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A-BROAD OBSERVATION - TOILETS OF ASIA
I have always consider myself a student of the world, you know... open to celebrate the vast colourful differences between one culture and traditions and my own. I have been fortunate enough to travel different parts of the globe and I willingly drink in those cultural differences between countries, ....until now.
This exploring of cultural customs goes way beyond eating a candied scorpion in a Bangkok street market or having hundreds of hungry Garra Rufa fish eat away on the dead flesh of your feet. You know the saying, once is curiosity twice perversion...I say game on to that but my cultural experimentation came to a grinding halt when I traveled to Asia and had to use their public toilets. Holy Crap! Dear Mother of God, my system closed down so fast in a self protective protest just by merely walking in. NO, MY BODY SCREAMED, NO! The decision of fasting the entire time I was in Asia had to be seriously contemplated.
I do not consider myself a princess BUT I soon learned that I did indeed require a throne and a clean one at that. I learned some crucial intel that I thought I must share, a few important things you should know about "going" before you "go" to a public bathroom in Asia.
TOILETS OF ASIA
FIRST LESSON: Always, ALWAYS carry toilet paper.
The women's bathrooms have stalls (most of them), but they open to a hole in the ground. If you are really lucky, a stylish porcelain hole. You can forget about toilet paper unless you are in a high-end mall or hotel where they have a bathroom attendant that can sell you some. Most stalls don't even have toilet paper holders in a future hope that one day they will adapt this custom. Most have no obvious flushing system but do have a conveniently placed pot of water that you are suppose to use to clean off your "drippings". So gross. A few number of these bathrooms had a hose. Assuming the hose was indeed intended for self-use (not 100% clear on that) where are the towels to dry yourself off...??? We already established no T.P and as you ladies know peeing standing or squatting is not a tidy business. In fact in some visits, I walked in and then immediately walked out. Some smelled exactly how they looked and once seen sadly cannot be unseen. I had to go for a Thai foot massage afterwards just to calm myself. My bodily functions might be on strike but my feet were very happy.
LESSON TWO: Not all stalls are the same. Kick in some doors.
So like Thailand, holes in the floor seem to be popular, but in Kaula Lampur here is what I found insightful. You walk into a modern stylish bathroom...say in a office building. One with modern marble trough sinks, scented soap dispensers and tiled mosaic floors. You open the door to your private stall thinking at last a decent bathroom. ...but wait what???....a porcelain hole...with a hose...and no toilet paper???? Are you kidding me???? This was in a modern building that was no more than 20 years old. By kicking in a few of the doors (did not want to touch anything) I did discover they did have some stalls with toilets but it was clear this was a cultural choice these porcelain holes in the floor, not a cost saving one or they would have cut back on the mosaic or scented soap. This hole in the floor is a preference to some!
Maybe because there are so many Expats living in Hong Kong or the strong British influence, but unless you are in the street markets or the old part of town you are pretty safe to recognize the toilets we have come to know and expect. In fact, some of Hong Kong's major skyscrapers and hotel bathrooms are sensational. If you are looking to take a "poo with a view" Hong Kong is the place and has some of the most incredible bathrooms with views. You know they are on to something when someone from your party comes back to your table after a visit and says, "you have to check out the bathroom". This one was taken from the bathroom on the 101st of the Ritz. Hotel. Birds are flying pass me. Wow now that's a bathroom.
Clean, pristine, a throne for all. As it should be. Think Asia but run by the Swiss (did not inspire any photo taking good or bad).
Tokyo - Number One in The Number Two Business
Saving the best for last, Tokyo. I think that ALL countries around the world could learn a great lesson from Tokyo toilets, including the UK and North America. First two words I recall when I fondly think of Tokyo are ..."heated seats". Toasty and immediately start to heat the moment you lower yourself into position.
As Japan is known for its technology their smart toilets should come as no surprise. Some even have electronic games incorporated into their toilets that allow you to compete with others (men) for accuracy and speed (men).
The seat has a sensor so the lid lifts up when you approach the toilet and closes when you leave, so no one is ever leaving the seat up (men). There is a self cleaning seat with a gentle mist after every use (men) and a panel of icons on the wall that will offer you a variety of personal "cleaning" solutions that you can adjust for personal comfort (women). Finally a dryer gets activated as your ass gets a warm gust of air to "finish you off".
THIRD LESSON: First time I used any of these toilet options I did so without really being able to see or understand the icons and I am not the only one. These icons can be confusing. In preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics the Japanese government is looking to standardize these icons as each toilet manufacture uses different icons and it has been causing a tourist disturbance in the loo. I hit a friendly looking button (see 5th from the left above). Lets just say that jet stream of water was direct, forceful and with pinpoint accuracy assaulted me. I needed to call for help as I was not able to get off the seat or see how to turn this tsunami force enema off. Lesson learned? Bring your reading glasses when visiting the toilets in Tokyo and then sit back and customize the ride.
And Finally, The London Loo: vs The American John
There are several differences between London public toilets and their North American counterparts (restrooms or bathrooms). One of the most obvious differences is in London you often have to pay to use a public washroom. Around 50p for a pee. Annoying searching your bag or pockets for change when time is of the essence. But because of that I have often found them cleaner. As there is less water in the London toilets you have to flush several times. I know they think they are saving water but sometimes it takes as many as three flushes just to see a bit of toilet paper circle around the bowl. Don't get me started on the self flushing toilets, they never go off when they are suppose in any country. More have started flushing while still sitting there than after one is done. In an attempt to keep public "toilet time" to a minimal in New York (who knew this was a problem?) they have been experimenting with toilets that gives you a time limit. The door will automatically open up after 15 minutes. Haha. Unless you are battling with a bad burrito who spends 15 minutes in a public loo (men).
European Toilet Trend - The Pop- Up Urinal
In London and in some other parts of Europe they have been installing Pop-Up urinals. They were invented to prevent people urinating in the street (by people, I mean men). They pop up in busy, happening places around 11:00 at night and sink back down into the pavement at 6:00AM. Talk about your lack of privacy. Be curious to see the reaction on these things emerging from the sidewalks surrounded by drunk party-goers. Worth doing some more field research.
I am sure my observations are far from done as I explore the world one loo at a time. I welcome any of your personal toilet discoveries. But I think you are going to have to look long and hard to find a better bathroom urinal than this one. Talk about your bathroom humour, you men have all the fun in the bathroom...plus never any line-ups. Take aim gentlemen...take aim.