“Of all the gastrointestinal hazards in faraway lands, a tough one to avoid is traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused not just by tainted food but by general changes in diet and climate.” — Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
LET’S SAY you’ve spent a week or two in Thailand. You eat Thai food regularly, exercise every day, and spend weekends drinking with your expat friends. At some point, your buddies might have a hard time ignoring the fact that you’re ducking away every ten minutes, coming up with a different excuse each time, returning to the table looking red and flustered… our own Tim Patterson can tell you how it feels.
One should never be less than a hundred meters from a porcelain throne when TD hits. Though, depending on where you are in the world, there might not be a throne on which to sit. Or one made of porcelain. Even life-saving paper can be absent at the most critical of times.
What are some of the best and worst places to deposit your waste across the world?
“An Australian girl on our bus was unfortunate enough to have found herself with sporadically urgent stomach problems on a fourteen-hour journey. She, quite admirably, would get off at the various five-minute stops to settle whatever intestinal disagreement she had, in full view of the bus and anyone who cared, or dared, to be watching.
This went on throughout the night until we arrived at one of the customary twenty-minute service stops. Here, she proceeded to go through the usual, but desperate motions of finding a bush, maneuvering herself into position and engaging in whatever comes next.
It was only then that she realized, not only was there a perfectly acceptable, and surprisingly clean toilet facility in the service station only ten meters away but that she had just soiled the entrance to the only house within visible distance.”
— From the blog “Dirty India” by Swazi
Squatters of Asia
Public areas of Thailand, China, Laos, India, and Vietnam, among other countries, are rife with them. In Thailand, many restrooms have a toll booth. Even in some of the more touristy places of Beijing you’re probably better off holding it in until you return to your hostel.
Few travelers take bottom washing practices into consideration when researching customs, but toilet paper really hasn’t caught on in many parts of Thailand and India.
“I am honored to accept your waste.”
Only in Japan will one find the most advanced butt-warming technology on the face of the planet. Toilet seats in this country allow the user to select the temperature of the seat (VERY handy in the cold weather of Hokkaido) and control how high and fast the rinsing and bidet water moves.
Some of these space-age crappers even have advanced features like a computerized voice, gentle massage, and self-lowering seats. Just be sure not to enter a suspicious looking lavatory that’s likely to be featured on Japanese prank shows.
The Deep, Deep South
McMurdo Station in Antarctica might have a few facilities that are comparable to any you’d see back home, but all bets are off when you’re walking out in the field — a bucket with a polystyrene lid and sub zero temperatures. That’s right, you are freezing your ass off.
Wishing on a crap
Grab some reading material and $20 million and you too can experience the joy of a zero gravity toilet in LEO (Low Earth Orbit).
Unlike nearly all ground toilets, this one uses absolutely no water, instead relying on vacuum energy to clean up the mess. It also happens to be very energy efficient: liquid waste is distilled to make water that is clean enough to drink.
The solid waste is expelled at regular intervals to burn in the upper atmosphere. So remember: when you wish upon a falling star, you might just be basing all your dreams on a flaming pile of… well, yeah.
Be careful if you’re a Russian citizen, though, as you might have to hold it until you return to Earth.
Incredible India Two: slums of Calcutta
“I’ll never forget this early trip [4:00 AM] to the latrines of the City of Joy. Access was already obstructed by a line of several dozen people.
The arrival of a sahib in jeans and basketball shoes provoked a lively upsurge of curiosity and amusement, and all the more so because, in my ignorance of the customs of the country, I had committed an unforgivable blunder: I had brought with me a few sheets of toilet paper.
Was it conceivable that anyone should want to preserve in paper a defilement expelled from the body? A young boy came up to me with a tin full of water.
‘Take this water, big brother, and wash your bottom with it,’ he urged gently.”
– Dominique Lapierre, I Should Have Stayed Home, “Enlightened Sahib”
You’re a-peein’ exhibitionist
There’s really nothing wrong per se with public urinals in Amsterdam and around Europe, depending on your sense of modesty and whether you have a shy bladder. If so, you might want to find a public restroom with walls…located a little distance from the sidewalk.
Worthy of Donald Trump’s golden poop
This is one of the few times when it may be excusable and not the least bit suspicious to take a camera into the bathroom. The Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Missouri is the essence of luxury: freshly-cut flowers, marble, gold, stained glass, even a fountain. Maybe they should invest in rich people toilet paper.
Going in Ghana
“I tried not to step in the stream that came running out of the hut. Inside, I was alone. There were several stalls, separated only by short concrete walls. Each stall had a couple of bricks for the feet on either side of a small pit that was shallow enough to be superfluous.
There were lumps everywhere, filling the holes to an uncomfortable height, over which one would not want to squat, for fear of contact. They were strewn all about the holes as well, even on the brick footstools. I must digress, but not without mentioning that the West African diet must be as varied and unpredictable as any on the planet.”
The Big Loo
The public toilets present in parks and major urban areas of New Zealand are nothing special, but I appreciated them because they had automated doors that locked, opened, and told you if anyone was inside. The ones at Auckland International Airport even spoke in computerized voices.
Other than that, you might try taking a dump in the southern hemisphere just to watch the water spin the other way.
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