My plan for this trip to Thailand was based on a somewhat corny vision: I wanted to climb a limestone cliff with my bare hands and look out at the ocean below, while pursuing a mind empty of stray thoughts. That meant I had three basic questions: Where can I find rock climbing in Thailand? What kind of people go there? And where can I stay? On all three questions, Wikitravel failed to deliverÃ¢â‚¬â€in part because it’s still new but also because, ironically, Wikitravel fails to capitalize on the full potential of the Web.
Things go wrong because some of the central tenants of Wikipedia (and associated sites like WikiTravel) are neutrality and fairness. That’s exactly what I don’t want in my guide book or travel writer. I want to read an opinion on the best destinations, attractions and restaurants, not a consensus. WikiTravel apparently has nice things to say about all destinations, in the interest of fairness and neutrality.
This is why it’s such a joy to read travel writers like Bill Bryson of Bruce Chatwin, and why National Geographic Traveller magazine has pretty pictures, but is totally soulless.
In fact, Wu’s serious problems appear when he tries to choose a place to stay. Apparently, “it’s no fun visiting and ranking dozens of grimy hostels and boring hotels, especially when you’re on vacation.” I just checked the WikiTravel entry for Malta, and there are no accommodations listed at all. Clearly, WikiTravel needs more attention.
Thanks to Trey Ratcliff for the photo.
UPDATE: As per the comments, the accommodation listings aren’t associated with the main country page, but are linked off of each individual city page. For example, here’s where you would find lodgings in Malta’s main city of Valletta (listings are pretty slim there, anyway). That’s partially my bad, but seeing as both Tim Wu and I made the same mistake, there may be a usability issue there as well.