Thursday, May 04, 2006

More Devilish Details

The last time I traveled in Asia was 1992. Laptops were the size of carry-on wheelie bags. Digital cameras were the stuff of wide-eyed futuristic predictions (“By 2005, people will carry their photo albums in their pockets. And they’ll be able to fax copies to each other using only their minds!”) Nobody could imagine ipods then. So I honestly couldn’t tell you what a Chinese electrical plug looks like—I never needed to use one. (Although I could tell you every place to buy Walkman batteries from Beijing to Urumqi.)

Now, however, things are different. In a way, that’s good. If, for example, we were for some reason to get a new president, I wouldn’t have to go four days without knowing who it was. (This really happened to me during a ferry trip up the Yangtze River.) Now I could call, e-mail, or probably even download a podcast to find out the news. (Not that I would. I’m over 30; this is enough of a stretch.) But all that takes electronics, and electronics means chargers, and chargers, in Asia, means adaptors. Lots of adaptors.

I’ll be traveling through four countries, so I was imagining carrying a whole suitcase full of voltage converters and plug adaptors. But I found a nifty little device that takes care of the problem. It looks like a big old-fashioned three-prong plug, but it’s got various prongs hidden inside it, which slide out as needed. I’m not explaining that well--here’s a picture. It’s pretty clever. It can be set to fit plugs in 150 countries, including three of the four I’ll be in.

So don’t expect me to IM you from Mongolia. But everywhere else, we’re good to go.

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