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Porcelain from Around the World

2010 April 28

A lot of people may not realize it, but we have it pretty good here in the United States. When you go to a public restroom, you can expect to find a clean (hopefully) toilet, stocked toilet paper and the sanitary seat covers. This “luxury” is, unfortunately, not available everywhere in the world.

I’ve seen/used some pretty gnarly toilets and almost all fall into one of the categories below:

Standard Seating – Go look in your bathroom, enough said. Rating: A

Seating with Hose – I found these primarily in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Gotta love those Thais.

It’s essentially a toilet with a hose connected to it. Kind of like the french contraptions where the little sink sprays water. Now the catch is, with these toilets, there is usually no toilet paper (for all the environmentalists out there). You do your business, spray and be done with it. Drawbacks include mis-sprays, wet boxers and possible water running down legs. The other thing to look out for is that the water pressure on the hoses can sometimes be very strong; an accidental enema could be feasible if one is not careful. These little sprayers take a while to get used to but by the end of the trip I couldn’t go without one. Maybe when I own a house someday, all of my toilets will be setup like this…

Grossed out? Think of it this way: if a bird shat on your head, would you wipe it off or wash your head? Genius. Rating: A++, once you master the art of the hose.

Wastebasket/Toilet Combo – Encountered these the most in South America. They were usually in areas of inadequate piping where toilet paper would easily clog up the pipes. As a result, the bathrooms here place a trash can next to the toilet for you to throw EVERYTHING in. It’s definitely a change at first and I’m sure I must’ve inadvertently clogged numerous pipelines in the early days of my trip. And don’t expect to find TP in the stalls either, you’ll have to pay for it from some dude or a vending machine. After a while, it does become second nature and you don’t even realize what you’re doing. However, there is a reason why we flush our TP DOWN the pipes: a hot, poorly ventilated, overflowing trash can in the bathroom of the hostel I was staying in Montanita, Ecuador nearly did me in. Rating: B-, terrible experience with what happens when you don’t empty the trash can: DEATH.

Squat Toilet – Ahhh yes, the Asian squat toilet. Very prevalent in China and Asia. The only toilet that will actually give you a workout while sitting on the can.

Gym + toilet.

These are definitely a little awkward at first and if you haven’t used them before, you’ll feel like you just did 20 squats by the end of your business. Be careful not to fall in either as that is an actual possibility. Don’t expect to find TP next to one of these unless you are in somewhere fancy (yes, fancy places actually do have these because many people prefer them over regular toilets and they will actually squat on a regular toilet).

One common misconception regarding these squatters is that they are unsanitary. Think about it though. The only part of your body touching anything are the bottom of your shoes vs. your entire ass on a regular toilet seat. How ’bout them apples? Rating: C, comfort kills it, definitely don’t want to be casually reading unless power squats are a regular part of your workout.

The Hole – Straight into the heart of darkness. God bless those who have had to deal with these monstrosities. But even holes have varying degrees of vileness. Some have a ramp that lead to an outlet, others literally go into a pit of blackness where you would be wise to avoid. Expect flies, bugs, swamp-trolls and god knows what else in the near vicinity. Forgot toilet paper? Shit out of luck, you think someone actually maintains these HOLES? Some of the worst I have ever encountered have been in China on different parts of the Great Wall.

My only advice is to take care of your duties before you embark on a long trek into the rural areas so you’ll never have to deal with one of these. Rating: F, only use in dire emergencies.

This is actually a pretty decent hole, far better than some others I've seen.

I’m sure there are others but I think this probably covers 99% of what you’ll see on the road. Happy hunting folks.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Jonathan permalink
    April 29, 2010

    Nice!! I’ve encountered a few of these myself while in India. The holes are the worst… Good stuff haha

  2. sarah permalink
    May 5, 2010

    haha paul you are quite the anthropologist! xinny would be proud. I want a food post soon please

  3. black tide permalink
    June 10, 2010

    My favorite is the Japanese toilet. Sometimes the seat can heat up, there’s a kind of sink contraption so you can just wash your hands right there, multiple flushing functions. There’s so many nobs and buttons that you feel you’re about to blast off on a spaceship. (And my Japanese friends, in all their houses, they would have matching rugs, toilet seat covers, SLIPPERS and toilet paper covers…)

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