Saturday, September 23, 2006

Traveling stories- warning! not for the squeemish!

A blog I read had a piece on "Potty Humor" recently. This triggered a 20 year old memory of a trip to China.

Tourism was still a new thing there when we went. The year before, our american guide had had to spend some nights with her group in army barracks because the hotels were not yet finished.

The hotels were finished, but you could not drink water from the tap when we went. You were given a thermos of hot boiled water you could cool and drink. Toilet facilities in the hotels were very nice, but you wanted to take care of THAT in the hotel, not anywhere else. Facilities elsewhere consisted of some form of slit trenches .

About 5 days into our 3 week trip, we were on a scenic boat tour of the Li river. This is famous for the views of the limestone Karsts (sp?). Very nice except for the temp and humidity (both hovering near 100). The trip included lunch which consisted of steamed fish caught fresh out of the river. The same river with the scenic water buffalo pooping and little naked kids wading.

All the meals we had on the trip were lavish, and there was always something on the table we had not had before. Apparently there was a little something extra this time.

Now is the time for the squeemish to bail.

O M G !

The funniest part of what followed was about 3 days later in Bejing. I was NOT feeling well, but here we were, probably never to return. We were scheduled for a visit to parliament, the Forbidden City and Mao's Tomb. As we approached Mao's Tomb, our jocular guides became VERY serious. There was to be NO joking, smiling or disrespect of ANY kind. This was the most reverred site in China. Indeed, the line of Chinese was 5 abreast and about 300 yards long. As guests we got in ahead of everyone. Just about the time I got to Mao's body, with armed, stern looking guards on each corner, bowel control became a major issue. I started sweating profusely, and had to resort to butt cheek muscles to avoid soiling myself. And I'm stuck in line.

When I finally get out of the building I scan the horizen for facilities. The nearest building is the Forbidden City about 500 yards away. With a very funny looking "walk" I scurry for the nearest door. I enter, looking for ANY kind of facility. I eventually find a nicely tiled room with a colorful tiled slit trench with running water, noisy running water. There were "stalls" of a sort, with typical metal dividers, except they were only about 18" high. These turned into my savior. I had recovered enough to realize there was no toilet paper. (But I had brought 2 packs of Kleenex) and more importantly, if I squatted in the usual position I would likely leave the room with pants of a different color than when I entered. (Perhaps a brown paisely)

So I devised a strategy of keeping my legs forward and leaning back by hanging onto the divider.
I'm sure it looked amusing, fortunately I was alone. (The sounds may have warned people against entering)

I ate nothing but rice for a week. The other thing I learned belatedly is that if you take A LOT of Pepto Bismol, it turns your tongue black. It took a day or two to realize the cause (read the box, duh) before I realized it wasn't just another punishment from a vengeful Gob.

I have found that the worst of times make for the best stories.

Hmm, that reminds me of a story about my late step father...


  1. Ew. That bathroom is almost worse than squatting in the woods.

    I didn't know you'd been to China. That's very cool. I wouldn't mind taking a trip like that. Alas, I haven't made it out of the US yet.

    My sister travels quite a bit, though. She and her husband went to Egypt about 5 or 6 years ago. She missed all the scenery for the entire cruise up the Nile because she wasn't careful enough about what she ate and drank.

  2. That's not THE bathroom. Alas I have no pictures of that. I did have a picture of one my beautiful bride had to use that was substantially worse. I spent an hour looking for the picture, but couldn't find it. The one I used was nicer, but still... I guess with the Olympics coming to China there is a massive effort to upgrade, and much progress has been made in the last 20 years.

    At least they don't rock!

  3. And you lived to tell the tale. You are a far better man than I. I would have just had someone put me out of my misery.