Toilet trouble

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Ho Chi Minh City's few toilet facilities have forced city residents to sneak tinkles on the street and in hotel bathrooms


A man urinates on a sidewalk in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Experts have voiced concern over a lack of public toilets in the southern metro.

Le Quoc Khanh has patronized nearly all of Ho Chi Minh City's five-star hotels.

The 45-year-old delivery driver couldn't tell you much about the room service or fitness centers. Khanh only ever saw the inside of the lobby bathrooms.

"I can't ever find a public toilet on the street," he said. "Those that I do find are filthy and smelly."

Dung, an employee at a hotel on Bui Thi Xuan Street said many visitors often come to the hotel just to use the toilet.

"Dozens of them come just to use the toilet," she said. "I don't have the heart to stop them."

Dropping by a hotel to use the toilet is a last resort for many HCMC residents who live in a city that suffers from a massive dearth of public toilets.

Meanwhile, open urination remains a constant feature of the city.

Since 2008, many public toilets and trash bins have been set up throughout the city under their "civilized urban lifestyle" campaign but many complain that the new facilities are poorly maintained and hard to find.

Vo Kim Cuong of the HCMC Architects Association said that many bus stations and public parks have toilets but few use them because they are very dirty.

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A number of these toilets have been illegally occupied by street vendors. Others are frequented by drug users, he said.

According to the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the city has more than 150 public toilets and 8,000 trash bins a tiny sum for a city with 7.1 million people and more than 3,800 streets.

On Hung Vuong Street, which cuts through districts 5 and 10, there is only one public toilet hidden behind An Dong Market and surrounded by parking motorbikes and vendors. Many passers-by use the Hoa Binh Park at the corner of Hung Vuong Street and Nguyen Chi Thanh Street as an open toilet.

Meanwhile, there is no toilet on many crowded streets, including Nguyen Huu Canh and Dien Bien Phu in Binh Thanh District, An Duong Vuong in District 5 and Le Thanh Ton in District 1.

Phan Van Hien, a resident of Go Vap Street, said many toilets and trash bins had been tucked away in hidden corners. "They should have been installed them out on the main streets and at open places," he said. "They would not spoil the street image if they were designed well and properly maintained."

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