Pam and I never used cell phones much in Canada; much too expensive when land lines were so cheap. But here in Asia it is the other way around. Landlines are very expensive for expats, and require a $400 deposit to install. We did get a landline, but almost never use it. I couldn’t even tell you what our phone number is. It supports our intenet access, that’s all.

Our cell phones – they call them handphones here – are our lifeline. When Pam is in Cambodia or Nepal or Thailand, as she was last week, we text each other regularly to stay in touch. When I call my mother in England, as I do once a week, I often use my handphone, as the reception is better and she is a little deaf these days. I have a hundred names in my phone directory and I text and call throughout the day. I have over a 100 ringgit of credit on my phone and I can’t ever seem to use it up.

The cost for all this service is staggeringly cheap. When Pam went to Thailand I had 110 ringgit worth of credit on my phone. After a week of burning up the lines with text messages and the ocassional call I had 106 ringgit worth of credit. That means I spent 4 ringgit texting and calling Thailand all week; about a buck and a quarter – a medium coffee at Timmies. You remember that we live in Malaysia right? When we were home last June, Bell wanted to charge me long distance charges for calling Cambridge from London!

Oh, but don’t they get you on  the contract? What contract? We’ve never had  phone contracts; strictly pay as you go. But what about the price of the phone or the SIM card? Funny you should ask. My three year old Sony Erikson cost me $50; it does everything I need a phone to do. As for the SIMs, feature this: when Pam walked through the terminal in Chiang Mai, Thailand, she was handed a promtional package from a phone service provider that included a free SIM card and free air time. That’s right folks, in this part of the world they give those things away.

But what about dead air, weak zone coverage? No such thing. Neither of us have ever lost a call or been unable to get service anywhere in Asia. Even texting Pam in the Himalayas last year posed no problem. Face it, Canada: when it comes to cell phone service, you live in a third world country! Call your service provider. Tell them you expect them to give you a decent phone for $50 and the SIM for free and you want to pay no more than $10 a month to call and text anywhere in North America as often as you want while your credit just continues to pile up month after month. Let me know what they say.

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