Planes, Airports, and Toilets – Oh My!

Taiwan toilet SOS

On my way to Southeast Asia, for the first time I noticed the impact cell phones has had on airports. Now a proud owner of a smartphone, I was among the many looking to charge my phone for one more time before boarding a plane. To my delight I found that most airports now have free charging stations!

I had just suspended my cell phone service (to avoid unintentional exorbinant roaming charges) and was going with the idea of using Wi-fi to connect to the Internet, with hopes of finding lots of free Wi-fi in airports at the least. As a smartphone addict, I was visualizing this method would work as well as promised by a friend. (So far it has worked great! Thank you Los Angeles and Taiwan airports for the free Wi-fi, and to my friend for the Wi-fi and smartphone idea!)

At the Los Angeles airport, Samsung-sponsored plug stations were scattered around various boarding gates. (My friend almost left her phone plugged into the charging column, as we got in the boarding line shortly after midnight. Convenient charging, but not if you leave your phone and fly away!)

We were on EVA Air, my first flight with this airline. What an impressive menu (chosen when you book) and individual seat-back selections of a variety of movies, television shows, and more. (If can’t sleep on a plane, you will find lots to keep you occupied for a while!)

Two of my meals came with the coolest lime plastic utensils. We liked them so much we kept a pair as a souvenir. These have since come in handy during our travels. (We did not, however, keep the flossing tool that came with each meal.)

I had ordered the special seafood meal, so I was served earlier than most three times (on two flights). Most amusing was the one shrimp I found in my seafood breakfast (otherwise I dug around and found nothing remotely resembling seafood in there). Overall my seafood meals were good (especially the one shrimp), though my friend’s Hindu vegetarian meals seemed a bit more consistently in theme.

Taiwan_chargingWe arrived at Taipei, Taiwan over 13 hours later. With a three-hour layover, we had a bit of time to spare. Though bleary eyed, we the Internet addicts immediately found computers and IPads for use for free so happily checked in with family and friends. We were further impressed by the charging stations, boxes with locks – also a free service! The airport even had a small lending library with the only request that you return the book back to the library while you are in the airport.

I was confused by the SOS next to the toilet in the airport. Now that was taking care of travelers a bit too much perhaps? I guess it’s good to know that if I need help while using the toilet, I can easily press the emergency button and be taken care of shortly after that. (Anyone used one of these? If so, let me know how that went for you.)

After boarding another plane, we finally arrived in Bangkok about 22 hours later, including the two-hour drive to the Los Angeles airport.

thai bathroomsReturning to the subject of toilets, I now needed help with Thai toilets. After a few days, I finally figured out the spray nozzle next to Thai toilets. I believe that these are often replacements for toilet paper, but how do you use one without blasting the toilet, the floor, and surrounding areas with water and residual unmentionable materials? And then when you’re all wet, what do you do next if there’s no toilet paper around to dry off with? Hopping up and down (like I’ve done when on hikes) doesn’t seem wise here!

And then there are the squat toilets used in Asia, including Thailand. I get the general posture needed to use the toilet (hence the name “squat toilet”), but it’s still a real learning experience. For example, my friend was puzzled by what to do if you have to do number 2 in one of these and the buckets of water aren’t do the trick in washing things down. And how do you keep your long skirt or pants from eagerly soaking up any spare water around the toilet while trying not to miss the target and things going where you don’t them to go (like on our leg, outside the toilet, …). And which way do you face? And if you bring your own toilet paper (since many toilets don’t come with this), do you bag it and carry to the nearest trash since the system will clog if you throw it in the toilet? Sometimes it’s just not clear! (I am sparing you of a picture of this, as these are easily found online if you really still don’t get the picture.)

Anyone have squat or Thai toilet suggestions or techniques that have worked best for you?

One more question for you trivia buffs. Why do Americans ask for a restroom or a bathroom when most public facilities are not set up for resting or don’t usually have a bath? In China, these facilities are called hand-washing facilities; in Thailand they are simply labeled toilets.

Traveling internationally is always so eye-opening. So many questions about so many basics!

I’d be most grateful if you send your advice and share your travel experience (especially on toilets) here!


(Stay tuned for more travel queries and stories, as we travel for over two months in Southeast Asia!)

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