Monday, June 18, 2007

Excuse me, can you spare a square??

Here's a little tidbit for future travelers to China .... bring toilet paper!

No, no ...... seriously. Because it's not as if the existing toilet paper there is, say, a little rough, or something. You know, like in Europe. In China, the toilet paper for the most part is just plain ole Missing In Action.

You'd enter a stall and there just wasn't even a PLACE for toilet paper to be hung. You could try moseying back out to the "common" area of the bathroom in hopes that a toilet roll holder would exist there (a couple of bathrooms had it this way). One bathroom, in fact, had a bathroom attendant who handed you a small wad of toilet paper as you headed into a stall. (how's that for a sucky job??) But really, about 50% of the time there just wasn't toilet paper. Nada. Nothing. Kaputz. And it's not like I was out wandering in the backcountry, ya know? I'm talking even in mainstream tourist areas and big city restaurants.

Luckily I had plenty of small packets of tissue with me. So I never went without. But that doesn't mean that I'd always enter the stall prepared with tissue in hand. Oh no, no. Often I'd be midstream (sorry for the mental image) and reach for toilet paper, find none, and realize I then had to wrestle out of my backpack and dig around in the bottom of it for a packet or two all while balancing in the most awkward of positions.

"Why is that?", you ask. "Why weren't you just comfortably sitting astride the lovely toilet? Are you subtly telling me that I need to pack toilet seat covers as well??"

Nope. You certainly CAN take toilet seat covers with you ... but you might then also want to pack an actual TOILET SEAT as well. Because the majority of toilets there, my friends, looked like these:

That's right, our tour guide called it "Oriental Style". And this style of toilet was the status quo. So airport, nice restaurants, etc all had toilets such as these. (the hotels we stayed at, luckily, had "Western Style", god bless 'em)

Now, granted, that first one pictured above needed a good cleaning. Seeing this picture with all the wetness around where I had to stand to squat is just making me want to grab my antibacterial wipes and rescrub the bottoms of my shoes. (*shudder*). And sadly I visited much worse than this one. MUCH WORSE. Though this particular restroom didn't have it, the "nicer" ones actually had a bathroom attendant whose job it was to mop the floor around these toilets after each use. (a job even suckier than the TP Chicks!). Of course, I just kept thinking about all the ickiness on the mop ... it's not like it was cleaned and sanitized (or even dipped in water) between each mopping. (where did I put those antibacterial wipes again??? GAH!)

But the good news about both of these toilets is that these actually FLUSHED. Because the ones which didn't, and there were certainly ones which didn't ... yeeeee doggie. Just be happy this blog isn't scratch-n-sniff is all I'm sayin.

Of course, even a lot of the nicer restrooms smelled because they requested you throw out your used tissue (ahem) into the wastebasket instead of flushing it down the "toilet". So even if the toilet flushed most of the restrooms had quite a strong stench to them. And that wastebasket, not a sight for sore eyes, know what I'm sayin'! Ugh.

Now these Oriental Style toilets took a bit of getting used to. And being creatures of habit, or lazy, or just really bad at balancing in the squat position, the folks in our group would check each stall to see if any were Western Style so we'd know. And if one was found, we'd line up to use that one. But I finally figured out that you could tell which stalls were which style just by looking to see if there was a step up into it. Like viewed below:

See the step up into each stall? ... yep, all Oriental Style. Much easier than checking each stall.

But I tell ya, after one particular restroom experience I no longer cared which style toilet I used. Whatever got me in and out of the smelly bathroom quickest, ya know? Because there was this one restroom break we took at a reststop (picture a gas station) between Wuhan and Yichang. Good. Golly! A number of folks wouldn't even use it because they couldn't stay in there long enough without retching. Plus there was no privacy. And you pretty much just peed into a trench. If they had souvenir t-shirts reading "I survived the bathroom facilities here" I'd a surely bought one. Let me tell you, I must have gone through an entire packet of antibacterial wipes after that!!!!!!!!!! So once I survived that restroom all the others seemed pretty damn nice to me ... oriental style or not!!

Of course, later in the trip I saw this sign on a restroom and had to go in just to check it out.

For the record, the restroom it is referring to contained the flattest toilet of the two pictured at the top of this post. Not quite the 4-Star Facilities I was hoping for .... but again .... compared to that reststop restroom .... this one was gold!

So, Future China Travelers, let's recap what you should pack:

1. Toilet Paper
2. Antibacterial Wipes
3. If you plan to use that one particular gas station reststop, additionally pack a gas mask, a stall door, and a portable antibacterial shower. At the very least!

And in preparation for your travels to China, be sure to build your quadriceps up well. You're gonna need 'em.

p.s. I found the following, an "Etiquette Bell", in each stall of the Seoul, Korea airport (which is by far the cleanest airport I have ever been in!).

Does anyone know what the hell that thing does when you push the button?? (along with why?). I have one guess ... but I don't want to say. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller??

[update: ah ha! Success!!! I finally thought to just Google the Etiquette Bell and found this! (hee hee hee)]


Sis said...

Etiquette bell. I think of poof of pretty fragrance comes out. Am I right?

Becky said...

Yikes! I am so bringin TP, wipes and all - thanks for the warning!!

Julie said...

I think I'll just skip China when I take my world tour! YUCK!

I'm guessing the etiquette bell gives a blast of air freshener?

Kat said...

Interesting on the Etiquette Bell. I was thinking it made a noise ... which is why I didn't press it!! :)

shannon said...

why why WHY did i read this while eating breakfast?!?! and once i started i couldn't stop...

no clue on the bell. i'll have to ask my friend who knows all things asian. :)

Ms C said...

omg, it covers up peeing and pooping sounds:

(don't know if this link will come through but there's a youtube vide)

Kat said...

hee hee hee. You said "pooping" on my blog. (yeah, I'm 12! :))

Ms C said...

i knew you'd like the potty words.