Friday, June 18, 2010

The Toilet

(actual picture of a toilet at the hostel)

One of the greatest traveling adventures is how exactly to do the personal business we do in the bathroom.

When I leave my hostel dorm, instead of doing the 'cell phone-wallet-keys' check, I do the 'toilet paper-hand wash' check. It's quite a talent to learn how to squat across a 'toilet' in some of these countries. Often the 'toilet' involves a hole in the floor with, essentially, a missing floor board that you balance across and (try to) aim.

In the Mongolian ger country, when you ask where the toilet is, you get a blank stare and then a arm sweeping across the landscape. Because the earth is the toilet - if only you can find a small bush in the endless steppe to squat behind. I thought I had a great spot, in a bit of a depression, hidden by a scrub of grass - until a visiting local buzzed by me on a motorbike - the best I could do was smile and wave.

Then on the train you are forced to do your business while perched over a toilet that usually is missing any semblance of seat while the constant rocking of the train tracks. If you are wondering, the toilets 'flush' directly onto the tracks.

But the best part about the traveling ablutions is that you can talk about ANY of your bodily functions in a serious conversation with every other backpacker. Diarrhea in Ulan-Ude? Hmmm...interesting. Constipation in Ulaanbaatar? Must have been the pizza. None of these observations are ever taken offensively, in fact, they are often welcomed. Because all of our bodies are subjected to the constant changes in diet, water and stress that any normal human that doesn't try to do 5 countries a year isn't subject to.

So, in conclusion, I've had a bit of diarrhea today but the toilets are comfy so I don't really mind. Too much info for those at home? Maybe.

And here is a gratuitous shot of Lake Baikal to cleanse your palate after that post.


  1. Very courageous post. Although westerners might be uncomfortable with the subject matter it is information that is necessary for all travellers but seldom available. Well done T

  2. want to know the best part? I was eating a sandwich when I logged on to your blog and the first thing I see is a filthy gross toilet.
    at least I'll be skinny....

  3. Just finished installing a new low flush toilet, looks like your hostel could use something of the sort... I'll be right over with rubber gloves and a tool belt on. Can you keep your legs crossed that long?

  4. hey i've used a toilet of the exact sort of the one in the picture, but with huge toads jumping around it and no light (in the middle of the night)! honestly, i love the animals, but i was a little scared! It never dawned on me to take a picture though!!

  5. Kelti - that was in Bandiagara right? I was soo there! I LOVE showering with frogs!