Internet CafesTuesday, 18 December 2007
▲internet cafe in Hanoi, Vietnam
Poste restantes, those old fashioned gathering places where travellers congregated to collect their mail, may have had their charm, but their modern replacement, the internet café, also have some individual colour. Of course they’re a whole lot quicker and way more reliable. Remember all those letters which never got collected? Well nobody misses an email. But they’re also far more useful and they have their own romance.
▲ internet cafe in Wuzhou, China
For starters internet cafes do far more than poste restantes ever accomplished. Quite apart from arranging to meet up with your girl/boyfriend in the next town and letting mom know you’re still alright, at an internet café you can book beds, research nightclubs, check flights, organise rent-a-cars, download music and upload digital camera pictures. And how many internet café romances have been sparked by technical advice offered from the adjacent terminal user?
▲ internet cafe in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
I seem to spend a lot of time in internet cafes, which is surprising considering I actively try to avoid them. I’d much prefer to hook up my own laptop in a hotel room, but often there’s no hotel connection or the charges are so obscene I venture out in search of a café. Anyway they’re a travel experience in their own right, whether it’s the giant (although often hidden) Chinese centres, the friendly Vietnamese ones (one café owner zipped out on his motorcycle to get my train tickets while I checked my email) or the quirky African ones (I’m always sure the next terminal is where those ‘I’ll share €12 million with you’ emails come from. Then there are the efficient German ones, the dirt cheap British ones and the American ones which offer extra services (I’ve been in one with a laundromat).