Holidaying in foreign hotels can be eye-opening - in ways you may not appreciate, writes Rachel Lees.
There's nothing like waking up with your significant other in a hotel room. It's the buzz of a new city just beyond the lobby, the white-as-snow bathrobes, and the knock on the door as a tray filled with scrambled eggs and fresh juice arrives in the morning. But the one thing that can undo the romance of a getaway faster than you can say "late checkout"? A transparent toilet door.
Who came up with the idea to put a glass pane between an otherwise civilised space and what is surely the end of common decency? Frosted glass doesn't make it any better.
These so-called doors do little to muffle the sounds no one needs to hear - least of all from their partner.
Heaven forbid you need to share the room with a friend, family member or - "here's my resignation" - co-worker.
Worse still are the luxury resorts that forgo doors in bathrooms altogether, in what they must believe is a creative use of interior design. In one five-star suite in Indonesia, the shower and toilet faced each other, as though couples never choose to use the two facilities simultaneously. Amid the countless ways hotel rooms have improved in recent years, bathrooms too often seem ill thought-through, if not downright despicable.
But allow me to return to that frosted-glass sheet for a moment longer. The one place where it is acceptable: around a shower. What traveller hasn't stepped on to a soggy bathmat, and slushed around in near ankle-deep water in a hotel bathroom at least once?
Shower curtains are ineffective at best, and seem to be exasperatingly magnetic when it comes to wet, naked bodies. Spare a thought for the germophobes: this is a living nightmare for them.
Then there's the water pressure. Often there are only two settings. The first is "pummelled within an inch of your life". The second is "drought rationing". Similarly, there are two temperature settings: freezing and scalding. Water heaters were invented in the 1800s, surely we have figured out how to use them by now?
Let's say you survive your shower. Your next challenge is the "help protect the environment" sign. (Nobody mention the single-use toiletries in the disposable plastic bottles, okay?). The aim is to encourage guests to save the hotel money on cleaning costs, ahem, my apologies, I mean save water by reusing towels. "Please hang your towels," instructs the sign. The catch? Sometimes there's only one hook. Plenty of wall space, but just one tiny little hook. If there's two of you in the room, and one of you washed your hair, requiring a second towel, that leaves you with three wet towels and a bath mat - and, sing it with me now, one hook!
But if you enjoy lingering in a hot shower, you may as well give up on finding that bloody hook anyway. The lack of extractor fan means you won't even be able to see your own hand for all the steam. Want to use the mirror? You'll need to wipe off the condensation with a towel - just don't forget to hang it up afterwards.