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Toilet Adventures on the Silk Roadistan Tour


When it comes to the naked display of my body, I’m definitely a prude.

I don’t enjoy changing in communal places, I could never explore a nude beach, and I don’t even enjoy clothing that feels too much like I’m hanging out there.

Brooke and Pat covered from head to toe -  yeah that's how I roll.

Brooke and Pat covered from head to toe – yeah that’s how I roll.

The memory of my ACL reconstruction surgery in 2004 comes to mind. After the surgery, I was extremely sick. I couldn’t stop crying, and I’m not even sure why because eventually I was so doped up on morphine… yes, morphine… that I couldn’t feel the pain. In the coming hours, I was to be released back home, but I was sitting in the recovery room, vomiting and crying and just an overall mess. The nurses told me that I should consider staying the night at the hospital, but like any stubborn drunk, I demanded I do the opposite and go home instead.

And that’s when the fun happened. The nurses and my mother all tried to put my clothes back on me so I could leave the hospital, but DEAR GOD how the hell did anyone expect to put me back in my day clothes when I just had a very intrusive knee surgery and was in a brace from ankle to thigh?! Seriously!

So they took off my gown, and that I sat just in my underwear, no bra, and with a giant knee brace, but I was in too much mental and physical agony at that exact moment to even consider the bra or the t-shirt that was being thrown on me. Eventually, I was put back in the gown, but the minutes that I sat there virtually naked in front of so many people did not escape me.

Yes, even under the influence of heavy drugs I had the self-awareness to feel completely awkward.

It probably goes hand in hand with my anxiety, or maybe it’s my insecurity with my body, or a combination of that all and so much more.

That’s fine. That’s who I am, and in most daily life events, it never becomes an issue. But on the Silk Roadistan Tour, it was often a problem… especially when it came to toilets (or lack thereof).

I mean, it’s one thing to have your ass and private parts just hanging out for anyone to view, but to then pull a number 1 (or, hopefully not, a number 2)?! Uhm… yeah, not having it. It was awkward enough for Pat when he walked into a toilet with no doors to see a man taking a poo while talking on his cell phone.

Please, tell me this would be awkward for you, too.

Crossing the Torugart Pass.

Crossing the Torugart Pass — nowhere to hide!

When we were heading towards the Chinese border in Kyrgyzstan, we rode on some of the world’s worst roads, and every bump was like a nightmare for my full bladder. Nothing surrounded us except for open plains in the nearby region… and I didn’t feel like climbing a mountain to find a private place to pee, away from the awkward watching eyes of the other cars and trucks making their way. Luckily, there was a toilet at the border check (albeit horrible) with a wall and door.

But when I crossed into China and had to do security/customs closer to Kashgar, I had to pee yet again and that was my introduction to the Chinese communal trough toilet. Holy hell. No doors, no privacy. Just you and a trough to squat over that’s full of shit and vile smells. I mean, what if you’re on the your period? Or what if you really have to do a number 2?

I would die. Most likely.

Then, when we got to Mongolia, we had more toilet fun… because toilets? What toilets? All you get are these beautifully vast open plains and NOWHERE TO HIDE.

mongolian plains

The Mongolian plains… everywhere to run, nowhere to hide.

At one ger hostel, we had only some rocks to hide behind, which is fine until you look up and see that a somewhat faraway group of tourists had unknowingly hiked the cliff above you and had a view of you squatting, doing your business.


And poor Pat. Pat got food poisoning at this same ger and had to run outside in the middle of the night behind a rock, freezing cold, with a plethora of peeping goat and sheep eyes watching him intently in the darkness. A little bit of privacy might have been nice, right?

Still, what I can’t understand is how the family living at this ger hostel didn’t themselves care to have a specified toilet location on their property. I mean, that wind out there was damn cold, so wouldn’t a little bit of cover in an outhouse be worthwhile and coveted?

toilet in mongolia

Another ger camp toilet in Mongolia… better than nothing, but dangerous! Notice that plank floor!

plank floors of mongolian toilet

Close-up of the plank floors of Mongolian toilet. You could definitely fall in!

The toilet drama continued past Mongolia and on to the Russian trains. There, it was definitely hit or miss. Our usual questions would entail, “Hey, was there toilet paper in the bathroom? Was it clean? Is it free?” Definitely a normal topic of conversation.

And before any car ride, we had to find a toilet in fear that our only other option would be peeing in the open fields.

It’s just not fun.

Remember when I made that FTU newsletter called Squat Toilet Misery & Mastery?

Well the mastering of squat toilets doesn’t matter when you have no privacy.

I’m a pro squatter at this point in time… but privacy while doing it is what I need most.

What about you? Does no toilet privacy totally make you feel uncomfortable?! And if it doesn’t, how does that work?


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27 Responses to Toilet Adventures on the Silk Roadistan Tour

  1. Jan Ross October 15, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    As much as I have to pee, this would be horrible for me. Years ago, I had to use outhouses at relatives who lived in rural areas. I never cared for it – but at least we had a small amount of privacy!

    • Brooke October 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      Ugh I know – I had to dehydrate myself on these trips. I was constantly thirsty… and I still had to pee a lot.

  2. Melissa October 15, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Oh good God. And I had anxiety about encountering a squatty potty in Asia. Which I did but thankfully those times I either didn’t have to go that bad or there was another stall with a Western toilet. I can’t imagine having to squat *and* be out there for all to see. Weirded me out enough when the bathroom in my Korean love motel only had a semi-transparent curtain and no door. Headphones were brought out each time me or my travel partner had to go.

    Someone should invent a little folding tent-like curtain for times like those with no privacy. Maybe it’s like an umbrella hat with a curtain to cover you. lol

    • Brooke October 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      OH MY GOD – I have been talking about this fold up privacy screen for a year now. Seriously, I invented it in my mind 😉 So useful

  3. Annette | Bucket List Journey October 15, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    This would be terrible! After fifteen years of marriage I still don’t even like it when my husband hears me pee! Aomw hings are better left to be done in private.

    • Brooke October 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Hahaha it was horrible. I had to have him stand guard a few times to make sure no one walks in the area… he also had to hold a pashmina up for me as a guard. Bleh

  4. Sarah October 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    This sounds AWFUL!! I don’t mind squat toilets that much anymore (the first time was a huge shock!) but I can’t imagine squatting without any privacy at all.

  5. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies October 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Oh jeez, this caused flash backs to squatting over a hole in the floor in a doorless stall at the Belgrade train station. There were so many people walking around catching trains – and NO PRIVACY!

    • Brooke October 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      Awful! That would just about make me die – you are brave! Or just really needed to pee! 😉

  6. Amanda @ Farsickness October 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    I have no problem being naked in front of people, but the thought of going to the bathroom in a communal trough is absolutely horrifying. I need to do some research on where this is common and stay far, far away!

    • Brooke October 17, 2012 at 7:21 am #

      Haha, well kudos to you on the naked part 😉 And communal toilets are just WRONG.

  7. Audrey | That Backpacker October 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    Ooo, this reminds me of toilets in Bolivia! I remember our bus pulled over on the side of the dirt road, and the driver pointed at a field filled with shrubs. This is your toilet stop! Go do your thang!

    • Brooke October 17, 2012 at 7:21 am #

      Eeee not fun at all! And why do these buses never have toilets?!

  8. tony October 16, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    oh my lord… that is ridiculous. I would definitely fall into that one toilet with the plank floors. Easy.

    And food poisoning in that situation? Forget about it. That’s one of the worst things i’ve ever heard.

    • Brooke October 17, 2012 at 7:22 am #

      Yes the plank floors was a bit scary! Take everything loose out of your pockets first, too!

  9. Katrina October 16, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Great topic Brooke – it’s always one that comes up on trips (well mine anyway) and you always do remember the worst. I had a travel buddy that took pictures of every toilet we found in Nepal, not sure what she did with them once home but definitely funny at the time. In Peru I had to make a pit stop behind some ruins because there was no where else to hide and a constant flow of trekkers. Not the worst but I felt bad because of the history 🙂

    My worst was sitting on one side of a large mound (?of dirt) eating lunch and when I asked our guide where best to go for a bathroom stop they told me the other side of the mound. Slight problem that it was in full view of a service station. I voiced my issues and the driver had to find some bushes down the road.

    I need some amount of cover – even if it is the cover of darkness, good enough lol. I think I’m definitely a squat toilet expert, I’m just really looking forward to my first US visit and knowing I can expect a higher standard and not needing such skills.!

    # I also feel really bad for Pat getting sick the poor thing, definitely nothing worse on a trip

    • Brooke October 17, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      Ugh having to squat to pee when there are people walking in the vicinity – it makes me nervous! I fear being mid-pee and someone just walking around the corner I was hiding behind and then what? haha I need cover, too!

  10. Petra October 16, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    😀 I don’t mind being (seen) naked, but toilets are a big issue for me, too! My worst experience was in a toilet near Venice, about 5 years ago. Up to this point, nothing could beat the smell and the absolute ‘anarchy’ that came with. Awful, simply awful. But, hey, if you gotta go, you gotta go.

  11. JoAnna October 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Have I ever got stories about this! Though I eventually got (relatively) used to the squat outhouses (called “choos”) in Kenya when we were living there, they were always awkward. My worst experience, though, is when I was traveling on a long haul bus and it pulled off on the side of the road so we could take a “short call.” Well, I got stuck in an acacia bush while trying to go and everyone on the bus was staring at me. Talk about stage fright! It took several older women to unhook me from the thorny plant so I could run back to the bus and catch it before it left without me. Awkward…

    • Brooke October 22, 2012 at 3:38 am #

      Oh totally awkward! And painful? Do those bushes have giant stickers?!

  12. Craig October 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Oh man, seeing the slats and the big hole in the ground reminds me of that scene in Slumdog Millionaire with the outhouses on the peer. I would constantly be afraid of falling in…
    I got food poisoning once during a stay in Milan, Italy. I remember how terrible it was being sick as a dog in a foreign country, fortunately I did have a bathroom and some privacy. I can only imagine how bad it would have been in your situation, poor Pat.

    • Brooke October 22, 2012 at 3:35 am #

      Haha so true on the Slumdog Millionaire reference! If you dropped something in, would you write it off, or try and get it? I told myself that my iPhone would be non-existent to me if it fell in (emptied pockets in advance).

  13. Rosie October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    My most embarrassing toilet experience was whilst trekking in Indonesia. It was hard to find a private place around our campsite that wasn´t already littered with other people´s ´offerings´. I finally found what I thought was a good spot, only to discover it was just a couple of yards away from a path that all the porters were walking down to fetch water. Some of them even waved and said hello while I was doing my business!

    • Brooke October 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      I would die! What a nightmare, Rosie!

  14. Jeremy July 16, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    My god, that Mongolian toilet looks like something from hell. I would have just gone behind the whole little building haha.


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