This post is all about toilets! On our travels, I quickly learnt that toilets and bathrooms around the world are almost as diverse as people and cultures. They come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes and styles. I do not discriminate against one style or another though ….. as long as they get the job done!
Here are a few of my more memorable travelling toilet moments 🙂
Some cubicles are tiny, and they were always fun to navigate. My favourites were in some of the European countries, in particular Italy, which had many auto sensor lighting systems. Please tell me, who on earth can do their business and clean themselves up in 60 seconds, even if you don’t have an ostomy?! I’d be half way through emptying my bag and off would go the lights! It was rather tricky having to wave my arms around with poo covered toilet paper in my hand, and in some cases even stand up with my bag still hanging half open, flapping my arms like a bird, in order to get the lights to turn back on! Sometimes I’d have to do this 3 or 4 times in one sitting!
Squat toilets can be interesting for those used to the Western style toilet. After drinking several 30 cent Bia Hoi (draft beer) sitting with a group of fellow travellers on the little pavement stools in Hanoi, Vietnam, I finally could not hold any longer. I was led into the back of what I think was the Bia Hoi stall owner’s house, carefully stepping over grandma who was asleep on the floor, to one of the smelliest, dirtiest squatties I’ve had the pleasure of using. Half way through doing my business, less than a metre in front of me across the floor scurries a rat the size of a dog! Thank goodness I didn’t need to empty my bag and it was just number 1 on this occasion! Although, I’m sure if I’d had to empty my bag, I would have made do (as I did on many other squatties minus the rats)!
At the train station in Dresden, I stood and watched in amazement when I flushed, as up lifted the toilet seat which then proceeded to rotate a full 360 degrees in this magical auto cleaning sequence, making it fresh and sparkling clean ready for the next person to use!
I loved the bum spurt cleaners on all the toilets in Turkey (not that they came in very handy for me), and the seat warmers for the loos at Bangkok’s Terminal 21 shopping centre, which also had a control pad next to the seat which looked like you would need an instruction manual to operate! Less comfortable were the many toilets in parts of Europe that don’t even have seats, so you plop straight onto the cold porcelain. Imagine that in Winter!
What about the flusher?
Flushing mechanisms are worth a mention too. Are they on top of the cistern? Below on the floor? Do you push or pull? Up or down?! Where is the damn flusher?! You’ve got your auto sensor flushes which either work overtime or not at all! Even the manual flushers can be a struggle if you can’t find them! Some places have the old fashioned chains that you yank from the cistern high on the wall, and for the life of me at the old hospital in Bologna I could not work out how to flush the toilet! After looking for almost 5 minutes with no luck, I had to get Mikey to come in and find it for me! At the Obika Mozarella Bar in Milan, the flusher was a black rubber ball on the floor that you have to push on with your foot! That one took me a while too!
Did someone call a plumber?
I have to admit though, while the flushers could sometimes be difficult to find, the plumbing pretty much everywhere was top notch. I only had one issue on the whole trip (at a busy bar in Salamanca in Spain) where my stinky poo just would not flush. The only major plumbing exception is Greece, where on many of the islands, because of the questionable plumbing and small pipes, you are asked NOT to flush any toilet paper, and instead you end up with a bin full of dirty paper in your bathroom. It’s changed daily of course, but those of you who have or know anyone with an ostomy would understand the potential mess and stench!
What’s that smell?
I can’t write a post about toilets and poo without mentioning the smell! It’s a fact of life that poop stinks! Somehow ostomy poo smells even worse than regular poo (because it is less processed and digested). My mum likens mine to baby poop, and Michael to peas and carrots. I guess I am pretty used to it by now, but in public places, I am still conscious of my poo’s perfume! At the markets in San Sebastian, even with no comprehension of Spanish, it was pretty clear that the old ladies in the toilets with me were complaining about the pong! At a public loo in Bangkok, a lady in the cubicle next to me started vomiting while I was emptying my bag, but I’m hoping that was just a coincidence! I had to warn and apologise to anyone weshared bathrooms with on our travels about the smell, as well as my overuse of toilet paper, flushing in the middle of the night, and taking longer than normal in the bathroom of a morning! I did use air freshener whenever I could! I also came up with a system to try and combat the smell to some extent where I would flush the toilet as soon as I had emptied, before then continuing to clean the rest up and finish what I was doing. I think this kind of worked!
So don’t be a toilet snob! Embrace the diversity of toilets, and know that you can empty your bladder, bowels or Ostomy bag anywhere in the world! Don’t forget the tissues and wet wipes though!