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Helen van Berkel: Where do we go now?

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What initially seemed a disaster was revealed to be a marvel of modern engineering, writes Helen van Berkel.
For the rest of the afternoon, that thrilling throne changed my life. Photo  / 123RF
For the rest of the afternoon, that thrilling throne changed my life. Photo / 123RF

There was the bath; there was the shower and there was the basin. But where was the toilet? I looked hard at each device: no, none was also a toilet/hiding a toilet. I went back into the room's vestibule - no toilet. Either, a) the shower doubled as a toilet; b) the bath doubled as a toilet; d) the basin doubled as a toilet; c) there was no toilet. Some countries have different toileting customs to ours but I would have expected a hotel in the South Korea capital of Seoul to boast a bog.

To avoid an international incident by bathroom bungle, I gave one last determined effort: if there was a toilet in this room, I was going to find it. I double-checked the vestibule: my loo hadn't appeared in the past five seconds. I surveyed the room: bed, cupboard - not in there - it wasn't attached to the chairs like a peculiar potty. I knocked on the shower walls to see if there was a hidden panel that magically clicked open to reveal the toilet. Nothing. All the other walls were solid tile, except one. It sounded hollow. I pushed on it but it didn't swing open. I tried to slide it, it didn't budge.

But I knew I was on to something. By applying exactly the right amount of pressure I managed to slide it across the front of the shower to reveal my precious privy.

And, for the rest of the afternoon, that thrilling throne changed my life. It was an American contraption with a flight deck of buttons to push. Which, of course, I did, even though I couldn't read the Korean instructions.

Number one (yeah, I hear it) looked like dangling buttocks or boobs hovering over a fountain. Going by context, I guessed it was the latter. I pushed it and watched and waited. Nothing happened. Nothing happened either with buttons two and three. The big one at the top finally got a reaction and my pristine loo flushed. Perhaps one had actually to sit on the loo for something to happen. I sat nervously. Number one: much murmuring and sloshing sounds from below and suddenly a squirt of water. I jumped. I tried to see what was going on but this was not a spectator sport. This went on for a few pleasant minutes and then stopped. Puzzlingly, the next button pictured a female face. Did this loo wash you at both ends? In the interests of science I pushed it and closed my eyes. I'd never felt so exposed in all my life. More grinding and humming from below and another splash of water. I jumped. The splash was in a slightly different place. (Now I need to know: what happens when a bloke pushes that button?) The next button was similar to the first but the lines were blue. I steeled myself. It wasn't cold but it was forceful ... The final button showed a series of blue waves. They turned out to represent wonderfully soothing waves of air. I felt so wonderfully pampered, right from the bottom up.

- NZ Herald

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