Wed 12 Oct 2011 - Sun 23 Oct 2011
Ahh, one of the good toilets in Shegar, Tibet: clean ceramic, proper flush, electric light, garbage can, locking door.
One of the things my loved ones back home ask me about in our regular chats is the toilet situation in the countries I am visiting. Usually, I reassure them with an unreassuring, “It’s FINE.” But my toilet tales from China were worthy of an individual email, and the tales continued in the territory of Tibet.
Our first hotel was in Nyalam. Once our group was settled in our dormitory-style room, I checked out the shared bathroom. It had one stall for men and one stall for women. There was another small toilet in the hall, but with the never-ending leaking tap, and my lack of water-proof shoes, I didn’t try it. Inside the women’s stall I approached the ceramic squatter-style toilet with gusto; it required a large step onto a platform. Pants down and ready to go, I realized that there was a window to my right, one that looked out to a corridor by the guests’ rooms. When someone walked by I again realized that the lack of window dressing meant that my business was on display to all who cared to look up at the window. At night, with the light on in the bathroom, I created a lovely illuminated scene, surely to the entertainment of all!
Next in Tingri, our hotel consisted of rooms surrounding a dusty courtyard. In a break in the wall a small hallway took us to the toilet. There were two stalls, one with a half door and one without, each boasting a small rectangular hole in the cement floor. Squatting over this hole I was privy to the previous business of the past guests, as it was all on display on the ground below me. At night, with my headlamp on, I nervously flashed it against the walls of my stall, for the light attached to my head was only competing with star light. Critters of the night had unobstructed access to my late-night toilet party.
Also in Tingri, our group was anxious for a shower. We were directed to a small shed-like structure in the back of the hotel, given a single metal bowl, and shown where a kettle of water was being heated by the sun’s rays focused using a concave mirror. This boiling water was mixed with cold water, and one by one we entered the shed to spread the warm water over ourselves in a shower. Believe it or not, this was my first proper Bucket Shower, as when other opportunities had arisen in the past, I simply chose to stay dirty!
Our Tingri hotel, with toilet hallway in the back
On day three, at Everest Base Camp, our group was eagerly preparing to walk up to the viewpoint. First, I needed to use the toilet. I was directed to a small structure which reminded me of a school portable. There were two sides, each with two rectangular holes in the floor. However, at one hole, the previous business on the ground below had accumulated to the point where it was actually protruding above the level of the floor. I chose another hole and ran back to tell my travel-mates. The affectionately known Poo Pyramid remains one of the eight wonders of my toilet world.
At one of our many viewpoints, I walked to the brick structure labelled Toilet. Once through the door-less doorway, I recognized my least favourite Chinese style of toilet. The Trough is a channel in the floor which runs from the men’s side to the women’s in one flow of water. Half walls separate the sections and provide a tiny bit of privacy. With neither doors on the stalls, nor a door for the room, I was left to do my business with the cold mountain air rushing through the room around me.
No doors or window panes, but it DOES tell you the elevation!
While driving one day, I had to use Nature’s toilet. I asked our driver to pull over to the side of the road, and dragged Toby along as my location scout. The landscape was mostly flat, with only a few scraggly shrubs. I chose to walk downhill a bit, behind the Jeep. With Toby on guard to alert me of any onlookers (he could surely see them coming from miles away), a large transport truck drove by. “Do you think he could see?” I asked.
“No,” Toby lied.
Where does a girl find a loo out here?
My favourite toilet story happened in the capital city of Lhasa. One of our travel-mates had insider information that we had to experience a Nangma; a night-time performance of dancing and singing by the best local Tibetan artists. We sat at our table, ordered beer in groups of five, and watched the show. Little did we know what a great experience this would be, as we tisked at the teenagers drinking and smoking at the table in front of us and gawked at the amazing dance moves and hair-styles of the audience members who eventually took over the stage. At the end of the night my body reminded me that I had had two beers, and it needed to relieve itself. Slightly tipsy I found the ladies washroom. It had three stalls, two with half doors and the middle stall without. I chose one at the end and sighed in old, familiar, post–alcohol consumption relief. Suddenly my stall door opened, as it was without a lock, and I announced, “Occupied!” I heard some giggling, and looked up to see a few pairs of eyes peeking over the stall at me. I was, after all, one of four foreigners at the Nangma. Unfazed, I finished my job and walked to the sink. Behind me I heard a cheery, “Hello!” I turned around to see who had greeted me, and saw a young woman in the middle stall, pants down, in the middle of her business, staring at me, grinning ear to ear. After responding in kind I left the washroom, also grinning. The friendliness of Tibetans truly knows no bounds.