The Most Extravagant Toilet in Bhutan through Travelers lens

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EXCUSE ME

Did you know – The average person spends a total of 3 years of their lifetime on the toilet according to the World Toilet Organisation. 

When I was assembling data for my thesis in 2017 at the Paro international airport, the last section enlisted on the questionnaire was the FEEDBACK / SUGGESTIONS to further strengthen tourism services. 70% of respondents left a message to improve the sanitation and construct more toilets, especially around tourist destination and landmarks. 

Every time I came to Bhutan for a short holiday from Thailand, on the way back to Thimphu, I would ask my sister to stop the car, without any hesitation, she would pull over the car either near enormous rock or at the vicinity with huge hideaway to attend my indispensable task. This to many Bhutanese has become a culture and there is no shying away from such a situation. 

If we drive past the road, we see man audaciously peeing, you will see mother helping her baby to pee or poop at any convenient spot and not to forget the senior citizens shamelessly caught on the similar act. With such demeanour, I have concluded that we are the most shameless creature. However, on a positive note, I admire the audacity of our people who pull off to attend due call anywhere, anytime!

Luxurious Toilet in the World

Lately, I received a message from my Singaporean sister, she asked me ‘Since you are an avid hiker/trekker/traveller…How do you handle your wastes in mountains/places where there are no toilets? 

My instantaneous answer was nowhere else but only in my country, I get to poop and pee at most luxurious settings especially while trekking and hiking. Imagine 360-degree landscape view under your nose, in the wilderness, facing Himalayan mountain ranges, amongst the birds twittering, vicinity dressed with the fragrances of nature and fresh flowers… nature assures us the place and comfort of relieving golden task of the day and that to me is luxury. Although, toilets and luxury don’t typically go in the same sentence together. The only fear I endure is what if the twig or plants underneath spur my vitals while excreting in the wilderness.

Today in rest of the world It’s not a wonder why when toilets are involved with the not-so-luxurious parts of our lives. However, it seems that as technology improves and as the desire for luxury increases, designers are finding ways to glamorize the toilet.

In Hong Kong, there’s a toilet covered in 24-carat solid gold that cost $5 million. Think that $5 million may be a lofty price for a loo? Well, consider the International Space Station’s toilet which features leg braces that hold astronauts in position and a special fan that sucks the waste into the septic tank; the total rings in at $19 million.

After trekking to places, mountains and far-flung settlements, the toilet has always been one of the least thought about infrastructure to many stakeholders. For instance, a few years ago while hiking up the to Meri Phuensum, the sight of the toilet was nowhere to be seen, instead of building numerous bridges I thought building at least one toilet would befit fellow hikers. At least they could do business in peace without having to go too deep shrubs only to tussle over bears presence. 

Even while hiking up to the most iconic landmark of Bhutan – Paro Taksang, the sight of the toilet along the trail is rare, well not existent. The hikers will have to pee/poop at the base, if not hold it till the Cafeteria or empty one’s bladder once hiker reaches the monastery. 

The call for TOILET 

Toilets in Bhutan was built only of late. The first tourist toilet that many locals misunderstood as café is located near Tagkchog Monastery along the Thimphu-Paro Highway. Many locals whom I asked if they ever used that particular toilet, they shared that the toilet is too touristy, thus they choose to rather hit beyond the road to do the business. 

I don’t understand why Bhutanese do not take toilet culture seriously, one time I was told that the newly built toilet along the highway was asked to shut down by the head of the village for no reasons. As I watch these trends, I laugh, I wonder and I feel we will never learn to evolve because we have now synced in with mother nature. From food till the waste! 

The good news that Chaplop Passang under his initiative Bhutan Toilet Organization is creating some sensible toilet culture in Bhutan. The usage of toilet and attitude of people is only changing for better. The organizations objective is to inspire and empower individuals and communities through education, advocacy and social initiatives about toilet culture.  

I wish more toilets along the highways and along trekking trails in future, meanwhile, see you at the bush