Hey, Who Stole the Toilet? What Do You Mean I Have to Hit That Hole in the Floor?

Just a warning, this post may make you uncomfortable, or even offended.  If you are one who gets squeamish easily, or who does not like talk of bathrooms, or things resulting from visits to bathrooms, please do not read any further.  However, when you travel, the bathroom situation is something to consider, so you might find our companion post, How To Use a Squat Toilet, educational instead. If you have traveled to other parts of the world, you might have noticed that there are a variety of toilet options which might be presented to you.  I first experienced the squat toilet when I traveled to South America in the mid-90's, but I was with the Navy and I was used to roughing it a bit.  When Sara first took me to Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2002, she had a very frank discussion with me about the fact that I would be faced with this type of bathroom fixture more often than not.  I told her that I could handle it, and for guys, it's mostly not an issue...until it is. Throughout our travels, Sara and I have come across some interesting bathrooms, some of which we still talk about.  Most recently, on our trip to Japan, at the Narita Airport, just outside of customs, we found one that could have been right out of Star Wars.  It opened like an elevator, with buttons and a sliding door.  Then, the actual toilet had at least a dozen buttons for different options for flushing and bidet.  I regret not getting a picture, but I was just so intimidated by the whole experience, not only from the numerous choices presented to me, but also the fact that everything was in Japanese.  I was afraid that I was going to hose myself down by accident (I did that on a train in Egypt by hitting the bidet pedal instead of the flush pedal on the toilet).  It turns out there were options for a small flush or a big flush, seat warmer, and front and back bidet, both hard and soft.  It seems the Japanese are easily embarrassed by the sound of themselves in the bathroom, so there was even a button that turns on artificial running water to mask other sounds which might emanate from the bathroom.  I think there might have been even more. There is a bathroom in China that Sara still refers to as 'A River Runs Through It'.  Let me explain.  We had just visited a very historic site, in Suzhou on the outskirts of Shanghai, and while inside, I had visited the Men's Room.  It was one of the nicer bathrooms I had been to in China, very polished, white and gleaming, and I remarked on this fact to Sara after I exited.  Sara did not have to go at the time, but as we were leaving the park, she decided she did need to go.  We noticed a sign just outside the gate pointing to a restroom, so she just decided to go there.  Unfortunately, it was not the same experience.  Having grown up in Taiwan, Sara is used to the squat toilet and actually prefers it in public places as it is more sanitary.  This squat toilet, however, consisted of a series of six stalls, just like in the U.S., but at the back, instead of a toilet, or even a hole for that matter, was a trench which extended from one end of the bathroom to the other, passing through each stall.  Water constantly flowed down the trench from one end of the room to the other.  I guess it is not so bad if you are in Stall #1, but if you get unlucky enough to end up in Stall #6, well, let's just say that you probably won't be reading the Sunday paper while you go about your business. Sara is really a trooper when it comes to bathrooms, but she met her match in Egypt.  We were on the bus ride from Dahab to Taba and the bus driver had pulled in to a rest area because the toilet on the bus was not operational.  Sara went in to take care of business and there was a man standing outside of the restroom collecting money to enter.  It is common practice to have to pay to use the public restrooms in Egypt, so Sara handed him a one pound note (about 20 cents U.S.).  She walked in to the Ladies Room and was greeted by a toilet overflowing.  Not overflowing with water, mind you, but overflowing with, well, poop.  Flies were all over and I would imagine the stink was unbearable.  Sara calmly turned around and walked out.  She plucked the pound note out of the attendant's hand as she casually walked back to the bus, boarded and held it until the next stop. I just read in this month's National Geographic that in Cambodia, the authorities post signs to show how to properly use a sit-down toilet.  It seems the natives were climbing up on the seats and squatting, resulting in footprints on the seat for the next guest. The point of all of this is that the unwary American can be caught off guard when overseas and needing to take care of business.  If you have ever camped in the woods (not a campground), then you should have no problem.  However, if you have never had to squat to go to the bathroom, you might check out our instructional post, How To Use a Squat Toilet.  Just keep an open mind and always carry a spare roll of toilet paper.
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  • Yatlong

    My dad still tries to squat on sit-down toilets.

  • @Flip,
    Do you know where is the oldest public toilet in the world which is still in use?

    In Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe.

    Begova hala (Bey’s toilet) near Bey’s mosque built 1529/1530. Still in use except a few breaks during great fires, wars, but after that renewed.

    Send me e-mail, I will send you picture:
    Tourist guide Sarajevo kostake.nenishanu@gmail.com

    Yes, there are older public toilets, for e.g., in Pompei, Italia, common public toilet, but it is not in use any more.

    I am asking your readers and you, do you know older public toilet which is still in use all over the world, than Sarajevo Bey’s toilette (Begova hala)from 1530?

  • Liz

    Our family was visiting Fiji and we had travelled into Sigatoka for the afternoon. We all sat chatting with the local children at the towns meeting place. When of course one of our little ones decides that she needs to use the toilet. Of we go in search of public facilities. We come across a rudamentary toilet … but functional and reasonably clean. Child uses toilet and as we go to reach for toilet paper a hand (yes a human hand) appeared from a slot in the wall with an offering of toilet paper. Made us jump out of our skins, clearly we did not expect someone’s hand to suddenly come through the wall. We took the paper and left a coin in return. We have had many a giggle over the years when thinking back to this event.

  • ans

    actually I don’t have a problem with those squat toilets (being used to european style toilets). but the area around those ‘holes in the floor’ is usally very dirty, so when you pull down your pants and squat they easily touch the urin-spattered ground (esp when you wear wide shorts, like I do when I travel those hot countries). I couln’t figure the right technique to avoid that yet. advise appreciated 😉

  • pedro

    Need a public toilet in Victoria, Australia?…see the toilet map

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How To Use a Squat Toilet

If you travel overseas enough, you will eventually run into a squat toilet.  "What is a squat toilet?" you ask. ...