I don’t know about you, but I tend to judge a civilization by its public conveniences, just as I rate restaurants and bars by their toilet facilities. I mean, it’s one thing to be sitting comfortably, eating and drinking in fine style surrounded by elegance, but it’s quite another to discover a smelly, dirty, unhygienic, cesspit lurking in the background when Nature calls.
I guess most of us are pretty put off each time we see someone, often a driver, emerging from the bush after doing what comes naturally – but without any apparent means of post-cleansing; and then we have the gentlemen who relieve themselves by the roadside – isn’t it odd that men seem to feel the need to have something to pee up against – but have never heard the Old Yorkshire adage that if you shake it more than three times, you’re playing with it.
But what choice do they have? Saint Lucia is not actually bristling with public conveniences. I mean, where does one pee in hygienic relative comfort? For those who are condemned to the early morning rush – well, crawl – to Castries from the north, a quick visit to the facility down the side of the Rituals Coffee Shop by the cinemas is a tolerable “watering hole” but where do you go if you’re coming in from the south? Well, I suppose Tapion Hospital is the closest establishment with facilities; the ones downstairs are very fresh and clean.
Well, I would never have considered a public loo to be a watering hole, had I not experienced the Modern Toilet chain of establishments during a recent swing through South-East Asia. Taiwan is pretty heavy on “themed enterprises” and Modern Toilet is one such success story.
My curiosity was tickled when I first came across an advert for Modern Toilet after a very pleasant day in the company of several adorable female students from one of the local universities in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city, in the far south of the island, so I decided to check the place out, and guess what I found!
The chain of Modern Toilets, which started in Kaohsiung, now has 12 restaurants in Taiwan and Hong Kong with future locations planned in Macau and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It is a unique toilet-themed restaurant chain, and when I say toilet-themed, I mean toilet-themed! It is not odd in Taiwan to find restaurants with unusual themes; there are also eating locales that resemble jailhouses and hospitals.
Everything in the Modern Toilet restaurant is based on items from a bathroom or toilet. The checkered tile covered walls are adorned with showerheads, while plungers hang from the ceiling along with faeces-shaped lights. The chairs are actual un-working toilets; dishes are served on plastic miniature toilet bowls, and drinks in miniature urinals.
Modern Toilet Restaurants emerged after the success of the owner’s ice cream shop that sold swirls of ice cream served in mini toilets. His inspiration for the bathroom-themed restaurant came from a robot character from the Japanese cartoon character Dr. Slump, who loved to “play with poop and swirl it on a stick.” The chocolate ice cream was served on top of paper “seat” toilets, like the ones used in the West. At Modern Toilet, customers are welcome to take home the miniature toilet bowls and plastic urinals as souvenirs.
Now if this sounds a tad distasteful, well, I would have to agree, but not surprisingly, the restaurant is packed each night with locals and visitors alike, and every customer seems set on having his or her photo taken whilst eating “on the loo”. And I thought I was bad for enjoying a good read in the “smallest room”.
It’s amazing really, isn’t it, the ideas that people come up with. Now I am not advocating that our roadside shanties and attendant chicken vendors should double up as public facility providers to clean up the public urinators and defecators, but it’s about time somebody came up with a plan to provide public facilities worthy of this ‘simply beautiful’ island nation.