Each one of us could probably write an encyclopedia about bad toilets in Chengdu, but since this is a column devoted to staying positive, I'm going to share with you the few, the proud, the five-star, basi toilets in Chengdu.
Most four- and five-star hotels have basi de hen toilets, but Kempinski takes the cake for offering all the same stuff in the bathrooms that they would in their guest rooms. Got a hang nail? Have a nail file. Ears bugging you? Take some Q-tips. Hands feeling a bit rough? There's travel-sized hand lotion. Pure class.
It has been announced that the stations along Line 2 of the Chengdu Metro will have separate men's and women's toilets, unlike Line 1's, which do not. I've always had this niggling feeling that the (certainly male) planners of the metro simply forgot to include women's toilets the first time 'round. Be that as it may, the oversight makes for endless hijinx. Particularly amusing to watch is people encountering a unisex bathroom for the first time. It's not uncommon to hear exclamations of fear and surprise when unsuspecting patrons realize that things are not as they "should" be. Then there's the double take followed by a quick getaway. And of course, what could be more fun than unwittingly walking in on some dude who couldn't bother to close the door before taking a pee? At least there are no urinals ... .
Be careful if you have a cocktail or two before you use the toilet here, because the whole room is a house of mirrors. Everywhere you look is a reflective surface, so it's hard to tell just how big the room actually is and hard to find the door out if you weren't really paying attention on the way in. Even the soap and paper towels are cleverly hidden in little alcoves so that when you put your hand in to get them, you feel like it's magically going into the mirror over the sink.
They already get extra points for (usually) having toilet paper and soap, as well as both sitters and squatters. But they make it into the list of basi bathrooms for having teeny tiny little western toilets and at least one sink set lower than the others. The toilet alone is a total godsend for any mom struggling with potty training, but the bonus sink is helpful for little ones who insist, "I wanna do it!" Plus it saves your back from having to hold your child up to wash his or her hands.
Stepping into that bathroom is like stepping into a wormhole to the ole U.S. of A. There are regulation handrails everywhere, not a squatter in sight, and toilet paper, soap, and paper towels that must have been imported from some American janitorial supply chain. It even smells like America in there. The whole experience is more unsettling than basi, but I'll take unsettling over grossed out any day.
I love KaffeStugan for a number of reasons, and it appears much of the expat community does too, but have you ever noticed how basi their facilities are? They're immaculate, they don't smell like, well, anything, and they're tastefully decorated in the Swedish style of the rest of the café, complete with IKEA hand soap and hand lotion. But what knocks my socks off is the forethought it took to include, in the ladies' restroom, a cute little wooden box filled with complimentary sanitary pads. No matter what happens, they got you covered. KaffeStugan, you have my undying gratitude and respect.