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Staying in touch

UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 3 January 2010 | Views [1215]

About a year ago I bought a netbook, a handy sized laptop which I though would be ideal to take travelling, for connecting to the net and writing articles on. I took it on a few weekend trips but didn’t use it much and often found that the wifi zones in cafes didn’t always work that well.

When I planned my last trip, three months in South East Asia, I deliberated hard whether to take my netbook with me. What if it got wet, got dropped or worst of all – got stolen? I also had images of myself sitting alone typing away in my hotel room, when I could be in the more sociable environment of an internet café.

Tony Wheeler the founder of Lonely Planet once wrote that internet cafes had taken over from Poste Restante offices as places to meet people and to some extent he was right. When travelling through South America I had some very pleasant encounters in net cafes, many of them were very pleasant and far as writing was concerned – productive places to hang out.

So I decided to leave my netbook at home, which was kind of ironic as I had bought it with just this sort of trip in mind.

I realized my mistake within a few hours of stepping off the plane, looking for my room in the hostel in Kuala Lumpur I came across a couple of girls sitting in the corridor tapping away on their laptops as the wifi signal was better than in the rooms. I soon discovered that many hotels and hostels have wifi as a matter of course, and now the place to hang out is the hotel lobby or the communal areas, as they have better coverage. Add in cafes and there are an awful lot places where you can now get online. In a couple of places every customer seemed to have a laptop or netbook which made me realize that quite a high percentage of travellers now carry one.

Added to this, as Asians are more likely to be wired, places to log on outside tourist towns could often be difficult to find and as they often double as the owner family’s front room, one often had to share the space with a couple of shrieking kids; either that or the local truants playing loud shoot ‘em up games.  Logging on could also be quite expensive, particularly on the islands.

Interestingly, using ‘personal’ computers often seems to be quite a communal activity, if people are looking at a vid or a notable web page and are talking about it, they usually don’t mind if you have a peek and give your opinion. Netbooks/laptops and wifi are the new means, not only of staying touch with the outside world, but of getting talking to other travellers.

The hotel lobby/corridor is now the place to be and I will certainly be carrying my netbook on future trips.


Tags: hostels, hotels, internet, laptops, netbooks, observations, wifi

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