the following:
1) All accommodation listings on Travelfish.org have been visited by Stuart, Samantha or one of our paid researchers in person.
2) We follow a strict no freebies policy. This means we accept no free trips or junkets from anybody, including tourist authorities. Unlike many publishers and websites, we do not accept free accommodation for any kind of coverage—positive or negative. We don’t even accept discounted accommodation. The only thing we’ve ever accepted were a few guidebooks for free to review—and believe us when we say we won’t be making that mistake again.
3) When we’re checking out places—guesthouses, hotels, national parks or karaoke bars—we try to do so on an anonymous basis. Sometimes people know us because we have lived and travelled in the region for 20 years—and some of our researchers are also long-time Southeast Asian residents—but we do not announce to those whom we don’t know that we are reviewing them for Travelfish.org. Generally we try to pretend we are a potential guest, or somebody looking for a room for a friend or relative. Where possible we’ll inspect at least a couple of rooms. Sometimes people are suspicious and our cover is blown, but this is rare. The rates you see on Travelfish are what the desk staff told us they were or what was in the brochure when they just told us to quit bugging them and look in the brochure.
4) We list all sorts of places to stay—not just those that can be booked online. No phone number? It doesn’t matter, we’ll still review a property if we think it’s worth it. After all, the bulk of travellers just show up anyway, and there are just so many wonderful places in Southeast Asia to stay that aren’t really on the grid. We don’t accept copy from hotels or guesthouses, so you’ll be reading no spin on Travelfish.org.
5) Places are listed free of charge. In fact, many probably don’t even know they’re listed. Working this way, we help small, often family-owned businesses, including many in remote areas, to get the type of exposure online they may never have considered possible.
6) Over the past few years, we’ve written over 8,000 independent and totally original reviews of guesthouses, hotels and resorts in Southeast Asia (not all are still running and online). It remains the largest collection of online original content for this region.
If you’re an independent traveller planning a holiday in Southeast Asia, Travelfish.org is quite simply the most comprehensive resource available online.