Cure that 'bad aim' syndrome

Explicitly clear sign in Malaysian toilet

THERE are two places where “if you have to go, you have to go”. One is the cemetery and the other is the lavatory. Call it any name – bathroom, toilet, restroom, privy, comfort or powder room – it’s that Very Important Place where you must go when you have to go.

As Malaysia gears up to welcome visitors for Visit Malaysia Year 2007, the nation not only has to be more tourist-oriented but also desperately needs a comprehensive course to improve toilet techniques. While toilet training begins at home, notice that the rest stops along the North-South Expressway have posters with illustrations to educate users. Regretfully, the existence of such posters goes to show that people still need to be reminded on what to do and how to do it right.

Sign showing the right way to use a bidet
The Malaysian way of toilet hygiene involves washing. So public toilets are now thoughtfully equipped with taps, tubes and bidet spouts for users‘ convenience. However, toilet floors are often left wet and unsightly, slippery and smelly. Visitors might think that Malaysians suffer from a “bad-aim syndrome”!

Frequent travellers can tell us extraordinary toilet tales. In Vietnam, you may have company while doing your private business in a “double” where two toilet bowls are in one cubicle.

Now most toilet cubicles in China’s countryside have installed doors or half-doors, but many locals still do not use them. In a particular Chinese province, the public toilet has a common long drain that passes through each cubicle. You are to direct your aim at this drain and when someone washes hands at the sink situated at one end of the drain, the water will flow down the drain to refresh the toilet!

In the opposite extreme, China has some of the most luxurious toilets. When a tour coach made a rest stop, visitors alighted to use the privy. After using the facility, they were kept waiting because one man took a long time to return to the coach. When he finally returned, he was quizzed on why he had taken so long. The man sheepishly confessed that he was distracted by the show being screened on the tiny TV installed in front of his urinal!

Japan, renowned for its deluxe toilets, has now added musical trickling water to the toilet ambience in some posh restrooms to help diffuse any embarrassing gushing or flatulent noises. In addition to warmed seats and the bidet convenience, some plush toilets have women swooning over the warm jets of air that help dry them off after their bottom wash!

Toilet tales bring a squirm or a smile. So let not Malaysian toilets have a negative impact on visitors. Granted that travellers should expect a “culture shock” when visiting a foreign land, but the fact remains that toilets are a reflection of that particular country and its people. So beginning with our toilet techniques, let’s make every effort for our guests to take home a positive impression of Malaysia.

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 28 February 2006

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