Sunday, January 02, 2005

already breaking promises and tsunamiblogging

Can't help it. The Indian Ocean disaster isn't going to go away. I can't ignore this.

1. This article says the US government ramped up its aid to $350 million (with a promise for more as needed), and that Japan's now up to a whopping $500 million. Personal donations from all over the world are pouring in. How much has the Chinese government pledged at this point? Anyone got the info?

2. Richard links to a must-read New York Times article that puts the disaster in perspective (you might have to log in to read it). It's a blow-by-blow account of the disaster from multiple vantages-- the scientists, the politicians, and the people most affected by the disaster.

3. I got curious about whether certain popular travel guides have changed their information on Phuket as a getaway spot. Here's what a quick survey reveals:

a. The Frommer's guide has a search window on its main page. I typed "phuket" and got a listing of articles. I clicked the link for the "main destination page" for Phuket, and saw the following heading:

News & Highlights
What's New: An Online Update for Frommer's Thailand
"Change is the only constant," or so say Thai Buddhists, and change is coming in fits and starts to old Siam.

Sounded promising. Maybe this was their way of intro'ing the disaster. So I clicked the link and saw... the article dated to January 2004. It contained a frank account of Thailand's political situation, but nothing about the disaster. I went back to the search engine and typed "tsunami" in there. This embarrassing list is the result. Are people at Frommer's fucking asleep? What the hell sort of travel guide doesn't give updates on travel conditions?

b. So I went to Lonely Planet Online next, and saw they were on the ball: their splash page has news links about the disaster, as well as links for people interested in donating money. Way to go, Brits! My respect for the Lonely Planet folks has gone up a bit. Normally, they're not my favorite producer of guides.

c. Surely the Fodor's guide would be au courant? Alas, no. Nothing on the front page. But, wait-- if you type "phuket" into the search window, you can find entries about the disaster in the "Travel Talk Forum," so all is not lost. A quick read through one of the threads produced a sickening feeling. As you read the messages you can witness, in microcosm, the dawning horror felt around the world as message board contributors began to realize the magnitude of the situation.

d. And how about the Michelin Thailand guide? As it turns out, they're asleep at the switch, too. Take a look at this. The sidebar has a link to a "hotel finder." I clicked the Phuket link and got this. Apparently, everything's perfectly OK in Phuket.

I suppose I should cut these websites some slack, but then again, it's been over a fucking week since the disaster occurred. How long does it take to publish prominent updates about travel destinations?

More on this later. I'm a teetotaler, but I think, for the first time in my life, I need a drink.


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