Sunday, March 11, 2012
That long-winded intro leads me to the purpose of this post: to pull back the curtain of mystery on what lies behind that "toilet" sign in China and other Asian countries (and perhaps in others).
Squat - or not
It was 1990 in Thailand and my friend had tried her best to forewarn and prepare me for the culture shock that would await me at the first loo-stop at the airport. Regardless, the first time I swung open a stall door to find a stark, glistening bowl sunk into the raised ceramic floor I was mortified - and puzzled. Thankfully that particular stall came complete with "foot prints" to guide the user -- something like "place feet here".
The reappearance of the squatter during our China visit 22 years - and bad knees - later was not a high point for me, but armed with my personal supply of tissue and antibacterial wipes I sucked it up and handled it like a trouper. I had learned that part of being a savvy traveller was making like a girl scout and being prepared for anything/everything. Bathrooms in Asia do not come equipped with toilet tissue, paper towels, nor soap in most situations. AND nothing goes down the toilet except that which comes out of your body, thus the nearby trash basket.
The upside of the squatter toilet is that your tuchus doesn't have to make contact with any bacteria ridden surfaces. Most often they flush just like a western toilet, however occasionally I have come across the model that basically sports a wide deep hole to who-knows-where and doesn't flush. I definitely favour the flush!
The downside of the squatter is just getting down there - especially if you have bad knees. There is no middle ground here - you have to commit and get right down there in amongst the action to ensure a clean getaway. I recommend emptying pockets of valuable contents or zipping them closed where possible. I won't bore you with stories about how many times I got down - and then surrendered to fits of giggles attempting to stand tall. This is where men have a distinct advantage! And of course there is the fear of slipping into the pitted abyss, never to be seen again.
So the moral of the story here is if you plan on traveling to unknown and faraway lands, do your homework and be prepared! You just may have to surrender the porcelain throne and exercise muscles you didn't remember you had. Now, aren't you glad we had this chat?