Go to Homepage
The only difference between first class travellers and first class idiots is the price they pay.

Bumming around Asia

The frantic search for a good, clean toilet on the road. Read this. It may save your life.

Vijay Verghese/ Editor

Change font size Smaller font Larger font

Print This ArticleE-mail This Page

AS DISCERNING PERIPATETICS EVERYWHERE will confirm, their single most important concern is not the overbooked hotel or the stewardesses pointing out the exits just in case someone decided to disembark through the overhead bins, or even global terrorism.

Of course, terrorism aloft could be eliminated entirely if stewardesses STOPPED POINTING OUT THE EXITS. Would-be hijackers armed with dangerous nail-clippers and possibly knitting needles would then find themselves in a quandary. “Take this plane to Kabul at once or I will open luggage bin 24C thus depressurising the plane and…” “Psst… Gulbuddin, that’s not the exit.” “Okay, okay, yes I know. I meant overhead compartment 34A.” “No, no stupid… that’s where the pilot sits.” “Oh bugger this. Excuse me miss, could I have a vodka tonic with a twist please?”

Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor   Share Share This Page

But we’re not talking terrorism here, not even the Code Orange Homeland Security kind where, say, a large bottle of highly inflammable Johnnie Walker falls out of an overhead bin. Not much the passengers could do in this terrifying scenario other than disarm the bottle by hastily pouring themselves large shots, taking care all the while, courteously, not to disturb the sleeping owner.

Passengers would then have to disarm the rogue bottle of Johnnie Walker by pouring themselves large shots...

No, we’re talking about something that has merited its very own exhibition at the International Finance Centre in Osaka, the riveting “Toilets of the World” display.

As that Indian buffet roars like a greased pig through 22ft of prime alimentary plumbing and people around you start to scatter, surely all you can think of is a clean accessible toilet and, perhaps, whether George Bush and John Kerry should both be sent to Baghdad to earn some real, incontestable, on-CNN time at the front. “So this is Eye-Rack, eh?” “No Mr President, this is my Bvlgari.” “Yeah I know Bvlbvlblubabah... Blahbavgari… anyway, who’s their president?”

It pays to plan ahead. If you happen to be disabled, for instance, it’s worth knowing that Shanghai’s Pudong airport has a splendid handicapped washroom with state-of-the-art facilities. It’s one floor down from the main departure level. To get in and out you’ll need to make your way down a steep flight of stairs and back up. No lift or assist.

This came to mind as I was reviewing an Amex insurance plan listing payouts for various categories of potential loss like “one digit, two limbs and one eye,” or “three digits, one penis and right hand” and so on. However, if you’re a current beneficiary of this plan you may not make it to Shanghai unless you have at least one digit, one big toe and one ear left. Have someone put it all neatly in a parcel and post it to Pudong.

You may never figure out the new Japanese potties but at the end of the day you'll be the proud possessor of one clean bottom

At Hongkong Airport the water fountains remain covered in mysterious sacks, possibly to discourage overuse of the otherwise excellent washrooms. And a life-saving tip for Delhi Airport – shell out Rs400 for access to the VIP lounge where they have white marble toilets with clean potties, the kind you sit on rather than the type you squat over and fall into.

Risking the collective ire of the many fine Swiss hoteliers who man the far outposts of the East to ceaselessly bring us ethnic Asian favourites like schnitzel and spaghetti bolognaise, the fanciest resort toilet I have come across is at the Grand Hyatt Bali. You can tell a man by his shoes (or socks) – and a hotel by its public loos. The washrooms here are all black marble with the kind of gleaming cubicles where you might expect to meet your bank manager – or the Pope.

Walk into any business hotel toilet today and you’ll be confronted with three-way toggles that require a B-777 pilot’s license to operate. In Hongkong, try the risqué glass cutaway bathtub at the Plateau or the completely see-through glass washroom smack in the middle of the bedroom at the Le Meridien Cyberport. Fortunately, there’s a switch that renders the glass opaque in a flash. Unfortunately, the switch is outside the bathroom.

If unimpeded flasher-style views of the city are what it takes, head up to Felix at The Peninsula. However, none of these efforts can beat the “World’s Most Expensive Toilet” built entirely of gold by a local Hongkong jewellery house, 3D-GOLD. Using the facility is not recommended unless you wish to be photographed by about two million Chinese. This is purely a tourist attraction.

In Japan, Matsushita has developed a potty that zaps your rear with an electric current to determine your body-fat ratio. There’s also one that glows in the dark. Venture into any hotel and with a whir the toilet will rise as you enter. Push buttons for just about everything, including a false flushing sound to mask embarrassing noises. You may never figure them out but you will certainly be the proud possessor of one clean bottom.

British festivals of course will never be the same again with the advent of the portable MSN iLoo complete with plasma screen and wireless keyboard. If you feel a certain appendage enlargement cannot be ignored further, this is good place to start exploring all those e-mails and getting to know yourself better.

Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor

Previous Columns
Note: Telephone and fax numbers, e-mails, website addresses, rates and other details may change or get dated. Please check with your dealer/agent/service-provider or directly with the parties concerned. SmartTravel Asia accepts no responsibility for any inadvertent inaccuracies in this article. Links to websites are provided for the viewer's convenience. SmartTravel Asia accepts no responsibility for content on linked websites or any viruses or malicious programs that may reside therein. Linked website content is neither vetted nor endorsed by SmartTravelAsia. Please read our Terms & Conditions.