Chapter 28 – Best Nseries Ever

By September of 2009 I was sitting on a rather large collection of points from Air Canada, and getting a bit anxious about their expiry date. It was around this time that someone in a travel forum posted a scheme wherein you could technically travel around the world — that is, make your return trip via a different ocean — for the same number of points as a standard business class return ticket. It wasn’t like the ’round the world fares offered by some airlines; you couldn’t, for example, hop off at any stop and take in the sights for as long as you wanted to. But one faraway destination plus a combined four stopovers there and back was fairly enticing nonetheless.

That November I boarded an overnight flight to London, the first leg of yet another once-in-a-lifetime trip that would take me onwards to Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo.

I was met the next morning in Piccadilly Circus by Tom Hall of WOM World, who graciously gave up his Sunday to give me a personal tour of London and loan me a Nokia for the destinations that lay ahead. Over brunch an N900 and N97 mini appeared on the table, plus a handset that was earmarked for me: the N86. Truth be told I was initially more drawn to the N900, being a desktop Linux user and all. But the N86 quickly proved to be the better choice — in fact, its camera was so good that my standalone point-and-shoot didn’t leave my suitcase for the next two weeks.

In Bangkok I took spectacular photos of the gold and purple Grand Palace and documented my first-ever tuk-tuk ride on video. I was also lucky enough to catch Al Pavangkanan, whom I’d met that summer on the N97 24/7 tour. Thanks to him I got to see Bangkok’s two famous IT malls, Pantip Plaza and MBK Center.

In Singapore I documented my first-ever durian fruit and a sunset view of the city skyline aboard the Singapore Flyer. I also got stood up by someone I was supposed to meet there. But I’m over it, really. More importantly, I snagged a local SIM card with unlimited data — a good thing, because by my fourth day abroad I had already burned through a two-week data roaming package from my carrier back home.

In Taipei I scored another local SIM, and kind of went insane with Qik, the live streaming video app that I first used on my E71. I kept it running over an entire breakfast in my hotel’s restaurant (much to the horror of the other guests there, I’m sure) and streamed an end-to-end walk-through of a night market. I’m pretty sure this is what would eventually win me that white N97 from the company.

In Tokyo there was sadly no option for local unlimited data. I spent about half an hour in a DoCoMo service centre before giving up and walking out, having come to the conclusion that the staff there were too afraid to talk to me. I also had a moment with one of the N86’s few shortcomings, Nokia Messaging. Nokia used to have a regular email client that worked great. Nokia Messaging was their “improved” next-generation email experience, designed to mimic the push email you could get on a BlackBerry. But this was no BlackBerry — quite possibly due to the low amount of RAM, Nokia Messaging on the N86 was crap. Deep within the bowels of Shibuya station I spent what seemed like an eternity struggling to find an email with directions to a dinner engagement; then I remembered that I could find that same message using a free email-over-WAP service.

Despite that little hiccup I ordered an N86 to call my own almost as soon as I got back to Toronto. The next spring it would accompany me on a visit to Moscow and a high school friend-turned-diplomat. That summer I got invited on another WOM World tour, this one promoting the N97mini to Canada. In a tricked-out recreational vehicle from Montreal to Toronto I got to hang with a Mr. James Whatley, whose 2009 bungee-jump over Victoria Falls with an N86 strapped to his wrist had first piqued my interest in this device.

The swan song for my N86 was a Kenyan safari in September of 2011. I had been to Mother Africa twice before and knew how popular Nokia phones were there. But I was caught completely off-guard by the presence of Android devices, at least in Nairobi. Every local carrier had not just one but an entire selection, from the cheap and cheerful to the high-powered and high-end. Kind of ironic considering I had left my Android phone at home and brought the N86 just for this trip.

That’s right, this unabashed Nokia fanboy was now a full-time Android user.