The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Idon’t know about you, but I tend to judge a civ­i­liza­tion by its public con­ve­niences, just as I rate restau­rants and bars by their toi­let fa­cil­i­ties. I mean, it’s one thing to be sit­ting com­fort­ably, eat­ing and drink­ing in fine style sur­rounded by el­e­gance, but it’s quite an­other to dis­cover a smelly, dirty, un­hy­gienic, cesspit lurk­ing in the back­ground when Na­ture calls.

I guess most of us are pretty put off each time we see some­one, of­ten a driver, emerg­ing from the bush af­ter do­ing what comes nat­u­rally – but with­out any ap­par­ent means of post-cleans­ing; and then we have the gen­tle­men who re­lieve them­selves by the road­side – isn’t it odd that men seem to feel the need to have some­thing to pee up against – but have never heard the Old York­shire adage that if you shake it more than three times, you’re play­ing with it.

But what choice do they have? Saint Lu­cia is not ac­tu­ally bristling with public con­ve­niences. I mean, where does one pee in hy­gienic rel­a­tive com­fort? For those who are con­demned to the early morn­ing rush – well, crawl – to Cas­tries from the north, a quick visit to the fa­cil­ity down the side of the Rit­u­als Cof­fee Shop by the cine­mas is a tol­er­a­ble “wa­ter­ing hole” but where do you go if you’re com­ing in from the south? Well, I sup­pose Ta­pion Hos­pi­tal is the clos­est estab­lish­ment with fa­cil­i­ties; the ones down­stairs are very fresh and clean.

Well, I would never have con­sid­ered a public loo to be a wa­ter­ing hole, had I not ex­pe­ri­enced the Mod­ern Toi­let chain of es­tab­lish­ments dur­ing a re­cent swing through South-East Asia. Tai­wan is pretty heavy on “themed en­ter­prises” and Mod­ern Toi­let is one such suc­cess story.

My cu­rios­ity was tick­led when I first came across an ad­vert for Mod­ern Toi­let af­ter a very pleas­ant day in the com­pany of sev­eral adorable fe­male stu­dents from one of the lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties in Kaoh­si­ung, Tai­wan’s sec­ond city, in the far south of the is­land, so I de­cided to check the place out, and guess what I found!

The chain of Mod­ern Toi­lets, which started in Kaoh­si­ung, now has 12 restau­rants in Tai­wan and Hong Kong with fu­ture lo­ca­tions planned in Ma­cau and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It is a unique toi­let­themed restau­rant chain, and when I say toi­let-themed, I mean toi­let-themed! It is not odd in Tai­wan to find restau­rants with un­usual themes; there are also eat­ing lo­cales that re­sem­ble jail­houses and hos­pi­tals.

Ev­ery­thing in the Mod­ern Toi­let restau­rant is based on items from a bath­room or toi­let. The check­ered tile cov­ered walls are adorned with show­er­heads, while plungers hang from the ceil­ing along with fae­cesshaped lights. The chairs are ac­tual un­work­ing toi­lets; dishes are served on plas­tic minia­ture toi­let bowls, and drinks in minia­ture uri­nals.

Mod­ern Toi­let Restau­rants emerged af­ter the suc­cess of the owner’s ice cream shop that sold swirls of ice cream served in mini toi­lets. His in­spi­ra­tion for the bath­room-themed restau­rant came from a robot char­ac­ter from the Ja­panese car­toon char­ac­ter Dr. Slump, who loved to "play with poop and swirl it on a stick." The choco­late ice cream was served on top of pa­per “seat” toi­lets, like the ones used in the West. At Mod­ern Toi­let, cus­tomers are wel­come to take home the minia­ture toi­let bowls and plas­tic uri­nals as sou­venirs.

Now if this sounds a tad dis­taste­ful, well, I would have to agree, but not sur­pris­ingly, the restau­rant is packed each night with lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike, and ev­ery cus­tomer seems set on hav­ing his or her photo taken whilst eat­ing “on the loo”. And I thought I was bad for en­joy­ing a good read in the “small­est room”.

It’s amaz­ing re­ally, isn’t it, the ideas that peo­ple come up with. Now I am not ad­vo­cat­ing that our road­side shanties and at­ten­dant chicken ven­dors should dou­ble up as public fa­cil­ity providers to clean up the public uri­na­tors and defe­ca­tors, but it’s about time some­body came up with a plan to pro­vide public fa­cil­i­ties wor­thy of this ‘sim­ply beau­ti­ful’ is­land na­tion.

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