AI, travel planning, and dreaming of islands in Indonesia

[News: 10 May 2023] Air travel in Sumatra, the largest islands in Southeast Asia, Penang LRT gets funding, delays for Bangkok's Pink and Yellow lines, and the Hanoi metro is making money

Hello from Hua Hin. I’m here for a month to spend time on projects that I don’t look at when I am moving about. This month I started looking into AI, and to see if it could be helpful in my research. For example, I wanted a list of the largest islands in Thailand. I got the list back but it didn’t look right. I asked chatgpt again:

I only know a few island sizes by memory, but I knew this was off. Way off! Unfortunately there will be other sites that just copy and paste this information, adding to more misinformation for AI to feed on.

I’m starting to see people using AI for travel planning as well, even though it is producing misinformation. I asked about information about Hoi An, which has probably more written about than any travel destination in Vietnam, and the answer was generic filler content.

I could see how business travellers would use it if they are just booking hotels near meetings, but I want to research where I am going.

This week’s articles also reinforced that I need to do the research myself and not outsource. For example, the subscriber article of this week is about the air routes within Sumatra. I could have hired someone to make a list of air routes, but now that I have gone through all the airports I have a better understanding of the air travel market in Sumatra.

I want to be a human encyclopedia on transport and urban development in Southeast Asia, so I must do these tasks myself.

It also helps that I like travel planning, which is why I will never let AI do my planning.

After writing about Sumatra I was curious about the other big islands of Southeast Asia, so I made a list. This is normally something you would find on Wikipedia, but there was no such list.

Same again, I compiled the list personally, and now I have a better understanding of the islands of Southeast Asia. I even made a Google Map and pinned every island, giving me a better geographical understanding of the region.

The Google Map project also made me want to travel to these lesser-known islands. Have a look at the shape of Peleng, the 40th largest island in Southeast Asia. This is under the “arm” of my favourite-shaped island (Sulawesi). Now I have a new list of islands that I want to visit.

Dispatches from Southeast Asia

When I was researching a trip to Sumatra I discovered that there are only a few intraisland flights. I made a map of the five largest cities:

Medan (KNO)

Palembang (PLM)

Bandar Lampung (TKG)

Pekanbaru (PKU)

Padang (PDG)

I also included Banda Aceh (BTJ) to include the northernmost major city. This is the map of flights between major cities

This article covers Sumatra's lack of intraisland flights, connections to Jakarta and Southeast Asia, and how future railways could replace air travel in Sumatra.

Latest posts at Future Southeast Asia

I’ve started a fact sheet for islands of Southeast Asia. I was curious about the largest islands in Southeast Asia, and the largest islands of each country, so I made a table


🇧🇳 Brunei

“Project constitutes integrated Sungai Paku waste management and Sungai Akar engineered landfill project.”

🇰🇭 Cambodia

🇮🇩 Indonesia

🇱🇦 Laos

”Lao Airlines will operate a new flight route between Vientiane and Xamneua three times a week, following the opening of Nongkhang airport in Huaphan province after many years of delay during the course of construction.”

🇲🇾 Malaysia

"Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says the Penang South Islands project will be scaled down, having listened to the grouses of locals and fishermen affected."

“Project in interests of corporations over the interests of the local community.”

🇲🇲 Myanmar

🇵🇭 Philippines

🇸🇬 Singapore

🇹🇭 Thailand

“The Yellow and Pink lines of MRT electric trains are currently under system testing and will not open for public use until June of next year”.

“Air travel returning to pre-covid levels.”

🇹🇱 Timor-Leste

“With a December admission to the bloc "in principle", the country remains on a gradual path to accession. But as Timor-Leste inches closer to this goal, steep challenges remain on both sides of the relationship.”

🇻🇳 Vietnam

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