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Larissa gets toilet “trained” in Malaysia

by Larissa on January 12, 2012

We were on the train from Singapore to Malaysia. Friends in Singapore had advised us that the toilets on the train left something to be desired, but it was a five-hour journey so eventually nature called.

The facilities were better than we expected. There was even a choice of a Chinese style squatter or a Western style toilet; not that I was actually going to sit, mind you–but enough said about that.

Just jiggle the handle

When I went to flush I was flummoxed. Where was the handle? I finally spotted a foot pedal below the bowl so I stepped on it. Well, it flushed all right, unfortunately not the toilet, but the entire floor of the bathroom. A little spout next to the pedal that I hadn’t noticed began to shoot water all over the floor with a level of pressure that was rather impressive. If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls then you get the idea.

What followed was a frantic little crab-like dance by me as I tried to keep my feet from getting wet by wedging myself up against the walls of this tiny compartment. (Thankfully I no longer had my pants around my ankles or I would have been wearing the toilet seat as a necklace.)

Surely it would stop any minute–just like those sinks in public bathrooms, right? Well, no. It just kept pouring out. So I gingerly reached out a toe and tapped the pedal again. I was rewarded with yet more water gushing onto the floor.

And the Oscar goes to . . .

To avoid the rushing tide I pirouetted into a toe-stance that would rival Natalie Portman in Black Swan. It’s a good thing I was wearing my nerdy Keen hiking sandals with the big goofy rubber toe design. Did I mention that the train was doing its part to enhance this experience by swaying to and fro and hitting every bump on the line to Kuala Lumpur?

I stood there transfixed and unable to figure out how to stop the gusher. By now I had enough of my own personal water park. I briefly toyed with the idea of sticking my big toe into the faucet to plug it up but you know how that would turn out. The train was approaching our stop and I could see me stuck in the bathroom with my toe even more stuck in the faucet. Visions of something Lucy and Ethel would do. Finally the water stopped.

Planning my exit strategy

Now all that remained was to plan a hasty exit that would be perfectly timed with the train swaying so the water would slosh away from the door at the critical moment. I took my leap, hoping no one in the rail car noticed me catapulting myself out of the bathroom, surreptitiously wiped my feet on the floor in the aisle and scurried back to my seat.

Michael then patiently explained to me that this was one of those old-style trains where toilets just drain out onto the tracks, so there was no flusher. But wasn’t it nice of me to clean the floor?

Barbara January 12, 2012 at 11:09 am

Hi Michael & Larissa,
I am glad that Larissa got out of that delicate situation. A lot of us would be freaking out!(“what did I do?!”).”
Just a footnote about what you called the ” Chinese style squatter”. It changes nationality in France; the French call them as the ” toilettes Turques” or Turkish style toilets. Though, it is still not much better!

Have a good time in Malaysia.

Us January 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Maybe the Turkish style squatter at least comes with good coffee.

Xian Yu January 13, 2012 at 4:15 am

The public toilets are worse, believe me. I believe I once saw a food wrapper on the floor there.

Basically, they’re like school toilets in public. Ugh.

Hannah Lee January 13, 2012 at 6:04 am

That’s hilarious, Larissa!
I have an obsession with personal hygiene, so the family line is that I could probably write a guidebook from the multiple visits to public facilities and the relative quality of them.

Mar January 13, 2012 at 7:53 am

I,too, find this adventure hilarious. I once read a book. called “Going Aroound the World. ” It didn’t mention Mayasian trains, but there was a funny cartoon of Chinese straddling a trough reading the paper and absolutely ignoring each other. That was when I decided to pass up a trip to China.

Us January 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

Except that paper might come in handy. It reminds me of an incident invoving a public toilet near the Colisseum in Rome and a Fodor’s Guide but I digress.

Us January 13, 2012 at 9:01 am

A guidebook like that might be popular.

Us January 13, 2012 at 9:01 am

Someone was eating in there? Yikes!

Paula January 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

My best trick when traveling in areas with questionable hygienic facilities is to keep my water and caffeine intake low during the first half of the day, to minimize the urgency to go while in transit, and ramp it up later in the day when there’ll be (one hopes!) a clean and more familiar plumbing setup awaiting in the evening at my accommodations. On the down side, you won’t get as many memorable experiences like Larissa’s.

larry steinberg January 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Think i once saw that happen to Curly on the 3 Stooges.

Us January 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Yep, I felt like a real knucklehead!

Us January 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I agree with you–when I’m traveling I usually try to gauge when the next “friendly toilet” will be available. But it was so hot & sticky that day I couldn’t help myself from drinking water. By the way, thanks for not accusing me of “yellow journalism”. . .

Paula January 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Well, it WAS kind of, how shall I put it, stream of consciousness.

Doz & Amanda January 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Wait till you visit some of the toilets at the temples of Angkor 😉

Us January 17, 2012 at 12:35 am

We’ll find out this week. Thanks for the tip.

MissElaineous January 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I can see the book now. This story would fall nicely into the Chapter…”Things My Mother Never Told Me About World Travel”

PS.. Still kind of grossed out about the Slumdog Millionaire trickle onto the tracks. Eeeuwww…..

Us January 20, 2012 at 1:06 am

It might even make for some good bathroom reading.

Valerie Conners April 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Larissa – you were right – toilet humor always works! Thanks for sharing this post. It definitely got me giggling. Hope all’s well on your travels 🙂

Us April 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Hi Valerie,

I’m sure we’ll have a few more situations like this to write about.



Phebe June 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm


Larissa June 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Yep. When I get finished this trip I’m going to audition for a reboot of I Love Lucy 😉

Joyce January 3, 2013 at 11:09 am

Thanks for sharing Larissa, I needed a good laugh!
I have never outgrown potty humor! This is one for the record books.
Eureaka in the bathroom!

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