World Toilet Day 2019: Toilography visits Suzhou, China

Happy World Toilet Day everyone! Earlier in the year I visited Suzhou, China’s 16th most populated city. I spent some time wandering around its charming alleyways and chanced upon some very interesting latrines which weren’t exactly the pinnacle of cleanliness.

Hopefully this video helps highlight in a small way just how different sanitary conditions can be in developing countries compared to the relative luxury faced in the western world. There’s also a little shoutout to the World Toilet Organization at the end of the video who do a wonderful job at spreading the word on the global sanitation crisis. Please learn about and support them in any way you can!

VIDEO: Toilography visits Shanghai

Here’s the video from my visit to China earlier in the year featuring all the cool toilets I saw while in Shanghai! You’ll see a bit of everything from a double-storey public toilet, to the view from one of the highest restrooms in the world, to a toilet art exhibit which includes some very naughty words. I hope you enjoy it – please like & share if you do.

And stay tuned for World Toilet Day on November 19th cause I’ll be posting my video from Suzhou, also in China, where I saw some of the least-sanitary lavatories I’ve ever come across… it’s a real eye-opener.

Pi$$ off the Dragon and $hit on the Peony

At first glance these tiled toilet walls at Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art look like beautiful red & blue flowers:

But take a closer look at exactly what they’re made up of 😆

That’s right – the flowers actually consist of a myriad of highly NSFW curse words and phrases including $HITTYPARTY, $HITTYPEOPLE, EATYOUR$HIT, THE FUCKINGRICH, PISSMONEY and YOURFUCKINGDIRTYHAND$

No wonder this 2007 exhibition by Tsang Kin-Wah is titled “Pi$$ off the Dragon and $hit on the Peony”. A true toilet art masterpiece.

Suzhou’s relatively clean toilets

Unlike the toilets I covered in my post about Suzhou’s lack of sanitation, there were some relatively clean and well-maintained loos dotted around the city in the areas frequented by tourists. Many of them were staffed by what appeared to be a full-time cleaner. Here’s a sample of some of them.

The artistic entrance to a modern-style toilet block just west of the Pingjiang pedestrian area

Very clean and modern inside this toilet block

Another public toilet close to the touristic area of Suzhou

Perhaps not as sanitized on the inside as it could have been but at least the facilities themselves were modern

Suzhou squatter at Panmen Gate

Yet another modern, staffed toilet close to the Pingjiang pedestrian area

Cute toilet sign!

Lack of sanitation in Suzhou

Warning, this post may be a little graphic for some.

Today I was in Suzhou, about 100km west of Shanghai. I diverted off the beaten track to walk around some laneways when I chanced upon not one but two local-style latrines. I must say up until today I’d been pretty impressed with the availability and cleanliness of public toilets during my time in China so far but seeing the reality of sanitation in less-touristic areas really puts things into perspective.

The first one I came across was a facility along an alley that ran east of the beautiful Pingjiang pedestrian area. I’d been getting lost in the pathways that wound between the densely-built houses when I noticed this room which easily could have been mistaken for a garage:

It turned out of course to be a public restroom, but very different to any I’d seen before. It was open & highly exposed with barely any privacy, no stalls and no basin: merely a tiled wall to urinate on and a hole in the ground for solid waste.

I admit it took me quite by surprise to stumble across a facility with such lack of sanitation, yet so close to an area frequented by tourists who had access to a plethora of modern, clean restrooms.

Later that day I was walking around the Nanmen Market, a highly localized and seemingly non-touristic area where fish, meat and other such produce could be procured. This gives you an idea of the type of area I’m talking about – the cleanliness isn’t quite at the level you’d expect to see at a western market:

I’d followed the signs to a public restroom a block or two north of the market which was clean and well-maintained, but on my return I noticed a short, dark, foul-smelling alleyway teeming with empty crates which workers were frequenting, within the same building as the market. Curiosity got the better of me so I followed it down to find the entrance to yet another local-style latrine. This time, two trenches on either end of the room were separated by concrete dividers. This is where market workers would go about their business, facing outwards while squatting.

Similarly to the restroom I’d seen earlier in the day, there was no basin. There was a hose, however, which at least suggested running water was available; presumably the waste would be manually flushed away at some stage throughout the day.

As eye-opening as these two restrooms were for me, one of them did seem to have access to running water and both offered a modicum (to say the very least) of privacy. I’m certain there are others out there in worse condition than this. Sanitation – or lack thereof – is definitely something I’d like to explore more through this lil photo project of mine in the future.

As fun and crazy as it is to find the artistic & elegant toilets there is a serious side to it too!

M50 Creative Garden

The M50 Creative Garden is a Shanghai hub for art studios, galleries and other creative agencies, with representatives from countries around the world. I was pleased to find this washroom with shiny golden walls a couple of floors above the impressive Island6 Arts Center:

And here are a couple more pics of various artworks from around the complex:

One of the many cool exhibits at Island6 Arts

C’s Bar

During my quest to source a list of interesting restrooms across Shanghai, I came across an establishment simply named C’s Bar. It’s a university pub southwest of the city centre and as a fan of dirty, gritty, graffiti-covered dive bars, I must say this was one of the best I’ve ever been to. Get a load of these filthy restrooms:

Here’s a gallery of pics from around the rest of the bar to give you an idea of how it looked. I visited on a quiet night with only 5-6 people in attendance which gave me the perfect opportunity to explore its dark, tainted hallways.

I would 100% drink here again.

Chinese construction site

Just down the street from the hostel I stayed at on Shanghai’s Yunnan South Road was this construction site, complete with toilet at the canvassed entry. I’m pretty sure it was only used as a garbage bin and not as an actual toilet.

Shanghai World Financial Center

I took the elevator up 423 metres to the 94th floor Observation Deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center, the city’s second-tallest skyscraper, where I found some loos with a superb view of the streets below. The picture from this pissoir was certainly a sight to behold.

Of course I continued up to the 97th and 100th floor observatories which both delivered phenomenal views but as a hunter of spectacular toilets, nothing could compare to the window above those urinals.

10 Wusheng Road

10 Wusheng Road, Shanghai: the site of the largest public toilet facility in the city at 230 square metres, and one of the few standalone double-storey restrooms I’ve seen around the world.