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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Toilet Humour in Suwon (Day 263)

Warning: Some very basic Toilet Humour in Suwon today

“Are we going to the Toilet Museum today Tim?” I asked. “Yes, let’s hope it’s not sh*t”. Oh dear, that’s the humour that we will have to put up with today. I hope no-one wets themselves laughing.

The Toilet Museum is in Suwon City, south of Seoul, and fortunate for us, is on the same metro line as the one nearby. Easy pee-sy. It wasn’t a strain. We popped onto the train and eventually got a seat. We chatted about going to the movies again. I wondered if Tim had seen the new movie “Constipated” “It’s not come out yet”…boom boom.

We arrived at the Toilet Museum called Haewoojae, derived from the word Haewooso, used in Buddhist Temples referring to a toilet. It means a room where you can relieve your worries. (That’s not a joke). The person behind the idea of this museum was Sim Jae-duck, who was the mayor of Suwon City (who was actually born in his grandmother’s toilet). With his passion for the environment, he wanted to improve public toilets for the area ready for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The city declared its intent to build the most beautiful public toilets in the world. We must say that all the public toilets we have been into here in South Korea, and Japan for that matter, have been immaculate. However in England, on a scale of one to ten urinate. (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Mr Sim Jae-duck led the Toilet Culture Movement and was nicknamed Mr Toilet by the media. He even rebuilt his house, which turned into the museum, into a shape of a toilet. I am sure that he would have liked what Confucius says, "Man who dig for watch in toilet, has shitty timing". This reminds me, why can't you hear a psychiatrist using the bathroom? Because the "p" is silent.

Moving swiftly on. We walked into the free museum and was even handed a pack of postcards each. Mmm…who to send them to? It was aimed very much for kids and explained the history and science of toilets and a special exhibition upstairs for children to design their own toilet. The centrepiece was a bathroom with a see-through wall that turned opaque using a switch.

We discovered that Mr Sim Jae-duck set up the World Toilet Association (WTA) in 2006 which is now an international NGO for the improvement of human health and sanitation. Apparently, 40% of the world’s population live without proper sanitation, resulting in 2 million people dying from waterborne diseases each year. The WTA’s “Public toilet Building Project” is a campaign to build toilets in developing countries throughout the world. They started in 2008 in 6 countries in Asia: Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Pakistan and 4 countries in Africa: Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, and South Africa. Since then they have also worked in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Philippines, Nepal, Honduras and Paraguay.

We didn’t take long walking around, so wandered out to the gardens with many statues of poos and examples of different ways people have relieved themselves in the past. Poo is often thought as disgusting, however in Korea, it is seen as “cute” in the right context, there is even a Poop café here in Seoul. This comes from a farming culture where human waste was used as fertiliser. We reckon that with the mainly vegetarian diet in the past their poo wasn’t so stinky. We also discovered that here in Korea they used to wipe themselves with a rope (ouch) and once the excrement had dried, the next person would shake it off and reuse the rope. Well, a bizarre, yet fascinating place to visit. OK, one last toilet joke: Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill? It wanted to get to the bottom.

Our next visit was to see one of the four majestic gates of Suwon’s impressive Hwaseong fortress walls. We went to the North Gate, Janganmun, meaning “capital” and considered the main gate. It was built in 1794 during King Jeongjo’s reign who wanted to move the capital city from Seoul to Suwon. He built this to house and honour the remains of his father, Prince Sado. His grandfather had commanded his father to commit suicide and when he refused, he locked him in a rice chest to die. (Tim has now researched Prince Sado and his father. It turns out that Prince Sado had been severely affected by his father’s cruel ridicule and this possibly affected his mental state causing him to be cruel himself. Tim now keeps reading out all his horrendous behaviours.)

Back to the fortress; A World Heritage site designated by UNESCO in 1997, this was severely damaged during the Korean War. Luckily detailed records of Hwaseong Fortress Construction published in 1801 provided invaluable information so that meticulous reconstruction with great historical accuracy was made.

The fortress really is very impressive. We walked up the huge steep steps to the gatehouse where people were lying underneath relaxing in the shade. We saw the characteristic paintwork on the beams and a fabulous view of the city as well as the 5.7km long fortification wall. Definitely worth seeing.

Time to get back to Seoul, we tried to get to the Seoul Art Museum before closing time, but as our train stopped due to no a/c, and we needed to change trains, we got there too late. There were nice statues in the grounds, some called “Thinking” and a fabulously huge bouquet of flowers. Perhaps we will revisit later in the week. Instead, we stopped off at the Jeongdong Theatre café for some refreshing iced Citron Tea and then strolled along the Cheonggyecheon Stream to a very noisy Sushi bar near to our Apartment. We only managed 8 plates this time.

Talking of food, I ate four cans of alphabet soup yesterday. Then I had probably the biggest vowel movement ever.

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