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.

Choson Exchange seeks speakers for North Korea startup festival

A street in Pyongsong, in North Korea

Fed up of Brexit Britain? Ruling out Hong Kong with its protests? Singapore too middle of the road? How about somewhere a little unconventional for your next gig – like North Korea?

A Startup Festival is coming to Pyongsong in North Korea (yes, I’m a little surprised too) in November 16-23, and social enterprise Choson Exchange is looking for applicants to take part in speaking and mentoring roles. I consider myself to be geographically quite astute, especially having lived in Asia for a number of years, but I’d not heard of Pyongsong.

A quick Google search reveals that Pyongsong is an hour north of Pyongyang, with a population of 284,000, making it the size of Derby (and probably just as exciting).

Improbably described as the Silicon Valley of North Korea, or more technically a tech-focused special economic zone, Pyongsong doesn’t appear to have many attractions.

There is the Atomic Energy Research Institute which, at a guess, you probably won’t get to visit unless you’re Dennis Rodman. Pyongsong also offers ‘attractions’ that include a town square, a school and a plastic leather factory.

Choson Exchange has been with entrepreneurs in North Korea for a while, as mentioned previously on this blog (Could you be the Choson one?), so it seems you’re in safe hands.

How to apply

If you have a background in entrepreneurship, marketing, economics or consulting, and wish to contribute to peaceful economic development in North Korea, sign up on the Choson Exchange website (but hurry: the application deadline is 25 August).

As can be expected,  citizens of the US, Japan and South Korea cannot be considered due to restrictions.  If you’re a British citizen, you should probably also read the FCO’s travel advice:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to North Korea (DPRK).

Few British people visit North Korea. Those that do are usually part of an organised tour. If you decide to visit North Korea, follow the advice of your tour group and the local authorities. Failure to do so could put your personal safety at risk.

Offences that would be considered trivial in other countries can incur very severe penalties in North Korea, particularly actions the authorities deem to be disrespectful towards the North Korean leadership or government.

SafetyWing targets digital nomads with a safety net

While in Ho Chi Minh City recently, I became a little sick.

I had the flu and spent a lot of the time looking at the ceiling and talking to my imaginary alter ego (the brain plays weird tricks when you’re running a fever) who was giving me a big task list in my delirious state. I dealt with it by going to the pharmacy and requesting prescription drugs…without a prescription. Not ideal.

It could have been much worse.

I’ve been fairly adventurous reckless over the years, prioritising exciting experiences over personal health and safety. I chose street food over fresh vegetables, for example, and allowed myself far too much exposure to the sun and often terrible air quality.

I thought often about repatriation (when you are flown to your home country in the event of an emergency) – especially while on the heavily trafficked streets of Vietnam – but did nothing about it. I very rarely visited a doctor. But I’m older now, and I believe wiser (though some might disagree).

Remote workers can feel more at ease when bouncing from one country to the next by doing the right thing and taking out insurance.

SafetyWing swoops in

Norwegian startup SafetyWing is targeting digital nomads specifically with  medical and travel insurance, which is which is available to everyone apart from nationals from Iran, Cuba and North Korea. The default length of coverage is 4 weeks (28 days), and helpfully moped/scooter accidents are included…

SafetyWing is not your typical insurance company: the business is staffed by digital nomads working across continents and time zones, so they get it and speak ‘our’ language – quite unlike the suits working for big insurance corporates, who have a very different travel experience. This is reflected on their easy to use website, though I’m not sure what the cartoon characters are about…