Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Ancient town wows visitors with digitised public restrooms

In a matter of seconds, Qian Yafen can easily locate the nearest vacant toilet on her cellphone.

“I downloaded an app, clicked ‘find a restroom,’ and then these just came up with pictures of nearby public restrooms, numbers of available toilets as well as maps showing how I could get there,” Qian said.

She then chose to go to the nearest restroom. After entering the bathroom, she scanned a QR code on a tissue box which dispensed toilet paper for free. “It’s brilliant! It helps avoid waste and solves my problem so quickly in a way that I’d never thought of,” she said.

Qian was visiting the Old Town of Lijiang, a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site with an 800-year history in southwest China’s Yunnan Province. It attracted more than 14 million tourists last year.

All 30 public restrooms in the Old Town are two-story buildings with traditional characteristics of the Naxi, the native ethnic group. Two LED screens hang at the entrance of each bathroom to designate both the men’s and women’s restrooms as well as a unisex room.

The screens also display the temperature in real time, humidity, and the concentration of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia gas.

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