If you give a mouse a cookie….

….. remember that book?  You know, next thing he’s going to ask for a glass or milk. In other words, one thing invariably leads to the next.  On our trip to China, we were reminded to stay hydrated at all times – for the long-haul flights, for the high altitude, and for jet lag.  So, if you are drinking as much as you can, guess what comes next?

We flew from Madison to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to L.A. and L.A. to Guangzhou in southern China.  At Guangzhou, we had to leave the International Terminal for our domestic flight to Kunming.  Our China Eastern flight departed from the Domestic Terminal, which was far less flashy, and had the first bathroom that let me know I was really in China.

Guangzhou airport. Trashcan is for toilet paper – don’t try to flush it down!

Toilets in China are generally of the squatting variety.  The airport toilet was one of the cleanest I saw in public on this trip.  It was also “free.”  (I mean, considering I had paid to be in the place by virtue of buying my ticket.)  Across China, if we had to use a public toilet, there was generally a fee of 5 jiao, or 1/2 a yuan.  For this ridiculously low price, you almost felt, “why bother?”  That’s because they were often so dirty I felt they should be free, or else we should pay more for them to be clean.  Below is a sort of typical public toilet. 

Photo courtesy of UD.

The public toilets ran the gamut from flushable, with private stalls (such as we found in downtown Kangding –  no photo), to semi-private stalls (like, open-doored with half-walls), to one long trench over which everyone squatted.  These most primitive ones were generally found along the highway at rest stops.  Below is a sturdy structure at an established rest stop.  Further north, we often used slapped-together “buildings” of cinderblock, sheet metal, or just a frame over which a tarp or blanket was draped. 

One especially memorable one (below), here photographed only from the outside, had three sections.  Straight ahead is the women’s door, and we were waiting in line.  To the left was for men.  Each had a trough below that led to…. a pigsty, on the right.  Are you ready to stop eating pork now?

My favorite rest-area story involves a stop we made along a rushing river.  Most rest-stop toilets smelled terrible, but this one was clean and fresh-ish, as the one-long-trough was constantly “flushed” by the river flowing downhill and underneath us.  It was pitch dark inside, as the bathroom was made of poles and sheet metal with a blanket for a door.  You could really only see anything when someone lifted the blanket.  But there were plenty of customers.  Behind me, a woman taking advantage of the chance to squat was texting on her smart phone.  I wonder if she was tweeting about our awesome bathroom……

Here’s one from a mountain monastery garden …….photo courtesy of UD. 

"Men's Room" (photo by UD)

As we traveled north, we began to stay in Tibetan-style homes, with the bathrooms in the courtyard.  This structure was in the courtyard of the Shangri-La Community Library. 

PM’s own house had such a  bathroom. If you want to take a shower, you do so over the toilet.  (Watch out; it gets a little slippery.)

Needless to say, we always appreciated a wonderful bathroom whenever we found one.  In some of the nicer guest houses where we stayed there were “throne” toilets.  Haven’t you always wanted to keep an eye on what your kids are doing, even when you are in the shower?  (Too bad it’s not one-way glass.)  

Horsepen 46 Hostel, Shaxi, Yunnan Province

At the Somewhere Else Cafe in Old Town, Shangri-La, we found the Best Bathroom in China.  Because we said so.

I’ve been asking myself: with all the China photos I still have left to post, why focus on bathrooms?  I guess I just needed an excuse to post this little one right here…. last Saturday we visited a neighbor, and he took us up to his hunting camp in the woods.  He just had to show off his “bulletproof bathroom,” and wouldn’t you know, inside was the cutest, cleanest little two-seater you ever saw.  I think anyone in China would have been absolutely thrilled to have it! 

Town of Perry, Wisconsin

Next time, some more scenic views of China, I promise!

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3 Responses to If you give a mouse a cookie….

  1. I’ve never been to China, but I’ve used some pretty horrible “bathrooms,” including the hole in the floor kind. In campgrounds in Italy, that’s what we found, and they were very primitive. There were some bad rest rooms in Ecuador, too. One “rest room” was behind some trees with a bunch of little kids watching. That was fun. It puts our roadside pit stops in perspective, I guess. And I suppose I shouldn’t complain about our one-bathroom house. Waa, waa, a one bathroom house with a real toilet and shower. We don’t appreciate how lucky we are.

  2. wingraclaire says:

    You can say that again!!!!

  3. ibuibulai says:

    This is a funny post! but yeah, seriously…. if a public bathroom in China has soap, that’s phenomenal. And if it paper AND soap, whoa.

    whose bulletproof toilet is that? impressive!

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