Thursday, June 16, 2011

China's Infamous Toilets

I am trying to blog as much before Thursday, which is when I go for my LONG AWAITED LASIK op to correct my severe myopia. But that also means, my dearies, that I will once AGAIN be absent from this blog because I am NOT supposed to strain my eyes after my op. Although seriously I wonder how long I can stay away from the laptop/iPAD/TV/books - may one day? Less than 24 hours? 5 hours?!?!? God, I use my eyes for every damn thing - all my hobbies involve heavy usage of the eyes, like reading, drama watching, blogging, am I ever going to survive? Gah. Trying not to think about it.

Let's discuss more unpleasant stuff.... like China's public toilets. Where Japanese toilets are probably the best (and most sanitary) in the world (absolutely the BEST), China's are right at the other end of the spectrum. Just the thought of it gives me goosebumps (of the worst kind). Even before I went on my first trip to China, I have heard all sorts of horror stories, like most people. Thankfully since I stuck to the developed cities and stayed close to hotels for my baser needs, I did not encounter anything horrifying. But true exposure came fast and furious on this trip.

My tolerance level for dirty toilets is ZERO, or even negative something something. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why people do not see the need to flush toilets. It horrifies me to note that there are so many parts in the world where there are no proper toilets, and people do not really CARE. (Ok, they may have bigger things to worry about, like day-to-day survival, but STILL.) Is it any wonder then that I love Japan so much?? The toilets are soooo clean everywhere I go (even better than Singapore!!) that I probably can have meals inside!

During my Silk Road sojourn, I have mastered the art of timing my pee times appropriately, holding it in for as long as humanly possible until we get to an acceptable restroom stop and drinking as little water as possible  in a super hot and dry climate. Since we made the trip with Samurai T's students, I had come to depend on their "toilet reviews" each time we reach a toilet stop (be it on the road or in a restaurant, etc.) "It's a C-plus!" or "It's very smelly!" or "There are no doors!" to "F-minus minus!!" or "You cannot see anything inside!". Music to my ears would be "It's very clean!" which I heard only once or twice during the entire 11-day trip, cleanest being a restaurant in Lanzhou where there was even a helpful and cheerful toilet lady to make sure even the sinks are not wet after use.

I don't know how they (the Chinese) construct the sewage pipes in China, but people are not even allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet for fear of clogging. (There is a similar practice in South Korea, if I remember correctly.) So waste paper are all conveniently deposited into a nearby bin. Already ewwww, right? It is even worse when the baskets are overflowing because no one bothers to clear it. You can only imagine the worst stench ever. The scariest I have encountered was at a restaurant in Urumqi where once you step onto the second level where there is a huge dining hall and where the toilets are located, your nasal orifices are hit by the most unbelievable smell EVER. I cannot imagine having to take my meals at any table on the second level because I would puke if I so much as draw a breath.

And naturally because the level of civic consciousness is not there, there were numerous incidences of un-flushed toilets (maybe they were saving water?!?), and toilets where the walls were so low between cubicles you could actually have a chat with your neighbour when you are doing your business. The Chinese also do not quite understand the concept of privacy because many doors have no locks and/or locks are spoilt, and the tour group had lost count how many times we had accidentally opened the door to a user squatting over the hole. The girls in particular took turns to guard over each other's doors - lest someone decided to barge in! One particular memorable incident for me was during our visit to the Southern Pastures where the toilet was completely dark once the door was closed and it was literally a hole in the ground and there was no flush (!!!). The upside was you could see nothing disgusting; the downside was a snake could crawl out and you wouldn't know.

Thank God I survived but I need to visit Japan again soon to wipe away all the toilet trauma I had experienced on this holiday......

All major sites have "Tourist Toilets". Unfortunately, many of them are not the kind of toilets they want to see. This will be my only picture. Anything else, you will get nightmares for the rest of your lives.

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