Toilet Tales from China

Modernizing fast, but not always well. One exploded recently.

dsc01064One of the things that distresses many Western visitors to China are the public toilets. Most are very clean (attendants are often on hand in public restrooms to make sure), but squat toilets still predominate. Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, just don’t like them.

Even as China is building the tallest skyscrapers, the highest bridges, the longest tunnels and the most bullet trains, it is addressing more basic needs by modernizing public toilets, which in places other than tourist areas badly needed modernizing.

It doesn’t always go well. One person was killed and seven injured when a build-up of gas (methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide) in sewer pipes caused a public toilet to explode in northwestern China on New Year’s Eve.  A blast in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, caused a new toilet building to collapse. One person was killed and several were injured, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. Despite the inevitable jokes, it was no laughing matter.

Clean but not comfortable for many Westerners.
Clean but not comfortable for many Westerners.

Chinese toilets in public buildings (including at highway rest stops) come in two basic styles, “squatters” and “seats.” Squatters are porcelain fixtures at floor level, with places for the user’s feet. Seats are closer to Western-style.

Except in fancy hotels and restaurants, toilet paper is not provided. BYO — or, if you are on a tour, be grateful that tour buses usually have a supply. In many places, there is a waste basket next to the toilet. That’s where the TP goes. Flushing might often clog up that delicate plumbing.

Perhaps the most bizarre toilet I encountered was a concrete trench near a historic fort not far from Wenzhou.  A waist-high “privacy” wall enabled two women to squat over different parts of the trench. A flow of running water flushed it. I didn’t have my camera so sadly could not take a picture. #SATWChina

One thought on “Toilet Tales from China”

  1. OMG, the worst ever toilet has to be in China. I came across one in Sichuan province that was so bad the women on the bus mutinied. We refused to go! The urgency left us when we saw and smelled the stench. Terrible. You don’t want to know more. Though the driver protested, he did lose and took us to another squatter that was cleaner. Geeze.

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