Jun 13 2011
In the last almost seven years of running Travelfish.org I’ve personally reviewed more than 2,500 places to stay in Southeast Asia. Sure some have been flasher joints, but the vast majority have been at the budget end of the scale — the sort of place you’d most likely get some change from a crisp $20 note. And while today I’m more likely to be looking for change out of a crisp $50 than a $20, I’ve also done more than my fair share of buck-a-night flop-houses.
With this in mind, over the next few days I’m going to detail what I think makes the ideal room. Today we’ll be starting with the section that is never, ever perfect: the bathroom.
Every bathroom should come with a roll of toilet paper and it should be in the bathroom — not handed over at reception, and ideally on some kind of dispenser that doesn’t look like a dildo. Invariably the shower will wet the toilet paper, so it needs a cover, though not one that only allows you to pull out one sheet at a time.
Tissues are not the same thing as toilet paper. Again, in case you weren’t listening, dear guesthouse owner: tissues are not the same as toilet paper.
While the toilet doesn’t need enough power to flush away a small dog, it should have enough power to flush away, well, what needs to be flushed away. Putting a brick in the cistern to reduce your waterbill will result in a corresponding rise in your bill for eels to clear blocked drains. The toilet roll should be within reaching distance of the toilet without needing to stand up and waddle across the room.
If the bathroom has a squat toilet, there should be a bucket and a tap beside the toilet to fill it. The bucket MUST have a ladle. Bum guns are pretty standard in Asian toilets, but they sometimes appear to have been confused with stun guns. The pressure required to remove poo from one’s bottom is considerably less than that required to remove barnacles from the base of an ocean-going vessel — adjust accordingly. If you’re hankering for more information, here’s a video tutorial on how to use a bum gun.
I’m not going to get into the “shower sprays onto the toilet” issue, as that’s a structural issue beyond the scope of this post, but if you’re lucky enough to be designing your own guesthouse, make sure the shower doesn’t hose onto the toilet seat.
If the shower has hot water, it is generally expected that red means hot water and blue cold — not the other way around.
The shower head should be cleaned on a regular enough basis that the water flows out of it evenly. Calcification is the enemy. The number of the times I’ve been sprayed in the eye by a dodgy shower head is a very big number. A shower with the shower head removed (ie a metal hose) is not acceptable.
Drain tops should be easy to remove in order to clear out stray dreads, pubic hairs and god knows what else. Drains are not optional and ideally will be placed within a couple of feet of where you stand for a shower.
You either do a bath properly, or not at all. It takes very little time for a tub to look like it has been used to wash Rover in. It should take less than an hour to fill the bath and there should be sufficient hot water to do so.
The basin should drain into a pipe that is actually connected to something that takes the water out of the bathroom. Basins that empty straight onto the floor are disgusting. I mean, why even bother with a bleeding basin — just fit a hose if that’s how you want to do it. Ideally basins should have plugs, though you’ll need to use the chained variety as otherwise people like me will steal them.
The light switch for the bathroom should be either immediately outside or inside the bathroom door. Having a bathroom light switch beside the bedside table by the veranda door is impractical (I’m talking to you Conrad Hotel Nusa Dua!). Wiring should be safe. I stayed in one room in Tam Dao where the staff showed us how we needed to turn the bathroom light on: with a piece of wood, as otherwise we’d risk electrocution — this is not a feature.
A mirror is close to essential and somewhere to stick toothbrushes, deodorant and so on is desirable, but not essential as the edge of the basin or top of the toilet will suffice.
There should be hooks for clothes and a railing for towels — both should be out of range of the shower.
Ideally the floor will bevel towards the drain. This dramatically assists in the draining of water. Last request for the bathroom is a bin, furnished with a plastic bag. You need the plastic bag (again some people, like me, will steal the bag) so that the bucket/bin remains unfesty.
The best loos are loos with views.
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