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Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

Tiburon, CA
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Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

We've been to China a number of times, but are now planning a trip with family members for whom this will be their first visit. They want to see scenery and villages.

We haven't been to the Silk Road. But some of the group are a bit fussy about their bathroom breaks and might not like what's available there. A friend who went five years ago had some horror stories.

So I was thinking instead of going back (for us) to Dali and Lijiang, but someone said they had the same problem there.

So I'm asking people who have been to either of these areas within the last year or two: Would we be able to find Western style toilets in restaurants where our guide would take us for lunch or breaks? Or will it be squat toilets everywhere except for our hotel?

Or will even our (better class) hotels in Silk Road maybe have Asian toilets?

Beijing, China
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1. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

Hotels of middle or better class and anything built in the last 5-10 years will have Western toilets in the rooms. Restaurants are a mixed bag as are toilets at sightseeing attractions but usually they can be pretty clean and tidy even if they are squatters. Often there will be at least one throne stall in the mix amongst the squat toilets, but there is no 100% guarantee. I certainly wouldn't forego a Silk Road experience because of toilet issues. I think with advance notice to the tour company and to each local guide about your fussiness, your party plus guide can plan your days to take advantage of strategically-located toilet facilities that would be acceptable to you. Your group will just need to be willing to "go" when they have the opportunity.

Yunnan: depends on where you go. Cities and towns of any size will have modern hotels and comparable facilities to choose from. Backwoods of Yunnan may not. But more reliable than Silk Road, and more amenable to basing yourself in a town with modern facilities, restaurants, etc and then doing daytrips or part-day trips to villages where you won't need to use the more primitive offerings.

I will say that I don't think the Silk Road is the best choice for first-timers to China unless they have experience traveling in other parts of the developing world. Choice of quality lodging and food is not up to the standards of the more touristed places in Eastern China. If said family members tend to be the whining and complaining type, then maybe choose elsewhere in China and save your sanity.

Edited: 15 February 2014, 18:13
Sherbrooke, Canada
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2. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

In both places you will find the good, the bad and the ugly. When I did the Silk road last May, I had a travel partner who is very fussy and he never complained about the toilets. There are times where you are in a remote location and have no choice.

I agree that Yunnan is better for first timers.

Kunming, China
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3. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

China in general is not a good travel choice for people who are fussy about toilets, food safety, or other hygiene matters. It is, after all, part of the developing world. They also might encounter that dreadful horror or horrors, hard hotel beds. They may find people smoking in places where they shouldn't.

Unless they limit the trip to expensive foreigner-oriented establishments in the upscale parts of major cities, they will find situations that make them uncomfortable. Even then they will often be offended by such gross violations of international courtesy as the maids, waitresses, and bellmen not all speaking fluent English.

I'm being a little sarcastic on purpose, because the pages of this forum are filled with "shocking horror stories" from people who have been freaked out by trivial things that most of us who have lived here a while would barely even notice.

China is not for everyone. If you bring picky people here, you will catch their grief and it won't be much fun for you or them.

Edited: 16 February 2014, 02:29
Tiburon, CA
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4. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

Thanks for all your replies.

Zhongguoren in Kunming, I understand your sarcasm but it's unnecessary in this case. My wife and I have enjoyed traveling many times in China (though not Silk Road), as well as Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. If I thought my people would freak out about hard beds and hotels where English is poorly spoken and understood, I wouldn't be considering taking them to Western China.

Their and my specific concern is toilets. That's why I asked.

Kunming, China
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5. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

I understand your concern and apologize for using sarcasm to make a point that it turns out did not need making.

I live in Yunnan and have traveled to every part of it during the last six or seven years. So let me address the Yunnan part of your question.

What I've found is that the cleanliness of public toilets is difficult to predict. An upscale restaurant will be more likely to have clean toilets than some little dive. They typically have more ample staffing which allows closer attention to things like keeping the rest rooms clean.

But an upscale restaurant may still only provide squat style toilets if it caters to Chinese customers. Chinese don't like using western-style toilets. They consider them unsanitary ("everybody plops their bum right down on the same toilet seat. How gross!") If the establishment seeks to serve and attract Western tourist clients, they are more likely to have western style toilets.

The hotels in which you and your guests are likely to be staying will probably have western toilets. They are the norm at places costing over 150 or 200 RMB these days, regardless of whether the town is large or small. So, no need to worry about the hotel part of things unless you get off the beaten track and stay in tiny guest houses.

Though you most likely already know from your prior China travels, might be good to remind your guests to bring toilet tissue on their daily outings as well as hand sanitizer. Toilet tissue is seldom provided, nor is soap for hand washing after using the facilities.

Beijing
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6. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

For most star rated hotels, there are western toilets. However, squat toilets are widely used in most public toilets in China.

Beijing, China
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7. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

I must confess that outside of my own hotel room, I absolutely prefer squat toilets as I feel they are more sanitary. If the squat toilets are kept really clean (yes, such facilities are out there), then I'm a happy camper. And definitely keep a stock of tissues and hand sanitizer or prepackaged Wet Wipes around. These sorts of things can be purchased in Chinese supermarkets so no need to fill a suitcase full.

Many travelers, even if not too experienced with developing Asia, can deal with squat toilets if they don't have significant mobility issues, practice ahead of time, and come with expectations they might run into one or two situations. At least for peeing.

8. Re: Toilet Facilities - Silk Road and Yunnan?

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