Delightful SE Asia – Surfer’s Tales
A) Khon Khaen, NE-Thailand
I check my AOL account in the internet shop opposite the Charoen Thani hotel. Funny, I can't sign out. When I click "sign out", the page with my new e-mails comes back. Even after restarting the PC, logging into aol.com brings my inbox right back – no password needed. I check other computers in this shop, and they proudly present my AOL inbox, too. I never had this problem before, not even in this same shop before. My Yahoo account doesn't show this behaviour either.
Now this AOL address I use for friends and some business, I don't want everybody to look into it. But what can I do?
I talk to the service, and they try to remove my open AOL account from the server. After lengthy phone talks and some clicking they assure me that everything is now ok. I try on several PCs – and my inbox is there again, everybody can read and write with my name. Now they tell me this has to to do with their proxy server. They assure me that after turning the server off and on again, nobody can access the account any more. And they will do so tonight, because right now they have three customers who need constant access. It is eleven in the morning, and the internet shop just told me anybody who types "aol.com" into the Internet Explorer will be able to use my email account until some time at night.
Should I buy – or bomb – the shop instantly? To protect my privacy and my business, I delete all received and written mails from the AOL account. The more hidden list with "recently deleted mails" remains accessible though, it cannot be removed. The shop charges me full time – including the 60 minutes I just watched them trying to remove my AOL inbox from their server. I switch into cynical mode and pay with a smile. Later that day I come back and type "aol.com" into the computer. The server still wants to dish up my personal AOL inbox. But now the AOL server has ended the session due to lengthy inactivity, the password is required again. Should I sign in?
B) Sihanoukville, Cambodia
"Yahoo very slow today", the service boy says as I walk into the internet shop opposite Marlin hotel. "Not only Yahoo too slow", some customers moan from behind their monitors – "everything too slow!" I try to open Yahoo anyway. The status bar changes at a snail's speed, the bytes trickle in way too slow.
The service guy who just excused for the lame connection now sits down at the terminal besides me. As I see, he is busy downloading some huge MP3 files. All computers in this shop are connected to one modem.
C) Saigon, S-Vietnam
I had promised my customer back home to check the layouts for his new corporate identity brochures whilst traveling in Vietnam. I know today he will mail me some feisty PDF files. At the "7 Brothers Internet" shop on touristy Pha Ngum Lao street, I open my inbox – and yes, there are five PDFs, totalling 38 megabytes. I start downloading the first fat piece of nine megabytes and think, after downloading and checking the first file I will ask the service to download the other brochures for me.
The Acrobat file arrives in super slow motion. Status bar is making almost no progress. This is just an analog connection, five or seven tourists including me are surfing through just one telephone line. After about 20 minutes, only two megabytes made it down to Saigon. Looks like I have to wait hours for just fi –
Suddenly, all monitors in the shop turn black. I jump to the street, and I see confused customers in front of other internet access centers: Pha Ngum Lao street has a power cut, nothing happening any more. I have also lost what had been downloaded so far. I say "Xinh Chao" to the service, but they convince me to wait. Electricity is not coming back to the street so soon, but:
1) After just 40 minutes, a bicycle rikshaw arrives at "7 Brothers Internet" with a huge dirty generator.
2) After just 30 minutes more, they have opened the electricity box on the wall and discovered some plug to connect the generator to the spaghetti-like cable chaos inside the electric box.
3) After just 20 minutes more, they find out how to operate the generator, and the thing is finally turned on.
4) After just 10 more seconds, the electricity box explodes with a delightful little "puff!" and a delicate lights how.
D) Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The last few minutes in my favorite internet shop on Phnom Penh's riverside promenade had been unnerving. No progress – the line seemed to be dead.
Normally, this DSL place is way faster than all the competitors with analog modems nearby, so I happily pay one dollar instead of the usual 50 cents per hour. Now I guess I have to pay for ten unhappening minutes, as I didn't report the problems right away.
"Everything ok with the connection", the cashier lady asks as she checks my amount of time.
"Not ok", I reply – "the last ten minutes were too slow."
"Oh, sorry", she goes – "I charge you 15 minutes less, ok?"