India Travelogue, Ep. 11:


Okay, I’ve patiently written my way through 10 episodes of this travelogue without addressing a topic of utmost importance and I just can’t wait any longer.

The bathroom sitch must be discussed.

At the risk of using a bad pun, it’s a crapshoot. Emphasis on the crap.

I know. That was an easy shot. But I’m going to stand my ground as a First World Lady of High Standards and just acknowledge the accommodations were dismal.

I realize dismal is relative. But I’m the one telling this story so my assessment is the one that matters. Imagine the worst American truck-stop bathroom you’ve ever patronized and throw that image out of your head as not comparable. That’s right, most of the public bathrooms were horror shows.

But here’s the great thing about relativity — after about three days, your standards change. During the middle of our trip, as one friend and I exited one bathroom that would have previously been considered appalling, she remarked “Well, that wasn’t bad!” Then we laughed about how an unlit toilet the size of phone booth without a flushing toilet, toilet paper, soap, or paper towels suddenly became “not bad.”

The worst part of our trip is that both my friend and I suffered from “sluggish” digestive tracts during our travel. I just want to say the timing of medicine to alleviate that condition is no laughing matter when you travel 5-18 hours every day and you never know what kind of bathroom you’re going to find on the road. The planning surrounding this problem consumed most of our mental and emotional energy and I’m not joking. Ask our companions.

Toward the end of our trip, I went on a hunger strike. I can’t explain it except to say my body was in revolt and I simply stopped eating. (I lost five pounds in 14 days.) Somehow, my bowels knew the exact moment I touched down on U.S. soil because I had to rush off the airplane in Dallas for the ladies room.

And I can say without hyperbole that I was never so happy to see an American public bathroom in my life. I’d been carrying a roll of toilet paper, a bar of soap, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizing wipes in my purse for two weeks. I dumped all my supplies in the trash at DFW and never looked back.

Epilogue: Here’s the thing you need to know. Indian restrooms usually have one, or sometimes two, of two basic options: either a “Turkish” toilet (a hole in the ground) or an American toilet. All the American toilets I chose (except for the ones in my hotels) lacked supplies like toilet paper, soap and paper towels. Instead, they all offered either a hand held bidet (imagine the sprayer on your kitchen faucet), a spigot near the foot of the toilet (I still don’t get this), or a pail of water with a cup submerged in the water (WHAT?). Apparently water is preferred over toilet paper. And, mind you, it’s all cold water.

It’s a nightmare! First of all, that hose has been sprayed all over and I’m sure it’s scattered some particles with it. It also explains why all the bathrooms are wet. Every surface. Dripping wet. When you and your clothes are dry and you step into a wet bathroom, well, eeeew! Also, you have to handle the hose — the hose that all those hands have handled and pointed at their nether regions. And air drying? Are you KIDDING me??? You try pulling up your pants when your bottom has been hosed off and there’s not a shred of toilet paper or a paper towel in sight! I only encountered one bathroom that was private enough and clean enough that I dared touch the hose and give it a try. I got water EVERYWHERE. And since it was my hotel bathroom, I had to clean up the mess before my roommate used it next. I cannot fathom how this ever caught on. And the bathrooms that have buckets and cups instead of hoses? I’m still having nightmares about that cesspool of germs. The handheld bidet is the worst idea ever. Unless the water stream is automated (no hands) and warmed, why would anyone think this is a good idea?
And I haven’t even told the story about the time I stood watch for my friends (because many bathroom doors don’t lock) and they ditched me. Which means I got walked in on by an Indian stranger. And they ditched-ditched me.  Which means I exited the restroom and my bus was gone. You know that scene in “Almost Famous” where they leave the lead singer at the gas station? Yeah, they had to send the tour guide back for me. I have no idea why I’m smiling in the photo above. It’s a wonder I didn’t shiv somebody.






  1. Sounds like northwest China during our Silk road trip.
    Cannot imagine how the traders endured that kind of journey.

  2. Never have the benefits of fasting been so explicitly clarified!

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