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A pat on the backpack for travel guide creators

A screen grab taken from the new travel guide application in use on an iPhone shows tourists at Angkor Wat.

Developers of a new application for the Apple iPhone say the travel guide will soon prove an essential tool for visitors exploring Cambodia’s tourist attractions

THE famous Angkor Wat ruins is expected to feature soon in what is touted asCambodia’s first dedicated iPhone application.

The app, named Angkor after the 11th-century temple, was developed by Australian-owned online travel site Travelfish. The phone-based guide focuses on the Kingdom’s famous Angkor-era ruins and Siem Reap.

Currently undergoing the approval process by Apple, the app is the next step for the company, which has been selling PDF guides to Siem Reap for the past three years with much success.

Travelfish, which produces original content on Southeast Asian destinations such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, partnered with a South Africa-based development team to begin work on the project in September.

Stuart McDonald, the site’s co-founder, said he was confident travellers would find the program an essential tool when exploring Cambodia.

“A lot of the cheap apps in the App Store are just repurposed content from Wikipedia or Wikitravel,” McDonald said. “We believe our coverage is substantially better than that.”

He said firsthand knowledge from a Cambodia-based expat was used to gather the app’s information, with more than 40,000 extra words of content compared with the Travelfish online guide.

“We prefer to use researchers who live in-country rather than having people parachute in for short, speedy trips through the country,” he said.

The digital guidebook also includes coverage of villages on Tonle Sap Lake and other non-temple attractions.

The Angkor app doesn’t have a search engine. Instead, users flick through each section using iPhone’s swipe technology, which is more like reading a book than surfing the Net.

While Siem Reap has a couple of hundred hotels to choose from, Travelfish has listed only what it believes to be the town’s 40 best options across a range of budgets.

Each place is accompanied by a photo, so you know what you’re getting yourself into before you rock up laden with a 30kg backpack.

And with links to sites like Agoda and Hostelworld, you can pre-book a bed and bypass hours of traipsing up and down the streets, looking for a bargain.

Around a dozen beta testers trialled the app and, according to McDonald, have given resoundingly positive feedback. When asked to compare Travelfish’s Angkor with another guide from a different publisher, each one said Angkor won out as the easiest to find hotels, places to eat and must-have travel advice.

Angkor is just the beginning of Travelfish’s app aspirations. The company has three dozen others in the pipeline and plans to release one per month from early 2010. Initially focusing on Cambodia and Vietnam, it plans to include other Asian tourist hotspots such as Laos and Singapore.

Travelfish hopes to see its Angkor app released before Christmas, saying it will retail for under US$10, and those who register with Travelfish will receive a copy of the site’s PDF guide to Phnom Penh.

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