I feel like Al Bundy (Married with Children) as I sit on the loo at the Surfing Village resort. On an island off west Sumatra (Indonesia) this toilet is a throne. It is a statement in and of itself: ‘sit here and relax your majesty’ it seems to say. It is a magnificent toilet and I don’t want to get off.
The Surfing Village is a resort like many popping up around the Pacific and the likes. It is charmingly constructed out of local materials in a pseudo traditional design. It is remote, it is exclusive and the toilets are unique.
It is an important consideration whilst travelling. Given how a sudden change in diet can affect people’s digestion it is a place some get to know intimately. I’ve got hardy guts, yet appreciate the detail of a good loo on the road.
In the Amazon, while on a three-week detox diet of pineapple and beetroot, I shat in a deep, narrow hole in the jungle. For privacy, a big woven plastic rice sack had been ripped open and with sticks to hold it upright it made a shelter around the long drop. Mosquitoes bit my bum and when it rained I got wet. But I learned what most of the population in the world already lives by, that squatting is the most efficient way of emptying your bowels.
In Papua New Guinea I tossed sawdust into a composting toilet, it was clean, efficient, and it did not smell. I wished I had one like it at home and swore if I ever had my own loo one day it would be the same.
In the Solomon Islands, planks of bamboo strapped together stretched from the shoreline out to over the sea, where we squatted with our bums hanging over the side. The most curious part were the enormous Angel fish that congregated under the bamboo planks. “They are big because they eat our feces,” said a village woman called Marylin, with a grin.
But in Indonesia I sit atop a tropical toilet of royal proportions. A circular leaf wall about six metres in diameter encloses the area winding outwards like a snail’s shell. There is no door, only a white rope that when placed across, indicates occupation. In the middle of the circle are three giant steps made from the base of old coconut trees. They lead up to a three-by-two-metre deck and placed on the middle is a western toilet. To the left is a seat stacked with magazines, to the right is another similar looking seat but well out of arms reach and it is empty. The space is so inviting that the spare seat might be there for another person to sit on, for a chat. (Apparently it’s not.)
What really takes the cake though is the view. It’s something Al Bundy wouldn’t even have thought to wish for. Between the leaf roof and the spiralling wall is a gap wide enough to sneak a look out at the sea. If you take your time, and trust me you would if you were here, you can sit on the can and watch your mates get the meanest Mentawai barrels…no shit.
As for the waves, well, we’ll get to that later; I’ve got some business to attend to first.
We’d love to hear from you…Where’s the top spot you’ve planted your bum on whilst on the road? Leave your comments, if you dare…