This story begins with a disclaimer: I don’t usually photograph bathrooms – ok?
Yet, there I was, in one of Bangkok’s mega-malls Terminal 21, last Thursday and I felt compelled to do just that.
Why, you ask? Fair question. Well, you won’t find any standard, off-white sinks with boring grey cubicles in Terminal 21.
Indeed, each of the nine floors of the 55,000 square-metre mall is themed around a major city in the world, namely Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, San Francisco and Hollywood – and they haven’t skimped on continuing those themes in the toilets. Talk about commitment!
It is in the Grande Centre Point in Sukhumvit, and resembles an airport. Once inside there are electronic display boards designed like information displays at an airport terminal.
I have another confession – I went to the mall at the end of a busy work trip to Thailand, and didn’t quite manage to photograph all the toilets but you will get the idea.
We went for a beautiful lunch in a restaurant on the 4th floor, with a San Francisco theme, where I had pad thai with shrimp, and an iced lemon tea. More than 50 independent and chain restaurants are on the 4th and 5th floor.
After lunch, I set off merrily on my toilet-photograph mission. And to shop, of course.
One of our guides for the trip had recommended going to see the Tokyo toilet. Well, it didn’t disappoint.
Upon entering the corridor, I passed a rock pillar with Japanese letters and in the female toilets was a major wall featuring a collage of young, fashion-savvy (presumably) Tokyo women.
The Tokyo floor has women’s fashion boutique stores, which I perused, yet didn’t buy anything as most of the clothes were too small for me.
Some of the shops had mannequins with roses instead of a head, which sounds peculiar but worked.
A major sculpture of Samurai wrestlers and a cat was a favourite spot for shoppers to take photos of themselves.
I then went to Hollywood, on the sixth floor, where a large collage of Hollywood paparazzi taking photos adorned the walls leading in to the toilet cubicles.
It was an intriguing placement for this image, giving the impression that a scrum of photographers were capturing you as you were about to go to the toilet.
I also managed to get to London, on the second floor, where in the hall leading to the toilets was a sculpture of a London underground train.
The floor features London’s iconic red telephone boxes and London’s double-decker buses, among other things, and the shops are mainly menswear, and sporting goods shops.
I was growing weary of going to the toilets by this point, and spent most of the rest of the time wandering around the floors, and looking for last-minute presents for family back home.
While many of the goods on sale weren’t much cheaper than New Zealand -there was, of course, plenty of things that you can’t find here, such as artisan jewellery, clothes, sports gear and accessories.
I’d recommend it as a good place to get rid of the last of your baht on your way to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
And, meanwhile, I think my days as a toilet photographer are over.