Jun 13 2011

What makes a good guesthouse room in Asia part 1: the bathroom

Published by at 10:58 am under Accommodation

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.

The rest of the house blew away in a storm

The rest of the house blew away in a storm

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.

The toilet
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.

Every good bathroom has a well-placed dildo toilet paper holder

Every good bathroom has a well-placed dildo toilet paper holder.

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.

Dead plants always add to the atmosphere

Dead plants always add to the atmosphere.

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.

The shower
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.

I see no pressing reason to affix the showerhead to the wall

I see no pressing reason to affix the showerhead to the wall

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.

The bath
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
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.

One basin, one chicken basket, one flexi shower and a red door.

One basin, one chicken basket, one flexi shower and a red door.

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.

The extras
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.

If you pull the screw out of the wall the world ends

If you pull the screw out of the wall the world ends.

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.

A view
The best loos are loos with views.

One of the best loo views in Bali

One of the best loo views in Bali.

Read part 2: Everything else.

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16 responses so far

16 Responses to “What makes a good guesthouse room in Asia part 1: the bathroom”

  1. Adam @ SitDownDiscoon 13 Jun 2011 at 11:34 am

    What a laugh! I agree with all the sentiments here. I especially like to have a hook or 3 in a bathroom. One of my favorite bathrooms was on the Bukit where one had to climb a big 3 foot step to hop onto the toilet. Very strange.

  2. Jamieon 13 Jun 2011 at 11:51 am

    Love it! This is going to get re-tweeted :)

  3. Kristenon 13 Jun 2011 at 1:30 pm

    This is great! The one about the missing shower head…aka a metal hose for a shower…brought back some memories

  4. Lisaon 13 Jun 2011 at 2:39 pm

    “… 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.”

    Nah uh…. not in my book! My toothbrush will never grace the top of the toilet!

  5. spotrickon 13 Jun 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Ha! I could share some stories. But not confined to the “third world”. The Hyatt in New York had a shower over the bath, which filled the tub when I took a shower. It was still draining 8 hours later.

  6. Biancaon 13 Jun 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I have a friend who rates SE Asian hotels on the ability to use the toilet & shower at the same time. He sees it as the height of decadence.

  7. Alon 13 Jun 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I agree with Lisa. No toothbrush of mine will ever touch any part of any toilet anywhere.

  8. Theodoraon 13 Jun 2011 at 7:02 pm

    This is fucking hilarious. Thank you.

  9. Ken Kamineskyon 13 Jun 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Ha! Loved this. Thanks for the dreary Monday morning laugh :)

  10. Monicaon 13 Jun 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Loving the view, but maybe not loving the toilet roll holder! I’ve had more than my fair share of showers in Bali that left me feeling cold and dirtier than when I went in!

  11. Sherry Fauscetton 13 Jun 2011 at 2:53 pm

    This brings back memories. We did buying trips in Ubud and beyond in the country side for our store for years and I always took photos of the bathrooms or holes I peed in and had a competition for the most revolting bathrooms. Thanks for the laugh!

  12. Jenniferon 13 Jun 2011 at 11:29 pm

    That dildo shaped toilet paper holder… Well, it certainly is a wake-me-up photo. :)

  13. Sarahon 16 Jun 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Ha. That brought back some backpacking memories for sure! The worst I recall was a 6 sq ft room with a toilet and a hose (no sink, nowhere to rest anything, no bin…) and a resident tree frog.

  14. wandering educatorson 01 Jul 2011 at 7:46 am

    where have i been? not here, obviously. i am grateful for your investigative photojournalism. so i can avoid these, for sure. lol!!

  15. adclestaon 06 Oct 2011 at 8:27 pm

    we always called the bum gun the ‘arse shower’ lol

  16. […] On “bum guns” and showers that soak the toilet paper […]