Loo, lavatory, bog, pissoir, khasi, throne, thunderbox, dunny, water closet: The humble toilet inspires a lot of wordplay, and why not? These most functional of conveniences are under-considered, despite being essential, civilizing, and, dare we say it, pleasurable.
Some of the finest examples are here, in a book curated by Lonely Planet. There’s the quaint outhouse in the Finnish tundra. The lovely green Berlin urinal from the 19th century. The toilet “island” off the coast of Belize. And the toilets at the Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India, with a view of the lower Himalayas in the distance (what a place for a whizz).
It’s also a good reminder that 2.5 billion people around the world lack proper sanitation, which leads to the deaths of 700,000 children each year from water-borne diseases. In other words, be thankful for even the standard, non-photograph-worthy toilets you have.
“Toilets so often transcend their primary function of being a convenience to become a work of art in their own right, or to make a cultural statement about the priorities, traditions, and values of the venues, locations, and communities they serve,” says the book’s intro, somewhat overstating the restroom’s cosmic importance.
But who can argue with the elegance of the wood-cabin john in Alaska, or the monumental nature of the 10,000 toilet, sink, and urinal sculpture in the Shiwan Park in Foshan, China? These pictures make you appreciate having a decent place for one’s business, especially when one in three in the world, or 2.4 billion people, still live without sanitation.