1. Park Hyatt Tokyo, Japan
From singing johns to heated commodes, Japan has long been number one when it comes to number two. So where to begin in a land that has leapt so far forward in bathroom technology that the standard Western toilet seems archaic by comparison? It’s best to stick with the classics, like Tokyo’s first major luxury enclave, the sky-scraping Park Hyatt Tokyo, famous as the setting for Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Hallways of signature Tiffany-esque blue lead to capacious suites that don’t skimp on the swank. Expect robotic toilets covered in buttons and knobs that control everything from seat temperature to a bidet array.
Located close to the bustling Shinjuku station, the Park Hyatt Tokyo features two signature restaurants: kaiseki at Kozue and steaks at New York Grill.
2. The Attendant, London, UK
Thomas Crapper pretty much sealed his fate when he became a plumber in London in the 19th century. Though not credited with the invention of the modern-day flusher, he did popularise the item and make several improvements. (Contrary to popular belief, the word ‘crap’ is from a Middle English term and not derived from his unfortunate name.) If you’re seeking for the throwback charm of Crapper’s London then look no further than the Attendant, a Victorian public toilet that has been cleverly transformed into one of the city’s most talked-about cafes. Come for high tea and it’ll be the most time you’ve ever spent in a WC.
Open from breakfast to afternoon tea, 8am–6pm Mon–Fri and 10am–5pm Sat; visit the-attendant.com.
3. International Spacestation, Outer Space
The planet’s most expensive toilet is really outta this world. Seriously. NASA owns the most costly crapper this side of the sun, reportedly a cool US$19 million to develop and construct. Take a pee at zero Gs and experience the genius design that compensates for the lack of gravity by employing an intricate system of air pumps, nozzles and levers to make sure the astronaut stays safely seated, and that all the waste remains in the bowl. Fun fact: the machine turns most of the liquid waste into potable water!
Sorry folks, you’re going to need years of pilot training or a PhD in space sciences to try this one out, but after seeing Cuarón’s Gravity we have a hunch that you’re better off on dry land.
4. Yangrenjie, Chongqing, China
Like some colossal shrine to bodily functions, the public restroom along the theme-park-y Yangrenjie, or ‘Foreigner Street’, in Chongqing, China, is in fact the largest in the world, with a whopping 1000 loos. A Pharaoh’s face tops the pyramid of porcelain (your guess is as good as ours), and inside you’ll find a 3200-sq-m maze of latrines in all sorts of strange designs. Make sure to scout out the toilets shaped like human legs or animal mouths for extra mirth.
Located in the Nan’an District of Chongqing; free of charge. Visit in daylight to enjoy the outdoor options.
5. Empire Hotel, Jerudong, Brunei
Imagine a zillion-tonne hunk of Italian marble dipped in gold and tossed into the rainforest – you’ve just pictured the Empire Hotel, a pet project of Brunei’s prodigal Prince Jefri. With a construction budget around US$2 billion, the resort leaves nothing to be desired. Expect gilded fixtures, marble floors and an Emperor Suite with the world’s most opulent private indoor swimming pool. Prices are kept astonishingly low because – as popular rumour has it – the hotel needs warm bodies to regularly flush the toilets and keep the massive plumbing system working. So do your civic duty and book a room for a few nights.
6. Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Flip a urinal upside down, sign it with a fake name and voila: one of the world’s most expensive pieces of art. Entitled Fountain, it was developed during the Dadaist era in New York City during the 1910s by Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp pioneered the popular anti-art movement, creating a series of ‘readymade’ pieces out of pre-existing items like a bottle rack and a snow shovel. There are about 10 replicas of the work housed in several major art museums around the world including the esteemed Centre Pompidou in Paris. It is, without a doubt, the most photographed urinal in the world.
The museum is open from 11am to 9pm every day except Tuesday; it costs €13 to enter.
7. The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India
Imagine overlooking one of the world’s Seven Wonders from the privacy of your own bathroom. Agra’s Oberoi Amarvilas takes guests on a sensorial journey back to an era of conquest and excess. It is well documented that the members of the Mughal elite enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, with ample gardens, feasts, harems, sweeping palaces and many other ostentatious manifestations of wealth. So it’s fitting that this luxury hotel pulls out all the stops including perfect views of the Taj Mahal from the bathroom of its Kohinoor suite. This throne is truly fit for royalty.
Agra is located about a four-hour drive from Delhi, and is best visited in the cooler months of December to March. See oberoihotels.com for more.
8. Ephesus, Selçuk, Turkey
The elaborate ruins of Ephesus offer insight into one of the most populated cities of the Roman Empire. Ephesus is the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean, if not all of Europe, and was once the grand capital of the province of Asia, with over 250,000 inhabitants. Thousands of tourists ogle the towering Library of Celsus, but the most impressive feat is the system of piping for the so-called Terraced Houses. Covered in elaborate mosaics, the homes of Ephesus’ wealthy elite offered one of the first examples of private bathrooms with flushing toilets – and that was over 2000 years ago.
The ruins of Ephesus are open daily from 8am to 6.30pm from May to Oct, and to 4.30pm from November to April. Admission is extra for the Terraced Houses portion of the site.
9. Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai
We all know it ends up in the ocean anyway, so why not go straight to the bottom line. At Atlantis, The Palm, you can use the john while surrounded by swimming fishes in the Poseidon or Neptune suites. Shell out some serious cash (no pun intended) to stay in one of the two submerged rooms that offer views of over 65,000 marine creatures instead of the usual resort-y swaying palms and shimmering sand. Uniquely built with visiting dignitaries in mind, the suites puts a whole new meaning to the term ‘royal flush’.
Day visits are available to the man-made islands off the coast of Dubai, but you’ll have to book one of the exclusive suites for the full experience. Visit atlantisthepalm.com.
10. Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Skip the glitz and the glam of solid gold toilets and other such distractions, and head out into nature itself when nature calls. Mnemba Island, a fringe reef island off the coast of Zanzibar, puts an elegant twist on the castaway vacation fantasy with its private cache of thatched bandas; simple huts abutting the curling tide. Open-air bathrooms perfectly mimic the back-to-the-wild experience, but everything’s secretly luxe: hidden rain showers, designer products, butler attendants, and sweeping amounts of space. Robinson Crusoe never had it so good.
Rooms are US$1500 per person in high season and include full board and two scuba dives.