I'm a fan of TripAdvisor. I think it's great. I rarely go to a new city, town or country without checking out what their is to do, possible activities or day trips, where to stay and things to avoid. Definitely a routine of mine is to go to TripAdvisor and Wikitravel (and possibly Agoda) for 30 min to an hour and I feel fairly prepared for the adventure ahead. My only issue with it and by no fault of its own, I might be too concerned about reviews, what other people thought, how I'm going to rate it, how great the view is, what the service was like, the location or the value you receive for your money.
Example: I was just in Koh Lanta and was trying to check out Kantiang Bay, heard it is the most beautiful beach on the island so decided to go check it out.
So I jot down two of the top 5 or so restaurants in that area and set out to find them with my friend. Several different beaches that have tons of bungalows, resorts, places to get massages, restaurants and travel agents. Finally get to the beach, don't see any of the two restaurants, go a bit further, come back to the area, passing by plenty of other resorts, look out points and places to grab a quick drink or some food but discouraged by the fact that I can't find them. So we don't end up eating or drinking anywhere there. I was somehow reluctant to go to a place I have never heard of because of another place that MIGHT be better for very subjective reasons. What if I eat somewhere and the restaurant was 1 min further ahead? HOW WOULD I FEEL!!!Furthermore, there was another restaurant that I found online that was suppose to be one of the better ones on the beach that I was staying at, spent a good 20 minutes looking for it and felt defeated that I couldn't find this one restaurant that may or may not have been good. On my mini van ride back to Nakhon we drove by it, no chance I was finding that place.
I was reflecting on this while I was eating at a mildly fancy, good vibe restaurant called the Fat Monkey. It was sort of getting late here and a bunch of restaurants start to close early because it is low season till November so I left my guesthouse, drove to the restaurant district, drizzling out so wanted to find a place fast, saw the looks of this place and could not be bothered looking anywhere else. It was great, nice people, good price, different options, would for sure go back. This is what I should have done searching for these phantom restaurants on Kantiang Bay. I think TripAdvisor should be used for many different things: making sure you stay at a safe and affordable hotel/hostel/guesthouse, making sure you don't miss out on any great attractions, tours or points of interest in a city or just giving you a better idea if that city/country is worth visiting. I don't think it should be used the way I did by being trigger shy about eating or drinking at a place that hasn't been reviewed by x amount of complete strangers. Some of these restaurants can't even be found on TripAdvisor, but it doesn't mean that don't make a crazy good Masaman curry or cashew nut chicken. I hope the lesson I learned from this is have a few restaurants in mind and areas to see, but just go with the flow and if you don't find it right away, or at all, just go with your instinct, pull up a chair and relax, it will be fine. Promise. And if it isn't, just give it a negative review on TripAdvisor. Now if you will excuse me, the world needs to know what I think of The Fat Monkey Restaurant in Koh Lanta. Good evening.