There are a lot of cool things about Hanoi, but I want to take a few minutes to tell you about one of the most interesting – the toilets.
When you’re out for drinks and conversation it is inevitable that you’ll eventually need to visit the restroom. In many places staff or other patrons have decorated the room, door, stalls and etc in amusing and interesting ways. In Hanoi we had some rather different toilet excursions.
The first was at a little hole in the wall restaurant/pub. After a few glasses of Bia Hoi Sarah asked the staff for a toilet and was led into a dark hallway/creepy alley thing. I watched her go hoping she would return. A few minutes later she reappeared and recounted a harrowing tale. The nice man who got her going told her it would be the first door on the right. Sarah went in there but did not see a toilet, but she had followed directions so she thought she might need to go a bit further. Shortly she was in a random local’s bedroom who started yelling (in Vietnamese). She quickly backtracked and headed further down the corridor. Eventually she wound up near the kitchen where a woman asked “toilet?”. Sarah followed her and was led into the kitchen. The woman then turned around and motioned for Sarah to go a different way. Sarah left the kitchen, made her way around it to the right and finally found the bathroom. This consisted of a squat hole with no way to flush.
After hearing her tale I decided to give it a try, Sarah was nice enough to draw me a map.
Later that evening we were at another sidewalk pub across the street and I asked for a toilet. The woman led me into the same alleyway as earlier and I though I was headed back to the same room. Nope, partway down the alley we turned up some stairs. After going up a level I was in a family’s living room being motioned into their bathroom. I locked myself in there, noted the glassless windows into the living room where Grandma and a little girl were watching TV and looked for the toilet.
I have to pause here to explain SE Asia showers. Showers here are not enclosed, the bathroom is tiled and has a drain somewhere on the floor. The wall simply has a showerhead mounted on it somewhere. So before you start your shower it is important to remove the TP from the room and probably set your towel and clothing outside the door.
Ok, so I’m looking around this room for the toilet… Sink: check – Showerhead on the wall: check – Drain in the corner: check… That’s it. No toilet, no squat hole. So to the sounds of Vietnamese TV hoping the kid doesn’t decide to climb up to the window I tried to aim for the drain…
There was one more interesting incident the next night we went out. We were once again drinking Bia Hoi at a little street pub and once again I was led down a little corridor. This time into a cubby with no door. At least it had a squathole. As I usually do with squatholes I was standing over it. This put my back to the door. Suddenly a bucket of water is sloshed onto the floor and my legs and I start hearing “sorry” over and over. I keep going and say it’s ok. Then (I’m still peeing) the apologetic owner comes back and starts toweling down the backs of my calfs. Righto.
So next time you step into a bar bathroom just be thankful that you have things like doors, toilets, toilet seats, finished floors and hopefully luxuries such as dry floors and toilet paper.