Often the unplanned is what makes a good trip great. Adventure, spontaneity, lots of fun, great memories. The unexpected. The strange. Just like this one toilet in India. We were close to the Pakistani border; coming from Amritsar and its Golden Temple and busy streets in our bus. We spent the night near the highway, parked next to a gas station on the countryside. No problem for us! We where prepared – we could all sleep in the bus or on its roof, we had sleeping bags, we had pillows. What our bus didnâ€™t have was a bathroom or toilet. Packed with toothbrushes, face towels and bars of soap we walked over to the toilet next to the gas station. And – wow! – this was the toilet weâ€™d never forget! The toilet memory of a lifetime! Behold – this toilet was a tiny universe on its own full of life in the middle of nowhere! Fantastic. Once you entered you were immediately immersed in darkness; only a yellow, weak lightbulb provided guidance to the odd visitor. The air was misty and smelly, full of mosquitos and flies. Buzzing with insects. The floor was damp and slippery, water leaking from the toilet and sink. The master of this bathroom universe could be found right behind the toilet: a giant fat toad reigning over flies and slugs for eternity and beyond.
Another memorable toilet experience happened in Vietnam. We were on the countryside near Nha Trang on an island in a river. A family lived on the island in a little house with lots of palm trees in the garden. They farmed coconuts. We sat on those little red plastic stools drank fresh coconut water together with our guide Mr. Thong (whose name is NOT pronounced like the slinky underwear; more like the tongs out of a tool kit). After a while I had to use the bathroom; a very simple asian squatting toilet. I donâ€™t exactly know how it happened but – whoops! – all of a sudden I heard a noise and a splash and my Gucci glasses were in the toilet instead of on my head. NeedIess to say, I really didnâ€™t feel like poking around in the toilet, especially since there was no way for me to wash my hands afterwards – but what was I supposed to do? Leaving my Guccis? I remembered the Vietnamese family; what would they think of me? A Westerner trying to flush down a pair of very expensive shades down the drain? What an utterly snobbish gesture! In the end, I braced myself and pulled out the sunglasses, put on a smile and had some more coconut.
Toilets are – and will be – an essential part of traveling. Just like other day-to-day stuff that makes a trip special just because itâ€™s totally different from things at home. Toilets are part of that experience, too.
I havenâ€™t seen Mr. Thong or the the Toad, her Majesty of the Toilet Universe ever since; but Iâ€™ll always remember them.
A toilet free zone!
Happy toilet memories to y’all,
Hugs from Anna-Clara