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Toilet Traumas

In which Lynn relates her experiences with some very iffy biffies

sunny 23 °C
View Asia '08 on Bwinky's travel map.

Anyone who has travelled extensively knows that it is going to happen eventually. Well, it happened to me right away in Asia. I ate something that didn't agree with my fragile western stomach, and paid for it for the next couple of days. This gave me the wonderful opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the toilets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan... every twenty minutes.


Indonesia and Malaysia are lands of squat toilets. The advantage of these toilets is that you get a great thigh workout at the same time (anyone that knows me knows that I love multi-tasking). It also is truly ergonomically correct in facilitating the evacuation of one's bowels. Unfortunately, these bathrooms only supply water and a scoop for it -- no toilet paper. If you are firmly in the wipe-over-wash category, make sure you always have toilet paper with you.

Imagine riding on an overnight bus that is filled with people sprawled everywhere trying to sleep while the bus is careening down the road, swerving in and out of oncoming traffic like a spy being chased by the KGB.

Then suddenly... you have to go.

Into the tiny, smelly, damp 2' x 2' cubicle at the back of the bus with a hole in the middle of the floor and two grid marks on either side for better traction -- if only the bus tires had this much traction -- you must venture. As the bus sways radically, accelerating and decelerating with no perceivable pattern, you try to balance over the hole while keeping any piece of clothing from touching the ground or sides. Remember to breathe through your mouth!

Then the bus lurches forward and you have to reach out to catch yourself from falling face-first into the wall. It is damp from something... don't think about it! Just grab one of your precious pieces of toilet paper and wipe it off as best you can. As you are attempting to pull your underpants back up, your elbow hits the flimsy door and it swings open... to hit a man that is trying to sleep outside the bathroom. Quickly! Pull the door shut and get yourself presentable before reopening the door and stepping over the man without making any eye contact as you find your way back to your seat. Try to forget about what is fermenting on your hand until you can find a sink to wash it in -- four hours later.

I will absolutely deny that this was me... I am simply relating a story another traveller told me. Yeah, that's it!

Mind you, in people's homes the toilets were very clean even when they were squatters.

Singapore provided both squat and sit toilets, and they were far more clean and sometimes they even had toilet paper. I was very thankful for this since I was getting a weak with dehydration, which made it harder balancing over the squat toilets...


Now in Japan, the toilets are really high-tech -- when you walk in, the cover automatically opens for you. If it is below a certain temperature in the room, the seat is heated. And believe it or not, there is a little remote control on the side of the seat, with a button that makes a flushing noise (for those with gastric problems they don't want others in the bathroom hearing). And, they have three different buttons for washing your "backside" with a jet of warm water, a button for drying after you have washed, and a 'STOP' button. And of course, there is also toilet paper for the fearful American who doesn't want to try the wash & dry settings.

I mentioned how we don't have any high-tech toilets like that in America to a Japanese woman we met, and she asked if I had tried the buttons. I had to confess that I had not and she said, with a twinkle in her eye, "Oh, I highly recommend it." I didn't ask any further questions, but determined to push the 'WASH' button next time...

It was amazing how the jet of warm water found its exact "mark" each time.

I started to wonder whose job it is to figure out precisely where the "target" will be when sitting on the toilet. Can you imagine if that was your job? How do you explain that at Christmas parties? "Hi, I'm Tony. I am a salesman for vending machines. So, what do you do?"

There is also one button that I never tried. It was the only one that didn't have a picture symbol under the Japanese Kanji "letters." I was afraid I would come out of the stall with wet hair or something.

I will always wonder if this was the button that made the Japanese woman's eyes twinkle...

Posted by Bwinky 03:16 Archived in Japan Tagged health_and_medicine

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And this explains my fear of"roughing it" travel. Very nicely and graphically shared, Lynn!!

by Peterson

Since I can't even deal very well with those good old American invention known as the "Porta-potties," I imagine that "Lurching Bus Potties" would be right out. Ewww . . .

On the other hand . . . those Japanese toilets sound rather luxurious. I wonder if toilet deregulation will allow us to import some?

by DrewInWI

This made me feel a little sick... but I loved it!

by dr.pepper

my o my...that story just cracked me up, o sorry don't mean to make you the butt of a joke- Funny sh_ _. I will try to wipe it out of my mind ...or should I wash...hmmmm. :) Love you guys great blogs!!

by nancitaa

now this is the kind of info that is really precious to the traveler. thank you for cracking me up while enlightening and preparing me for the world a little better... your story encourages me to be fearless and try that last button ;) ciao!

by whatewa

I love this!!! Nothing like a good toilet story!

by DorrieMo

hahaha...the best info...actually a friend of mind told me the thing about Japan's restroom and its so great...one great technology...

-<a href="http://www.bobbyrica.com/">Bobby Rica</a>

by bobbyrica

Tokyo's toilets are the best! Although it takes some courage to push the "wash" button for the first time, once you do you are spoiled forever!

by chupacabra

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