On the Today Show this morning, Meredith Viera said she got to visit some wonderful scenic towns not in Beijing. She emphasized how nice it was to see something other than Beijing. I thought to myself, "I wonder if I’ve been to wherever she’s talking about?" I said this to myself because they went to commercial break before showing what they were talking about. You know, it was a teaser or whatever.
Then they came back from commercial and showed Guilin…
Then Yangshuo…
Then the Longji rice terraces, WHICH I WROTE ABOUT IN MY COLUMN LAST WEEK.
Granted, I focused more on the toilets than the rice, but stilll…
So yeah, I totally went to all the places Meredith Viera visited. I wonder what she thought of that rest stop.
I was also a little smug that my pictures of the area were prettier, because I visited during a sunny week and not a smoggy week.
Ha, Today Show.
Ha.
 
Here’s that column I’m talking about:

To sit or to squat?

By: Sarah West
Published:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 7:26 AM CDT
The 2008 Summer Olympics begin in Beijing Friday. The usual competitive sports will fascinate most spectators, but Western visitors to the ancient city will be engaged in a sport of another variety. To participate in this sport will require a certain degree of adventurousness. Ultimately, the player will have to ask him or herself a vital question: To sit or squat?

When it comes to toilets, China has a variety. I know this because I lived in central China for a year and a half and traveled the country, seeing Shanghai in the east, Beijing in the north, Xinjiang province in the west, Nanning in the south and many other places. I even traveled further to Southeast Asia. The most common facility I discovered was the squat toilet, which my fellow expats and I referred to as squatty potties.

According to a recent article from Reuters, Chinese news agency Xinhua said Westerners preferred seated toilets, but squat toilets are more hygienic, considering “there is no direct contact with body.”

More hygienic? The guys at Xinhua have clearly never visited that rest stop on the four-hour bus ride from the scenic town of Yangshuo to the Longji rice terraces. The “toilets,” and I use the term very loosely here, were actually one long trough. Thankfully the bathroom was at least divided into two gender specific rooms and each stall had a wall. But the trough ran the entire length of the building and the women’s room was downstream, if you catch my drift.

I don’t think they’re referring to that rest stop on the overnight bus ride from Shanghai to Wuhan, either. The middle of the night is not a good time to squat in front of lots of strangers, none of whom feel the slightest compunction about staring at foreigners — be it in the middle of Tiananmen Square or in the bathroom. This particular bathroom had no stalls, no walls and probably no holds barred. Upon exiting, I summed up my feelings about the experience by telling my travel companions, “I want my dignity back!”

I am amused at the idea of a multitude of unsuspecting Westerners descending on Beijing and its public facilities, only to discover that things are a little more rustic in China’s capitol city than they had been led to believe.

Reuters went on to say that foreigners complained about the squatty potties at test events, but only some of the toilets will be changed — mainly those for journalists, athletes and VIPs.

So basically, if Yao Ming, Donald Trump and I went to Beijing, we would get to sit. Those who are only going to watch, on the other hand, should prepare by working out those thigh muscles.

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