Not long ago, on a frigid December morning in the heart of Korea, I was walking to work while in front of me an old woman pushed her cart. She looked indistinguishable from any other old Korean woman – wearing mismatched baggy floral garments, a visor in spite of the complete absence of any sunlight, a face mask to protect her from invisible germs that fly over from foreign countries, and a pair of dirty white gloves.

She was about ten paces ahead of me when it happened… All of a sudden she whipped down her baggy floral trousers and giant brown underpants and proceeded to squeeze out a massive shit on the frosty pavement, followed by a splattering, spraying, steaming puddle of piss.

I was utterly horrified, of course, and for the next two hours I taught my children upstairs in a classroom, the window of which overlooked the scene of the crime. That cabbagey behemoth stared up at me until someone was kind enough to step in it and carry it into obscurity on the bottom of their shoe.

You might well think that I was surprised to see an elderly woman drop her trousers and crap on the street, but to be honest, after two years in Asia it wasn’t quite the shock it might otherwise have been. It was neither the first nor the last time that I’d seen a person shit on the street, and probably ranked around the thousandth time I’d witnessed a person pissing on the street in broad daylight. I’ve come to realise that the expulsion of bodily waste isn’t viewed the same in Asia as it is in the prudish West.

During the summer I was a little shocked to see an old woman – again she looked identical to every Korean woman over the age of fifty – taking a dump on a park bench. I was surprised more than anything by the fact that she hovered her wrinkled cheeks over the bench and fired one out, because there were plenty of bushes, paths and dirty patches nearby that she could have as easily used.

Bushes, paths and dirt patches are pretty common bathrooms in Korea. There is a row of bushes near my house that runs along a busy road with many pedestrians travelling between a dense residential area and a large supermarket. Each and every day I witness old men pissing in the bushes or squatting behind a thin, superfluous tree. Mothers yank their children’s trousers down and grip their genitals, pointing carefully into the dirt.

But it’s not just old men and women who defile the pavements of Asia. Children piss and shit at will, making the streets a treacherous gauntlet of human waste.

In the port city of Busan the beaches are frequently packed with tourists from all over Korea. Toilets conveniently line the top of the beach, but for many that’s just too much effort. In the dense, crowd of Koreans – who cluster together beneath parasols, dressed in suits and ties in spite of the hundred degree heat – the smell of faeces is unmistakable. Families gather around the young and cheer as they void their bowels onto the sand. (It’s worth noting that overcoming constipation is a key theme of children’s books in a nation where intestine-clogging kimchi is eaten three meals a day.)

One little observation: Even cats cover their shit. Koreans don’t.

In stores across Korea you’ll find mothers helping their offspring drop their trousers and piss or shit on the floor, with absolutely no regard for the poor bastard whose job it is to clean up the mess. Sometimes they use a bottle and carry it with them for purposes I don’t care to explore. I remember once seeing a middle-aged woman helping her daughter piss on the floor of a supermarket, right underneath a sign that read: “TOILETS: 50 M” Another time I saw a woman on a boss collecting her son’s piss in a green tea bottle… Now that’s nothing if not an accident waiting to happen.

You might well be wondering what Korea smells like, given that people treat the streets and stores as toilets…

When I first arrived in Korea I was constantly asking, “Who farted?” The whole country smells like an angry, unwashed asshole. I soon realized that the question had several answers: The sewage system is primitive at best, resulting in an unpleasant nostril full of shit fumes each time one passes a drain; people tend to subsist on a diet of cabbage, resulting in unusual levels of particularly ferocious flatulence; and the streets are – as mentioned above – treated as toilets.

There is, however, one place that smells worse than all the streets of festering kimchi farts – the dreaded squatters. I say dreaded because they strike such fear into the hearts of uninitiated travellers. However, to a group of people who would as happily do their business in a bush, on the beach or in front of a kindergarten, they aren’t so bad.

Squatters make even the most unpleasant of sitting toilets look like a throne. They are mere holes in the ground, and usually the ground around them is best left ignored. Squatters have claimed their share of dropped objects, and seen more than a few unbalanced buttcheeks kiss their filthy surface.

It's this or a bush...

It’s this or a bush…

 

 

Every female expat in South Korea will tell you a story about a squatter – if she isn’t easily embarrassed. My anonymous friends will tell you about wallets and purses that have taken the plunge as girls try desperately to relieve themselves without falling backwards into the hole. Not one of them can claim to have pant-cuffs unsplattered by their own urine.

Squatters cannot cope with toilet paper, either, and so beside every dank hole there is a putrid, fly-swarmed bin overflowing with soiled paper. The smell is never less than eye-watering; the sight worse than anything Hollywood’s sickest minds managed to invent.

When I first arrived in Korea and needed to urinate, I took one look at a squatter and elected to use the nearest bush. I wasn’t ready to stand and pee into that hideous hole, and to this day I’ve clenched and bit my fist to avoid ever having to use one. I think that given the choice I’d probably crap my pants before squatting over one of these nasty devices.

Fortunately for us penis-possessing males there are urinals in most bathrooms. However, these are always placed in front of the door to the girls’ stall. There is something inhibiting about being watched by a queue of waiting women as you try to pee, or having them push rudely past.

Shortly after arriving in Korea I was urinating in one such urinal when a girl swung around my shoulders, ending up face-to-wang with my penis. I thought she was staring at it for a while, as she gripped my back tightly, but then it became apparently she needed to puke. So she threw up as I finished and quickly backed away, leaving the poor girl drunkenly examining the piss-puke pile in the bottom of the blackened trough.

In the Philippines the urinals are altogether more complicated, and just about as public. Filipino guys don’t enjoy having women watch them urinate as much as Korean men, so the urinals are placed apart from the female stalls, but they are largely out in the open, and designed to accommodate as many men as possible.

The strange thing about these urinals is that the back wall is set maybe three feet from where you must stand, behind a large concrete hump, and so one must try and keep a firm stream for the duration of urination. If you let it drop, you drip on your feet. And that may be fine in private, but with peeing as a spectator sport it can be a little embarrassing.

In China the urinals are far more civilised, and actively encourage – nay, demand – patrons to stay close. Every urinal seems to possess a sign in numerous languages requesting the user to stand as close to the bowl as possible.

A pleasant prompt

A pleasant prompt

 

 

I found Chinese bathrooms far cleaner than Korean or Filipino bathrooms, which was nice considering what my Korean friends, co-workers and students told me. They said in sincerity that Chinese people all defecate on one another.

Rather, the Chinese and the Koreans seem to share the same affinity for utilising the streets as their dumping ground. The Chinese, however, are a little sneakier in this respect. I was shocked when after a few hours in China I witnessed three small assholes winking at me in a crowded restaurant. You see, three little children had all bent over at the same time, simultaneously barely their butts, balls and whatnots.

It seems that in China – in spite of the biting cold winters – children don’t always use diapers. Frequently their clothes are split down the middle, so that they can just poop and walk. If need be, the mother will pull the legs apart and the kid can just let rip.

When I visited the Great Wall of China I came to realise that it’s not always possible to retire to a restroom when nature comes a’knockin. I was caught short on one of the most famous landmarks on Earth, and I’m sorry to say that I pee’d on it. I pee’d right on top of the Great Wall of China.

Sorry, Mao, I couldn't help it

Sorry, Mao, I couldn’t help it

 

 

What amused me most about Chinese bathrooms was the fact that every piece of porcelain I saw was made by American Standard. My primitive understanding of international politics suggested that China might by reluctant to use an American product where their own might suffice, but apparently not.

The king of Asian bathrooms, however, is unquestionably Japan. I’ve never in my life been as satisfied with the cleanliness of my anus as after visiting a Japanese toilet. Using these hi-tech wonders is like taking your ass to a spa. They are truly the kings of buttdom.

Toilet seats in Japan – like everything else – are guided by advanced electronics. They are littered with buttons that control a host of functions, from cheek warming to ass-cleansing to vaginal hygiene. They’ll leave you confident, relaxed and smelling sweeter than a sphincter ever smelled.

No shower or bath will ever leave your ass as clean as a Japanese toilet. I’m not ass-shamed to say that I spent every damn minute I could afford with my ass parked on those mighty thrones during my stays in Japan.

 

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DAVID WILLS is the managing editor of Beatdom Magazine, and the author of The Dog Farm and Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'. You can learn more about him on his website.

57 responses to “Shitting, Squatting and Squirting: A Guide to the Toilets of Asia”

  1. For the record, I was going to include Taiwan and Vietnam, but I had no particularly interesting stories about either of them.

  2. Matt says:

    Okay! So, three paragraphs in and I nearly upchucked my breakfast. This is simply disgusting. I think this might be final nail (or perhaps hickory stake through the heart) in the “Matt’s never going to Korea” coffin.

    Actually, between this and the Korean Rum Diary, it’s a wonder the South Korean Ministry of Tourism hasn’t had you assassinated yet.

    • Yes, it’s strange. KRD landed me in a lot of trouble but it never got me killed or deported. Then again, that’s an anonymous project. This is under my real name… uh oh.

      Sorry I made you almost puke, but I guess that was the point. You’d need a much tougher stomach than that to make it over here.

      • Matt says:

        I think you’re safe. It’s not like any of the rest of us are in Korea to check up on your veracity. For all we know you’re not even really IN Korea.

        Oh my god!

        FOR ALL WE KNOW THERE IS NO PERSON NAMED DAVID WILLS! THIS COULD ALL BE A SHAM OF THE FIRST ORDER!

  3. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    That’s what we’re in for if there’s massive failure of sewer system infrastructure, right? Thanks for the post, David. I have been duly warned–and, more importantly, educated.

    • Yes, if the sewer system goes to shit (haha) and people decide to take their bowels to the street and subsist entirely on cabbage diets, then the West might come to resemble Korea.

      Seriously, the smells around here are nearly indescribable. If you’ve ever seen that episode of the Simpsons when Homer annoys the garbage men… You get the idea.

  4. Becky says:

    I’d be the last to deny that there is something prudish about American/western excrement guilt, but examples of that, in my mind, would be the courtesy flush or the surprisingly pervasive phobia of shitting in public restrooms.

    Avoiding shitting in the middle of the street seems like more of a public hygiene/pestilence/plague issue than a shame issue to me.

    At any rate, this settles it for me. My husband has been to the Philippines and told me some stories about the squat toilets of Asia, which explained why, in a state with a lot of Hmong and other Asian immigrants, one will occasionally find foot prints on toilet seats in Minnesota.

    Even then I was willing to, maybe, check out an Asian nation other than Japan, perhaps after I’d visited every other place on earth I was interested in, including the local waste water treatment plant and a cave full of bat shit.

    No more. Never, ever. No thanks, continent of Crapattackistan. I’ll stick around here and find something else to do.

    So fucking grossed out right now. I shoveled horse shit and piss for years. Blood, gore, no problem. I’ll clean up the dog’s accidents and the cat’s hairballs. I’m no princess; I don’t mind dirt or even stink.

    But this is outrageous. Jesus.

    • Crapattackistan = Awesome name.

      Yes, Asia can be pretty damned disgusting. However, in some terrible way you do become more used to it. That’s not to excuse it or to claim in anyway that public shitting becomes acceptable, but the smells stop making your eyes water so much, and you stop being surprised when you see a human being empty their bowels on a road.

      As for the germs – I’m sick right now and I’ve been sick about once every two or three weeks since coming here. The reason is probably that this is the dirtiest fucking place on Earth.

  5. Angela Tung says:

    Ah, this brings back memories. I think in China people just have this idea that “floor/ground = dirty” no matter what, so why not let your kids pee/shit on it, spit on it, and throw garbage although there’s a garbage can right there. Then putting something that has been on the ground, say a bag, on furniture is a horrible offense.

    I came to prefer the squats in China because the sitting toilets were always DISGUSTING. I mean, the squats were too, but at least no part of my body had to touch anything (and it’s a more natural position for certain, um, bodily functions).

    I never saw a grown-up take a shit in the street. Spitting, snot rockets, etc., yes. Here in San Francisco, there’s this urban legend that the poop you see on the street is actually human, but I think they’re just from big dogs. I’ve yet to see a hobo push out a steamer.

    And I agree: the toilets in Japan rock! I was in Tokyo in the winter time and appreciated the soft warm seats and soothing sounds of trickling water.

    • Oh the garbage and the spitting… Urh, in many ways they’re worse because everyone does that outdoors. In Korea at least some people use toilets, but nobody uses a trash can, and everyone spits everywhere. It’s awful. And they cough without covering their mouths – right in other peoples’ faces.

      I’ve never fully gotten the physics of squatting toilets. They say white people can’t squat like that – which isn’t true. It is, however, a little harder for anyone who’s spent their life confine to chairs and such – which are terrible for our bodies. I just don’t think I could poop and balance.

      And I was in San Fran for a week. I saw some gross stuff, but never saw a homeless person pooping.

      • I’ve got you both beat. Took a wrong turn through the Tenderloin. Human excrement on the pavement. Wonderful, wonderful day.

        • “The Tenderloin”? What? I don’t understand. And I’m not sure I do want to understand.

        • It’s the seedier area of SF:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenderloin_(San_Francisco)#Crime

          Oh! I was just re-reading the Facebook note I wrote about TL and I forgot about the two guys abusing each other on the tram.

          ‘Bald motherfucker! Glasses motherfucker! Thinkin’ you got wisdom but you don’t motherfucker! No-wisdom-havin’ motherfucker!’

        • Oh shit! I’ve been there, and I heard something very similar! Weird SSE again…

          I once convinced enough people that I was an expert on Jack Kerouac and was invited to cross the Atlantic for a Kerouac Conference in San Fran. I attended, of course, and wore my finest clothes – and I’m a smooth-dressing white guy – and carried several books for reference.

          I decided to walk back across the city to get to my hotel – as I couldn’t afford a cab – and was accosted by a small group of black men in hip-hop gear, who were screaming the most foul abuse. Some classic lines from their torrent of nonsense: “Einstein motherfucker! Thinkin’ you so fucking clever wit’ yo books ‘n’ shit! You no smart fuckin’ cracker! Fuckin’ Eistein ‘n’ shit!”

          It was funny later, but at the time I thought I was going to die. I’d just seen a little white woman chased down a street by two big homeless dudes. It was a horrible area. Another homeless guy told me God asked him to kill me unless I gave him a dollar. Another homeless guy bought me twelve bags of M&Ms and gave me his jacket…

          Oh, San Fran. I wrote a memoir about it but it ran into tens of thousands of awful words.

        • Matt says:

          Take a wander through New Orleans French Quarter, during Mardi Gras: you will see any number of human generated effluvium on the streets, including urine, feces, vomit, and various other substances. This lasts for a whole week, and is why I would never, ever walk barefoot anywhere in that city.

        • Urgh! That’s nasty. I didn’t realise it was so bad.

  6. Slade says:

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Asia as well, and you pretty much nailed it. Japan is amazingly innovative with their bathroom technology. Korea however, is not. The first time I saw someone make use of a city street, I was shocked, too.

    The more soju I consumed though, the more I imagined myself pushing one of them over mid-act. If there was ever a moment where getting away with a childish prank like that would seem likely, that would be it. They’re not really in an ideal position to chase you down 🙂

  7. Zara Potts says:

    Aaaargh!! Ugh! Gack!
    There is a large part of me that just won’t accept this as being true!
    You have the funniest/grossest stories, David. I had to read this with my hand over my mouth!

    • Thank you, Zara. There are so many things in Korea you just wouldn’t believe without seeing them for yourself. If I were a wiser man/ better photographer I’d my camera with me at all times. But sadly I’m neither of those things. Instead I write about Korea – trying to share its madness with the world.

  8. Uche Ogbuji says:

    In many Nigerian villages, children still void themselves a token distance from the family compound, and families sometimes keep dogs around for the express purpose of eating the waste. Among adults, though, scatagorical modesty seems far more developed than in the Korea in your description (so yay! we’re winning in one race against an Asian Tiger, eh?).

    We do have the dreaded pit latrines though (I’m guessing same as what you call “squatters” and even though adults do prefer to shit in the private removed, the conditions of the thus removed can lie anywhere along a sordid spectrum of affright. Most adult Nigerians learn how to use every combination of muscle and sinew to use even the filthiest such facility without a besmirchment of personal hygiene. I’d think it very unlikely for a Nigerian to lose a purse or wallet to even the most ghastly latrine, thanks to the motherly invention of shithouse-necessitated balance.

    You see, such are the privileges of a non-OECD education.

    • Wow, I wouldn’t like to use a Nigerian bathroom, either! My dad worked in Nigeria for many years but never mentioned that sort of thing. He also worked in Korea and China and didn’t mention those bathrooms, either, so I guess some people just don’t like to talk about such nastiness.

      I’m glad Nigerians take more pride in themselves that Koreans in the pooping respect. The problem is here that age, gender and wealth are so important that you really can do anything you want without embarrassing yourself if you have the right combination.

      And dogs eat people’s crap? I didn’t know that.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        A lot of the horrors I mention used to be confined only to the less developed portions of the country. I as a middle-class denizen could count on good, clean, flush toilets most of the time. The problem is that if you’re really living in Nigeria, it’s hard to avoid those occasional forays to the borders of bush. For example, you might be on a cross-country bus, and when ya gotta go, ya gotta go, regardless of what might be lurkind at the nearest stop.

        Your dad as an expat would probably have been able to avoid any such encounters, and even if he didn’t, to be honest I’m sure there would be much more lurid tales to tell of a stay in my wonderful, looney homeland.

        As for nkita-na-e-ri-e-nsi (shit-eating dogs), I guess it’s a matter of training *shudder*

        • Bleh, poor dogs.

          Yeah, my dad never spoke well of Nigeria. He particularly disdained the airport, which I believe used to have a pretty high rate of shootings…

          And if you’re picky in Korea you can avoid nasty toilets. I’ve managed that for the most part, but you really have to train yourself to wait.

          One of my friends was caught short in a pool hall – which have notoriously bad toilets – and we broke a stool so he could use it to sit over the hole. Now that’s innovative!

        • Becky says:

          I would like to add here that dogs happily eat horse poop without training. They act like it’s a delicacy. I suppose it smells like grass.

          We’d chase the dogs off the horse poop, going, “Ew! Eww! HEY! Stop! NO NO!” they being pets/friends and not really utilitarian animals, but in hind sight (pun!!), it was probably not all that bad for them. We humans just couldn’t handle the thought of it.

          That said, once I started working with horses, I never let a dog lick my face again.

        • Haha, yeah I’m never going to let a dog lick my face now that I know they eat human shit and horse shit. That’s foul. Strange, though. I know dogs are hardly discerning about what they eat, but I didn’t realise they’d eat poop. I didn’t think there was anything in a horse’s diet that would have particularly appealed to them.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I don’t care if they eat shit. I still let them lick my face.

        • Gross! But then again, I let me cats do the same and they eat out of their own asses.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Urgh! I don’t like cats licking me at all. Their little tongues are all sandpapery and yucky.

        • Aw, they can’t help it. They’re just trying to be affectionate. You just have to alternate spots they lick before they sandpaper a hole right through you.

        • It’s true, a cat will lick you until there’s nothing left.
          They forget we don’t have fur.
          They don’t eat poop, but a good ocd kitty will lick its butt for hours.

        • Zara Potts says:

          My cat only licks me when she is preparing to bite.

        • My cats chew each other’s asshole for hours if they’re hungry. I wonder if they get something from it… And then they always come to lick my hand as a form of begging… Bleh.

          And I do have fur – my legs are indistinguishable from those of a bear.

        • And only one of my cats licks me… The other scratches. She does it affectionately, but it’s annoying.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Yeah, Uche (I apologize for typing “Oche” a few days ago)…in the Bougainville bush there are many methods. Kids use the “squat-n-leavit” approach, and then it’s a mad race between the dogs and the chickens to see who gets it. Nobody leaves shit lying around, so if by chance the animals aren’t at the ready, an adult will always take a shovel and toss the turds over the cliff or into the bush.

      Outhouses are very deep, by design. Thirty feet is common, which means that they don’t stink much. Sometimes the aperture is just a hole in the wooden floor, but sometimes there’s a stool (sorry) on which you can sit. Some folks have toilet seats.

      Older people would use the streams — and everybody knew which streams were toilet streams, and which weren’t. It was considered very, very bad behavior to use a non-toilet stream as a toilet. The phrase “sit on the water” was used for shitting no matter where it was actually done. I used streams sometimes, and it’s a pretty effective way to go.

      I’ll tell a story that I guy I knew told me. He was struck by the shits but was almost home to our village. He knew he wouldn’t make it, and there was no allowed stream around, but there was an abandoned outhouse near the trail. Its sides were all gone. So he dropped trou and was busily letting loose when a crowd of people came up the trail.

      “What did you do?” I asked.

      “I covered my eyes so I wouldn’t see them,” he said, “because if I didn’t know who saw me, I didn’t have to feel ashamed.”

      Pretty good!

      • I’m not sure how exactly one would use a stream. My poor balance – spoiled from years of sitting while shitting – would probably see me fall backwards into the water.

        That poor guy and the outhouse… It’s funny, though, that he covered his eyes. What a great reaction.

  9. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    David,

    This is just repulsive! it’s bad enough that they don’t even try to go behind a bush, but to go in a grocery store? In a RESTAURANT? On a park bench? WTF?

    I will say that in Japan you have a choice of the “Japanese Style”, a porcelain hole for squatting over, or the “Western Style,” which is heavenly.

    After we came home from Japan we installed three Japanese toilet seats. My daughter has them all over her house. Once you have one, you just hold it until you can get home.

    Did you know they were invented in the USA? They just didn’t catch on here, but they, obviously, did in Japan.

    (Your photos are all screwed up, but you probably know that already.)

    • Phat B says:

      Am I the only one who finds it incredibly charming that Irene used “WTF” in her comment?

    • I didn’t know the Japanese toilet was invented in America… Why wouldn’t it have caught on there? It’s probably the best thing to happen to toilets since they invented the flush.

      And after two years in Korea you learn to always hold it until you get home. Our toilet at home isn’t perfect, but it’s better than a hole in the ground.

      (And yeah, the same thing happened with the photos in an old post – it’s the WordPress photo software. It just doesn’t work for some reason.)

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        I haven’t tried to put up a picture in the post itself yet. It’s easy to put the little square one up, though, for the little square box thingies.

  10. The single most disgusting moment of my life was when I was called upon to try to unclog a toilet at the club I was working at. Without going into details, let me just say I spent five minutes dry retching before stumbling out of that horrifying cubicle, grabbing the manager, and saying ‘Lock that thing and call a plumber.’

    Thanks, Divad. You really brought it all back home.

    An amigo who worked at a department store told me about how the other day he was privy to the wonderful sight of a Chinese mother whipping out a small plastic bag for her child to relieve himself in in the middle of the store. Good times, good times.

    • Jesus, that’s when you pack it in and quit. I was once working in a supermarket in the most impoverished area of Scotland – where people will beat their children outside and generally have no shame – and someone shat on the floor of the store. Right in the open. Just for fun. Someone had to clean it up, but I said to myself that was the line – I’d rather quit and become one of the impoverished ones than clean their shit.

      And damnit Simon! You’ve made me realise I had another story that I was meant to include in this post:

      The urinals in the clubs in Daegu always overflow, and piss runs through the toilets and sometimes out… And, well, y’know I never wear shoes… Well, more than once I’ve had to trudge through piss just for the pleasure of adding to that puddle.

      Oh, Korea. Oh, Korea.

      • As a matter of fact…

        My old manager (at a different club), on his first night at said club when he was much, much younger, had to unclog a sump. Dutifully, he did so, with raw sewage running down his collar and over his back. He finished the job, showered himself off, walked straight to the bar fridge and grabbed out two six-packs. He walked up to his manager, said, ‘I’m going home, see you tomorrow night,’ and walked straight out the door.

        • I still think that for two six packs and a night off work I wouldn’t dream of letting raw sewage run down my back… No, I most certainly wouldn’t. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. But maybe I’m just too squeamish.

          I’ve always found it a lot easier to deal with piss than shit.

  11. Simone says:

    David, I love reading your posts. They’re insightful, informative and disgustingly amusing!

    I can relate to the squatter toilet. I spent a month in Thailand last December with 2 of my friends. We took an overnight bus from Bangkok down south to the islands. We arrived at Surat Thani, somewhere in rural Thailand, where we had to wait for another bus to take us to the ferry.

    Needless to say the time came when I needed to relieve myself. I paid my 5 Baht to pee, and recieved a few squares of toilet paper. I opened the door to the stall which revealed a porcelain potty cemented into the ground. To the right of it a waste paper basket sat, filled with used bits of toilet paper. The most wretched smell arose from it. To the left was a large bucket filled with water, and a smaller tupperware floating on the not so clear water; obviously for “flushing”.

    I rolled my eyes skyward, took a deep breath and thought to myself “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

    I survived and now, like you, have a story to tell.

    This line had me laughing so much that my tears have now smudged my make up:

    “When I first arrived in Korea I was constantly asking, “Who farted?” The whole country smells like an angry, unwashed asshole.

    I found that Thailand smells like this too. Despite the aromas that filled my nostrils from time to time, I will still go back there if and when I get the chance.

    Great post. Looking forward to the next horrifically, hillarious post.

    • Thank you, Simone. That was also my favourite line. It’s a pretty common question for any Westerner to ask upon visiting Korea.

      I was planning to go to Thailand in February, but I think I’m going to Bali instead… Still not sure, but one or the other.

      Your story actually reminds me of something similar. (I keep remembering things I should have included in the original post!) I was in Vietnam and I had to use a cup to “flush” the toilet. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but at least the toilet had a seat.

      And yes, even smelly countries can be beautiful. In fact, many of the smelliest places I’ve been have been the most gorgeous to look at.

  12. Simone says:

    Thailand is definitely beautiful. You should definitely go.

    Ooh, i also just remembered something. We were at the train station in Bankok and I needed to pee (again). So I went to the bathroom, it was flooded. A cleaner was trying to mop us as best as she could but it was quite busy and the queue was quite long.

    There were both western toilets and ‘squatters’ available for us to use. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity a stall freed up and it was my turn. The aisan woman who came out of the stall had used the ‘western’ toilet as a squatter. Yes, that’s right folks, she mounted her dirty, wet feet onto the toilet seat! There were actual mud footprints on the seat. I was so grossed out that I turned away and kept it in until we got onto the train.

    • Urgh! That’s disgusting! I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would do that! It’s ludicrous! If I ever saw that I’d beat the crap out of whoever did it.

      As for the piss on the floor… Nasty.

  13. Erika Rae says:

    Every now and then-you know, when I’m doing something about the house like making a sandwich or rearranging my sock drawer-I think to myself, “Why oh why is David S Wills still living in Korea?” I never have a good answer. I have read your bio. I get that you have a girlfriend there. I get that you teach. But why? Why, David S Wills, do you persist on living in this kimchee scented hell? Nobody deserves Cozumel, Copenhagen or Bali more than you. You must go. I tell you this as a close, personal online friend whom you have never met. Go.

    By the way, you haven’t lived until you’ve used a squatter at sea. Which I have. Now that, my friends, is a testament to balance.

    • Haha, I’m glad that I’ve made an impression on your life. I’m very slowly sending out subtle religious messages and one day you’ll all feel the urge to come to Korea, where you’ll be greeted by me and my cult of religious crazies.

      But seriously, I’m in Korea for a few reasons. I came here because I was so poor I pretty much had to. Then when I hated it enough to want to leave, I met my girlfriend. Now I kind of like it and she wants to leave, but we’re staying ’til our contracts are done – and that’s next September, when we’re both moving to Australia.

      To be honest, I’ve never cared about money or job security, but after two years of both, it’s a scary thought to leave it. I’m guaranteed both simply because I’m white.

      And I’ve remembered ANOTHER story that should have been in this post! I was in Vietnam and I did use a sea squatter! There was a bucket on a rope that you had to use to get sea water to “flush” with…

  14. I never tire of toilet history, thanks David for this chapter. Or should I say brown study? Maybe you should do a guide for AAA. Happy new year to you over yonder. Cheers!

    • I’ve written a few little things for travel magazines (and even Korean magazines) and they’ve not been well received. The editors usually get angry letters from pissed-off Koreans saying “Dirty foreigners can’t talk about our country!” and such.

      This is my second TNB post on the subject of poop, and I’m sure that if I live in Korea much longer I’ll have more of them.

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  16. suba suba says:

    Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!

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