Café serves guests from porce­lain thrones

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

A TOI­LET-THEMED cafe where cus­tomers dine on meat­balls float­ing in soup-filled la­trines may not be ev­ery­one’s idea of haute cui­sine, but In­done­sians are flock­ing to be­come privy to the lat­est lava­to­rial trend.

Guests at the Jam­ban Cafe sit on up­right toi­lets around a ta­ble where food is served in squat loos.

On a re­cent visit to the venue, in Se­marang on Java is­land, tra­di­tional In­done­sian bakso – a type of meatball – bobbed in a murky soup in one toi­let, while a sec­ond con­tained a brightly-coloured, al­co­hol-free cock­tail.

For those who found the whole ex­pe­ri­ence too nau­se­at­ing, there was a sick bag hang­ing by the en­trance.

Other places, such as Tai­wan and Rus­sia, are home to sim­i­lar themed restau­rants, but In­done­sia’s mod­est ver­sion has a key dif­fer­ence – it aims to ed­u­cate peo­ple about san­i­ta­tion and en­cour­age the in­creased use of toi­lets.

“I was dis­gusted at first, but I even­tu­ally ate some of the food out of cu­rios­ity,” said cus­tomer Muko­das, a 27-year-old who, like many In­done­sians, goes by one name.

“I think the idea is pretty in­ter­est­ing be­cause if you try to have a cam­paign with­out a gim­mick like this, the in­for­ma­tion won’t stick.”

Another cus­tomer, 15-year-old An­nisa Dhea, con­ceded she ini­tially found the toi­let treats “a bit un­ap­peal­ing” but felt some­what re­as­sured af­ter “the owner told me that the food was clean and hy­gienic”.

The cafe – whose name Jam­ban means “toi­let” in In­done­sian – has been open since April and cur­rently only wel­comes small groups who book ahead.

Owner Budi Lak­sono, a pub­lic health ex­pert who used to work for the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, hosts dis­cus­sions with cus­tomers and shows them videos as he seeks to en­cour­age peo­ple to use ded­i­cated fa­cil­i­ties for their bod­ily func­tions.

Mil­lions of In­done­sians live be­low the poverty line and the coun­try has one of the world’s high­est rates of open defe­ca­tion – defe­cat­ing out­side and not in a des­ig­nated toi­let – a prac­tice blamed for spread­ing dis­ease.

“This café serves as a re­minder that many peo­ple in In­done­sia still do not have toi­lets,” said Lak­sono, 52.

How­ever he ad­mit­ted that his un­usual ap­proach had sparked some con­tro­versy in the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try.

“Many crit­ics say the cafe is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and against Is­lamic law,” he said. –

Pho­tos: AFP

Eight toi­let seats sur­round two la­trines, where staff serve food to wait­ing cus­tomers.

Meat­balls and cock­tails are served out of the bowls.

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