Travelfish #411: Best keep secrets can stay secret


Hi all,

Late again—sorry!

In case you missed it in all the other madness going on, we published our latest long read. The story is by a Malaysia–based author on the UNESCO Heritage site in Lenggong, Perak State. Our long reads are entirely funded by Travelfish supporters—thank you!

On pay to read Couchfish, I’m still in Vietnam’s Delta. I had an odd encounter in Soc Trang, did a bit of sightseeing in Tra Vinh, rode to nowhere in Ba Dong, chilled out at a homestay in Ben Tre and had a room with snakes on An Binh.

On free to read Couchfish I wrote about why I decided to stop diving.

As always, the photos in today’s newsletter are all from the last week of Couchfish issues.

Was a quiet week on David’s Thai Island Times, but if you are up for an old post, this one on Ko Rawi and Hin Ngam is a great read.

Good travels


Best keep secrets can stay secret

Cleaning house—what else is there to do in these no–travelling times—a 2009 issue of Travel and Leisure appeared. In it was a story I had written about Thailand’s best kept secrets.

So much of a secret in fact that I’d forgotten I’d even written the story.

Anyways, I flipped through to see what I thought were Thailand’s best kept secret islands back in 2009.

Here’s the list: Ko Adang, Ko Lao Liang, Ko Rok, Ko Jum, Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao Yai, Ko Phra Thong, Ko Kho Khao, Ko Chang Noi, Ko Taen and Ko Wai.

Of those eleven islands, I’d say that Ko Yao Noi is the only only that has slipped onto the mainstream tourism radar. This thanks in part to the profile–raising and luxurious Six Senses property. Ko Jum, Ko Yao Yai and Ko Khao Kho all have more places to stay than in 2009, but none have exploded like say Ko Lipe.

Others, like Adang, Lao Liang and Rok are in national parks, which, in theory gives them a degree of protection. Perhaps Thailand needs more marine national parks?

Pre–Covid19, Thailand received plenty of flack for overtourism. It is worth pointing out, this overtourism was specific to a few very high–profile locations. In much of the rest of the country, at least in an island context, things have rolled on slowly.

Thailand has a lot more islands than many people realise. Sure, the popular ones are popular for a reason, but it can be worth broadening your range a little. If you want to do that, David’s Thai Island Times is an essential addition to your newsletter feed. It is free too!

Sometimes it can be worth picking up an old travel mag (or guidebook) and seeing what you can find—every island is worth a night!

Good travels


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Ten things worth reading

Inside the world's most golden hotel


Stuck in Vietnam a stroke of luck

“Bouter said it was ‘pretty easy’ to live in Vietnam despite its traffic and pollution problems. He said Vietnamese people are more relaxed than their brethren elsewhere.”

Pandemic season in Vietnam: Pre-covid, lock-down, post-virus

“In late January, when the virus broke in Vietnam, few observers would have predicted a record like this. Needless to say, I feel very fortunate to have spent ‘pandemic season’ here.” This one is a great long read.

Pandemic respite for Thai ‘sea gypsies’ threatened by mass tourism

“Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, says the government ‘must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay’.”

What the Plain of Jars in Laos tells us about disaster risk management in the era of coronavirus

“Instead of the expected boom, tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors. As part of a nationwide shutdown, Plain of Jars sites were closed from March to May, with no visitors or outside activities allowed. Since then, the sites have resumed full operations, but visitor numbers are down 70% from last year since the country is still closed to outside visitors.”

Fires and Covid-19: A disaster duo in Indonesia

“Addressing forest and peatland fires is in Jokowi’s best interest politically, not just for the environmental and health pressures, but the strains it puts on relations with neighbours Malaysia and Singapore.”

Singapore hostels cling to Malaysian guests for survival

“They would also be the last to be filled up, she said, as they have shared facilities which many people would avoid amid a pandemic.”

Thai businesses call for travel bubbles even as local tourism surges

“Yuthasak said by the end of this year, some 6.7 million foreigners would have visited Thailand, or just 17% of a record 39.8 million last year.”

These shrimp leave the safety of water and walk on land. But why?

These shrimp risk being krilled by spiders and are too shellfish to share why they march. Sorry for the Dad joke.

Sumatra’s deforestation demystified

“But if the right measures are taken, such as new trade agreement measures, stricter local legislation, and a focus on eradicating corruption, Sumatra’s vast rainforests – and the incredibly diverse wildlife that depends on them—can be protected from escalating harm.”

Something to read

In the Time of Madness

“In the Time of Madness is arguably the most compelling book written about Indonesia in the late 20th century. British correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry brings the roiling turmoil of the era to life with his snappy but sensitive reportage.”

Photo of the week

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Travel light!

Stuart & the Travelfish team