Most beautiful cities announced by Flight Network

Boats in Cape Town

When you think of the world’s most beautiful cities, which spring to mind? It was a question I was asked recently, along with other bloggers, by online travel agency Flight Network. As a reasonably well-travelled person, I was only too happy to nominate a few.

It’s a tough question, more than anything because even the most aesthetically pleasing cities have their gritty side once you’ve stripped away the Instagram-friendly UNESCO heritage.

The resulting World’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities judged by the online travel community contains few surprises, with many of the world’s most visited included in the top 10:

  1. Paris
  2. New York
  3. London
  4. Venice
  5. Vancouver
  6. Barcelona
  7. Cape Town
  8. San Francisco
  9. Sydney
  10. Rome

What is a little surprising is that the list is so Western-centric. Paris is up there in the top 10, but Kyoto is not. New York is second, but Shanghai is nowhere to be seen.

Other inclusions also look suspect: Bangkok is more beautiful than Chiang Mai, which might raise eyebrows in Thailand. Why is Singapore seen as the most beautiful city in Asia? Seriously?

Maybe my fellow bloggers haven’t been out much, but let’s not take this too seriously. You can see one of my nominated cities (admittedly in Europe) – Barcelona – ranked 6th, which I can’t really argue with.

With great power comes great responsibility

Himalayas at dusk

I love Wikipedia, for all sorts of reasons. I love waking up and discovering that I had been looking at random entries like “deepest hole in the world” just before falling asleep the night before. It’s a treasure trove of delights, like this page on tennis’ Big Four I presently have open on another tab.

I also love The North Face. I’m even wearing their shoes now right now as I type these words, a striking yellow pair that has taken me up Makalu Sunset Peak in Hong Kong…and down again. So it’s a pity to see the avalanche of negative opinion after the company’s Wikipedia page was edited by an agency for SEO reasons (insert pun here on climbing up search rankings).

Was it a brazen attempt at marketing? The North Face is respected for its adventurous sportswear. That’s not for me to say, but it appears that events behind the scenes were more than a little convoluted.

What is undoubtedly true is that there are very clear rules around working with Wikipedia, which are repeated on the CIPR website for PR professionals.

A quick Google search will reveal that other agencies have found themselves in similar hot water over Wikipedia in the past. The Wikipedia question also came up in client projects I’d worked on in recent years.

At the end of the day, it’s a question of ethics. Editing Wikipedia is a doddle, far easier than, say, scampering up Lhotse. Anyone can do it, anywhere in the world. I can do it sitting on a beach in the Philippines with the waves massaging my feet.  But with greater power comes great responsibility.

We must do the right thing, always.

Eid Mubarak / Selamat Hari Raya

Eid greeting

Wishing everyone celebrating a very happy Eid.

I have sweet memories of Ramadan’s closure in countries as diverse as Iraq and Malaysia. While not generally observed in Vietnam, I will be celebrating in spirit (business as usual, alas).

Oh, and drive safely.