Mr. Toilet

15 Feb

The Phnom Penh riverside has been beautified of late. Glamorous pagoda-styled buildings in hues of red and yellow send serpentine corner eaves skywards like dragon’s breath, competing with the Royal Palace opposite. Much of the pavement is actually paving, rather than a colourful mix of dirt and plastic, and every side street is tarmaced to the max.

The breeze off the Tonle Sap both cools and and mitigates the general scent of garbage, burning and decaying, that permeates the city. There is even a pedestrian promenade! And grass!

Phnom Penh is not kind to walkers. Crossing the road is an invigorating battle of wits with a dazzling range of vehicles, their drivers unencumbered by such fripperies as licenses, lanes or concern for the Sixth Commandment.

In fact, in most parts of town, it is impossible to tell whether one drives on the right or the left. Score ten bonus points if you guessed the right, although with a wall of scooters six deep zooming towards your bike on the wrong side of Preah Monivong Boulevard and a 4×4 inches from your thigh such questions are, in all honesty, academic.

Anywise, in this pedestrian haven, hawkers tout cages packed with tiny songbirds to set free — I have yet to witness what the gulls do to the poor little hopping things, but When Doves Cry this ain’t — lotus flowers and incense sticks to offer at the shrine, plus a sanitised gamut of snackfoods, heavy on fruit and lotus seeds, light on dried/salted/fermented marine life, along with a panoply of truly flimsy plastic toys.

Yet perhaps the most brightly lit building on the riverside is the tourist information centre, an ultra-modern glass box, with a gilded granite plaque below it, in honour of Mr. Toilet.

“Mr. Toilet

This toilet was donated by the government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and World Toilet Association (WTA). WTA was founded in ROK as an international organization in 2007 under the leadership of a Korea leader affectionately called “Mr. Toilet” with mission to protect human lives through the improvement of their sanitation.”

Mr. Toilet, AKA Sim Jae-Duck, died (of prostate cancer) in 2007, after a stellar career in sanitation, but it is not only his commode-shaped home which lives on as his legacy.

Without a doubt, these are the finest public conveniences in Cambodia, kitted out in dark wood and fine tiles, with not one but two attendants reclining in hammocks.

It would be churlish to detail the competition. Suffice to say that any cultural antipathy to squat toilets is only increased by the risk of splashback when flushing with a bowl from a tank of murky water, and the evidence of said splashback on the floors. The chance to urinate al fresco often comes as a blessed relief.

It would be more churlish still to complain that the ladies — Mrs. Toilet? — smelt of fish and was out of loo roll. Particularly given that the loo was not only Western style but had a bona fide, working flush, and the hose attachment would have given any bidet a run for its money.

Anywise, Z, who has been struggling somewhat with the sanitation in these parts, used the gents’ urinal and pronounced it extremely good.

And, in all honesty, I have yet to find a khazi that even approaches the sheer, gut-wrenching horror of the one on a French motorway when I was about his age. The bucket method may be clumsy but it works.

One Response to “Mr. Toilet”

  1. smartass300 February 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    yes yes yes, i did like it and it is good…

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