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Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Royal Flush : Happy World Toilet Day

US-HighTech-toilets

Only in America..

Apparently, today is World toilet day. Did you get a Hallmark card wishing you “Happy number two”? Neither did I but it had me thinking about my toilet experiences around the world.

Let’s start off with the culture shock a westerner will get when you go to places that literally have a hole in the ground. I recall one cafe in Amsterdam having a hole that you’d need the skill of a WWII bombardier to get your aim right. It was better than a bucket but still, it was not what one expects especially after you’d indulged in their herbal products and you’re not too steady on your feet.

Another culture shock is toilet paper : Not all of them flush it away. Many places around the world don’t want the paper in their water system and expect you to put it in the trash which as you can imagine, now stinks. When in such places, you don’t hang around too long to read a book.

That is assuming you even have toilet paper. In some places such as Middle East and India, using toilet paper is considered unhygienic. The protocol is to wash your backside with your left hand from a cup of water. Afterwards you wash  your hand. This is also why you should only eat with your right hand in India. The left is considered ‘dirty’ so careful what you use it for.

A high tech throne from one trip to Tokyo

A high tech throne in Tokyo

At the other end of the toilet spectrum is Japan. Going to the potty can be like the Apollo project. It is a delight to stay in a 5 star hotel in Tokyo just to experience the high tech toilets. They have ones that automatically put a new paper cover over the seat before you sit down. Others may warm the seat for you or play background music so people cannot your movements. Some include built in bidets but good luck in understanding which button does what.

As for toilet paper. Would you believe that many public toilets in Japan did not provide toilet paper until recently: They expected you to carry your own. It may still be the case today in some places but many department stores gave them out for free. For more reading Japan and their toilets, see this Japantoday poll and Japan-talk.

Toilets in Taipai airport

Green Fingers in Taipai airport.

The rest of Asia is also catching up with their obsession with their toilets. When recently in Taipei, I was taken aback by the cleanliness of the public toilet. Look at this, they even had plants in there. By the way, the women cleaners will just walk in so you bladder shy men are pre-warned.


 

Lets move to the US. Like many things in life, there are some bizarre things when it comes to the US toilets habits:

  1. They don’t like talking about them. So much so that toilets aren’t even called toilets. They are restrooms or bathrooms. It is the room that cannot be mentioned.
  2. In bars or restaurants, they will often minimize the numbers to the legally bare minimum. Even then, they may be tiny.
  3. The doors are never full length doors. You will always find a gap at bottom and top and even at bottom of the stalls themselves. Perhaps this is for US Politicians to play footsie with fellow crappers but us Roaman emperors have never understood why you cannot get full privacy.
  4. Public restrooms especially off main highways are nasty. It is always a pleasant surprise to come across a public restroom that is well kept. In Texas, one memorable place well maintained place in Guadalupe County rest stop just west of Seguin on I10. . Colorado County rest stop near Columbus Texas,on the other hand is more basic. Heaven forbid you need to use to use the crapper here as they don’t even come up to chest height. Most people in Texas will stop at Buc-ees instead where Buc-ees are known for their clean toilet facilities so much so, they win awards for it where you’ll even see billboards promoting Buc-ee’s. Of course while there, they will flog you their overpriced food and Buc-ee merchandise but it is an experience.
    An example of a Buc-ee's billboard

    An example of a Buc-ee’s billboard

Which brings me to my favorite toilets of all time: Protea Hotel “Fire & Ice!” in Capetown. Each toilet is individually themed – “Long Drop”, “Stage Fright”, “Out House” and “Tempation”- where it was a delight to try a new one out each time.

Toilets at the Fire and Ice, Capetown.

Toilets at the Fire and Ice, Capetown.

Wishing you a clean and crappy World Toilet day.

Augustus.

Crime of the Centuries

Men dressed as ancient Roman centurions walk during a protest in front of the Colosseum in Rome April 12, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Men dressed as ancient Roman centurions walk during a protest in front of the Colosseum in Rome April 12, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Another Roaman story on Rome where the one with the E, has banned Impersonators of soldiers from ancient Rome that been a common sight around the Colosseum, Forum and other major sites. [BBC news]

Together with Centurions, bicycle-drawn rickshaw drivers and ticket touts:

City commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca issued the decree ahead of the Catholic Jubilee year, an important tourist event starting on 8 December.

He is in charge of the city pending the election of a new mayor and cited security issues as well as protecting tourists from scams as the reasons for the decree.

It spoke of the “inappropriate, insistent and sometimes aggressive” behaviour of Centurions, who charge between €5 and €10 ($5.3-$10.6) for a photo. They can also get tips from tour organisers for persuading tourists to go on guided trips.

There is more.

There have been incidents of “gladiators” attacking each other to defend their pitches at lucrative sites.

That sounds pretty authentic gladiator like behavior to me ! I’d pay good money to see this again. Let’s hope they bring in Lions impersonators as well.

But wait, haven’t they tried something legislating like this before. Yes siree. Back in 2012, there was a protest where a dozen of so centurions clashed with police where they even took over the Colossium.

One ruse of the impersonators is to offer to take a photo for small Euro donation but keep the camera until they get a larger payment. Sounds just like politicians to me.

The Cemetery of Negativism sucks

Cemetery of Negativism : Camp John Hey, Baguio City

Cemetery of Negativism : Camp John Hey, Baguio City

As I took a Saturday walk around my hotel at Camp John Hays, I spotted a sign which said “Cemetery of Negativism”.

Cleo, you’ve got to see that I said you myself so up I climbed a horrible hill in hot humid conditions which brought me to the old Governor’s house. 60 pesos later, I am in the grounds looking around.

I eventually find the Cemetery and I am looking at the tombstones of cliches. What is ironic is that many of the plastic figures that are supposed to be there – for example on “It’s not possible” – had corroded away. How funny is that?

Anyhow, curiosity had killed my cat and I headed back off the my hotel for a shower.

My verdict of Cemetery of Negativism: A Load of rubbish  !

Hmm, I wonder if two negatives make a positive review..

Ciao for now,
Cleo.

PS: On the way back, I spied a baby statue of Liberty. And just like the one in New York City, cannot be freely accessed.

1-IMG_1060

Kat me if you can

Dahlings, I’m just looking at my photographs from my Philippines jaunt. On the final flight back it was Hello Kitty on Steroids. The flight over just had graphics on the outside.

As you can see. Hello Kitty Seats, food, Attendants and even in the restroom, there was no escaping it just like you said Caligula. I loved it.

Ciao for now,
Cleo

The Sun : Sharm on you

Capture-TheSun-StoryPrivate Eye, a British satirical magazine, has a story which paints The Sun (the infamous UK tabloid) in an even worse light.

“NICK PARKER, chief foreign correspondent of the Sun, had shocking news on last Friday’s front page: “Security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport has been exposed as a shambles after guards let Brits jump queues for a £15 fee – without checking their luggage.”  Sharm el-Sheiikh is the airport from which the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268, flying from before it was brought down with a likely an explosive that was placed on board.

The Private Eye story is not that they published the article on bribing the guards it is WHEN they published it.

According to Private Eye they knew about it FIVE months ago but decided against going with the story for the reason that they didn’t want to be prosecuted for bribing foreign officials.

Nice. A bit of courage could have exposed this flaw before hand.

Feed the to the Lions.

The Love shack

To promote activity, Facebook offers you “memories” of pictures on an anniversary of when you posted.

Which brings me to the above picture of a hotel room from the Scottish Inn in West Houston that I stayed in while on business. It turned out that my visit coincided with a big conference so as I searched through my corporate travel site for hotels, I found it on something like page 27 of hotels. All others were sold out. Being somewhat desperate – it was that or Galveston – I booked it. What is more, they hadn’t jacked up their rates like the hotels in Galveston had. From memory, I’d say around $70 per night versus $250 of others.

I didn’t know it before booking but it is located just off the busy highway 6 and not a particular nice part of Houston. I wouldn’t say unsafe but just ugly looking.

As I opened the front door, I stood there in stunned amazement at the decor of the room. It was as if the room had been decorated by an 8 year old: A mural of the sea; fluorescent night lights that lit up the stars;  mirrors everywhere.

Eventually I got over the ‘You got to be kidding’ moment and checked the room out : A fridge, plenty of space and excellent Wifi connection. After going out for some food and groceries, I turned in for the night. Being located just off a busy highway, I didn’t hear any traffic and had an otherwise comfortable experience.

The only minor drawback – when I woke up, I felt a bit sea sick !

The Paris Attack

It is now reported as 100+ dead as I type. The attack was on young people enjoying themselves : A Concert hall, Restuarants and Stade de France sports stadium.

You cowardly miserable bastards.

I was looking at visiting France next summer: It is now a definite.