THAT’S the toilet?

Just like all you design-loving travelers,

…I have experienced a quickened heart rate due to exceptional design on numerous occasions.

However, during my adventures through South East Asia, I encountered fewer well-designed spaces as my travels became more remote (and my budget quickly evaporated) and I actually found myself becoming accustomed to ridiculously designed spaces.  Looking back on these photos I can’t help but smile at the obviously overlooked and unaddressed functional aspects of these potty rooms. Enjoy!

Doorway to bathroom in Bangkok, Thailand hostel

ABOVE: If you can look past the sterile lack of decor in this bedroom, you will notice that you are looking at the entrance to a bathroom in which the bathroom door has been REMOVED. That’s right…zero privacy. Not that it should really matter, I mean, the walls don’t even go up to the ceiling. This bathroom gives free reign to smells and sounds (sometimes sounds happen…and there’s no buffering them in THIS washroom).  Applause for the builder who saved money on less drywall. (Bonus: the mirror is mounted approximately 6 feet above finished floor – there is no hope for my little 5′-1″ self to catch a glimpse of my reflection).

Shower room in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ABOVE: Who decided that berber carpeting (cut in odd shapes because the first attempt was done incorrectly) is a viable shower-stall floor treatment?! I never shower barefoot (in Asia, that is), but STILL, the squishing of the moudly water-mat beneath my flipflops made me cringe with every step.

Bathroom in Yogjakarta, Indonesia

ABOVE: This washroom was memorable.  The bedroom that accompanies this washroom was surprisingly pretty and clean.  Aside from getting accustomed to using a “squatter” toilet (note: defecation mishaps are possible…remember to stay low!) I found this washroom awkward because there’s no ROOM to shower! The shower head is mounted 7 feet directly above the porcelain hole on the wall, which means you have to stand on the teeny-tiny space between the mandi (a well filled with water and a bucket used to flush the toilet) and the toilet hole in order to get water on your body.  The lack of sink requires me to use the shower to brush my teeth and wash my face, which results in a careful balancing act that often leaves the room flooded.

Hong Kong Bathroom

ABOVE: This washroom was surprisingly clean considering it was located in one of the grungiest hostels in Kowloon, Hong Kong (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever been to ChungKing Mansions).  The biggest problem with this space is how cramped everything is, especially the sink area. The sink is SO close to the toilet and very shallow, resulting in a face-washing-tsunami that leaves the floor and toilet soaked.  The shelf above the sink protrudes approximately 3/4 of the sink depth, resulting in a severe back-of-the-head laceration when you lean forward to wash your face and then jolt upright without remembering to “pull back” first.  The worst part is that my toothbrush often goes flying off the flimsy glass shelf (which isn’t properly affixed) and lands on the floor or IN the toilet. True story.

Jacuzzi/Shower hybrid in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

ABOVE: I apologize for the glare and lack of focus in this photo; I blame it on the painfully jarring flourescent sconce being the only source of lighting in the space.  This is a view of the shower, which is actually a jacuzzi tub set a good 8 inches away from the walls, that doesn’t have a tub faucet to fill the jacuzzi.  Want to soak in the tub? (eeeew, hardly…but for argument’s sake let’s say you do).  No problem, just turn on the shower head and wait 50 hours while one half of the water shoots into the middle of the tub and sprays everywhere due to surprisingly strong water pressure, while the other half slowly trickles down the wall and onto the floor (and then into the bedroom). *sigh* I love how comical this “luxury” bathroom is.

Public Washroom Stall in Lamai, Thailand

ABOVE: This photo is pretty self-explanatory. I hated using these manual-flushing toilets mainly because the floors in the stall rooms were always flooded from drunken party-animals’ confused attempts to get the water into the toilet. Sure, it’s a little tricky because some splashing occurs, but PUH-LEEZE try not to wash the floor, the walls and everything else with stagnant H2O (which I am sure the same drunken morons end up urinating in anyways).  How are these bathrooms supposed to be ‘barrier-free’? Building code obviously exists in North America for a reason.

So, there you have it. I can’t wait to add to this collection from all the great pics you send me of ugly (and functionally incompetent) bathrooms. Let’s raise our glasses to bad bathrooms; for only with the grungy and dilapidated can we truly appreciate the luxury of cleanliness and functionality!

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  1. I was just grossed out. I am quite happy to live in Canada just for the toilets. Thank you, I am now grateful for hygenic bathrooms!!! LOL

  2. Hygiene is totally under-rated in Canada…but clearly over-rated in Asia ;) The funny part is, I would forever use one of those toilets if it meant I could travel back and do my entire trip over exactly the same – I guess you just get used to it (once you learn how to lay low while squatting, of course ;) )

  3. I used almost all of these toilets, and can say with certainty, that I would subject myself to these facilities for the rest of my life if I were able to visit their countries of residence any time I chose.

  4. OOh, you described these perfectly. there were times I would stare at a toilet and just gasp…i think you did us a big favour in providing the candid comments…love the blog.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Carole. The bathrooms weren’t AS bad as they look (ok, actually they were, but I loved the experience as a whole and embraced the travel adventure…gross toilets included). Hope you will come back and read more soon.

  6. Hilarious. I loved this post… I love all your posts but this one is particularly entertaining because when I was 14 I took a Japanese course. In said course we were taught about customs and etiquette… toilets being one of them.

    Congrats on the global tour of thrones around the world.

  7. Haha thanks, Marie. This particular post seems to be the forerunner – seems like people like hearing about bad design more than good design ;) I’d love some suggestions on what else you’d like to see here.

    Oh, and I’m really curious as to what the Japanese course said about toilet etiquette..sounds ridiculous haha!

  8. OMG! I would definitely become constipated if I had to use those toilets. Men are lucky they can pee anywhere. I would probably shower fully clothed from head to toe and use antimicrobial soap. I am going to use these photos as a threat to my boys!

  9. hahhaa Nadia you’re hilarious!! It took some getting used to, but eventually I became immune to noticing how disgusting the toilets were – it was all part of the adventure. Although, in some cases I refused to stay in some rooms – Jeff had no problem with the weird toilets, but like you said, he can pee anywhere LOL. I had to *rough it* on the trip, but sometimes I drew the line and refused haha!

  10. Great post. Very funny. I’m heading to SE Asia in a couple of months. So, you officially scared me! haha.

  11. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kim :) Don’t be scared, the funky toilets are all part of the experience heehee! Where are you planning to visit? I am jealous – I loved my trip through SEA…what a great experience.


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