What’s the first and last thing you’re likely to experience in a country you visit? And what kind of lasting impression is that going to leave?
Cigarette-burn marked toilet paper dispenser (empty) at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport, April 28 2007
Toilet paper dispenser at Singapore’s Changi Airport, April 28 2007
Investment in tourist attractions, advertising campaigns and big ticket infrastructure projects may lure visitors, but chances are they will remember what hits them first and last. If you want to win visitors over, bathrooms at airports might be a good place to start.
Travel tip: the practice in an Indonesian bathroom, by the way, is to yell out ‘paper please’ (‘minta tissu’) to the attendant once you’re perched in the cubicle. He’ll then hand you some under the door.
John Graham-Cumming, the father of the excellent Bayesian spam killer POPFile, has written a review of my column collection, Loose Wire. It’s a fun read (the review, not the book, although the book is. Really.) He even adds a word to my lexicon:
‘wagstaff (v): to poke any new technology with a long stick, make sure it does what it says on the box, and summarize the experience in less than 2,000 words’.
John concludes that the book “should be in the toilet. In fact, I think it’s such a good book for reading in small doses in a small, quiet room, that a global band of Gideons-like technology evangelists should be leaving copies in the smallest room in the house of any technophile.” Excellent idea. I’ll get onto my publisher about that.
This week’s Loose Wire column is about some of the more obscure gadgets I found at CommunicAsia Expo in Singapore last week:
WANDERING AROUND last week’s technology exhibition, CommunicAsia, in Singapore, I was struck by the gulf between the big players–with their huge, noisy stands, populated entirely by well-shaped, scantily-clad men and women all under the age of 25–and the somewhat forlorn little booths in the ghettos at the back. I’m sure this is not a phenomenon exclusive to CommunicAsia but it seemed to be particularly acute there. Sure, there were some cool gismos on display among the big boys, but I found the most interesting stuff off the beaten track, most of it in the alleys and byways of exhibition hall 6 (just past the toilets, and turn left.) Here is a selection, some of which may not actually be easily available until the manufacturer finds a local distributor.
Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.