Bangkok: Toilet Tour @ Terminal 21
For years, my girlfriend has been telling me about a shopping center in Bangkok called Terminal 21. Located at Sukhumvit 21 (BTS: Asok), this has got to be one of the more interesting shopping malls in the world. Built in 2011, it is named for its resemblance of an airport terminal. It is a one floor one theme shopping mall. The concept is street markets of the world decorated based on well known cities like Rome, Paris, Istanbul and Tokyo.
Even the shopping mall’s concierge is dressed as an airline flight attendant. Much has been written before about the themes on each level of Terminal 21 Shopping Mall. To me, what is most interesting is the toilets! Each shopping floor’s washroom design is themed with every detail visually transports the toilet-goer from Bangkok straight into a different geographical spot.
On my recent trip back to Bangkok, I decided to make it a point to visit every level of the mall’s washrooms and provide a snapshot of all the interesting factors that make each so interesting. I am not an interior designer but I can appreciate the clever execution of what I call “The Amazing Toilet Tour @ Terminal 21“.
6th floor: Hollywood, California
This is the cineplex level of Terminal 21. It seems fitting that the toilet here is themed and fitted as Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Upon entering the main toilet door with hollywood’s signature walk-of-fame star sign, you are faced with bright lights and a paparazzi poster. The wash basin area is bright as day with dressing room bulbs lining the mirrors, clapperboards on the door of every stall and a hand-and-footprint cement wall piece similar to the one at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, except that one is of Hollywood celebrities.
5th floor: San Francisco (Pier)
This is the shopping mall’s main food and beverage level, housing international restaurants and food court. Themed after San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, the washroom on this level is decorated with seaports and fisherman’s village visuals. You won’t miss the toilet sign because it is sitting right under a giant crab. As you enter, the walls are lined with wood panel crates and crabbing rope. The wash basin area is constructed on top of three wooden catch-of-the-day drums with porthole-mirrors and a safety ring-buoy float on its wall. As you walk into the stalls, a giant red anchor greets you with maritime portholes on the door of every stall. While you are there, look up because hanging from the washroom ceiling is a large fishing net with plenty of decor crabs.
4th floor: San Francisco (City)
This level is themed as San Francisco’s Chinatown and Golden Gate Bridge. Bread-making is a deeply rooted part of San Francisco’s history and culture, and there is no other more symbolic dough-making institution than Boudin. Boudin is San Franciso’s oldest running company evolving from a tiny old-world bakery to a state-of-the-art bread establishment today. In 1849, the Boudin family discovered wild yeast in San Francisco’s air imparted a unique tang to their traditional french bread. This gave rise to the now world-famous “San Francisco sourdough French bread”. The wild yeast even survived The Great Earthquake and Fire in 1906 when the original “mother dough” was stored in a bucket.
Again, you won’t miss the toilet sign because it is literally written on a giant dough roller. Termed as ‘The Old Bakery’, you enter the toilet lined with a chalkboard wall of colorful crayon drawings and recipe markings. The wash basin area is furnished with bold colored mixing bowls and lampshades.
3rd floor: Istanbul
This is the shopping mall’s jewellery floor themed as Istanbul’s Market Town. On this level, you will witness an eclectic collection of mosaic and ottoman hanging lamps. As you enter the washroom, you will be faced with a wall lined with large wood-paneled, arched-framed mirrors. Hanging from the ceiling are orange-colored Turkish lamps giving this walkway a somber yet traditional ottoman interior design feel. The wash basin area and the toilet stalls are fitted with earth-toned mosaic walls and arched, wood-framed mirrors. A large ottoman chandelier hangs above the basin area giving this space the grander of Turkish richness.
2nd floor: London
This washroom is decorated with all things iconic to London; starting with the wc signage designed in London’s signature underground symbol of red, white and blue. Finding the toilet was not difficult at all. In fact, I really felt like I was going to take the London underground transit to somewhere. Along the wall of the corridor leading to the toilet is a large map of London’s underground lines. The washroom corridor wall transforms into one side of the train, equipped with white tube lighting, imaginary outline of passengers and bright yellow tactile paving.
1st floor: Tokyo
The washroom on this floor visually transports you to a Japanese zen spa. As you walk through the wood paneled ceiling with diagonally placed bamboo lighting, you will be met with a large singular bonsai tree on a bamboo-lined backdrop and a rice-paper box floor lamp. This zen atmosphere is cleverly designed with a dimly lit corridor paired with Japanese calligraphy on the walls, a gigantic sitting rock and traditional Japanese shoji sliding doors. Large bonsai tree branches cover the ceiling and the wash basin is fitted with stone walls and bamboo-piped water.
Mezzanine Floor: Paris
Like all things French, this floor’s washroom is glamorously fitted with floor-to-ceiling glass mirrors, shiny black lacquered wood panels, black-and-white flooring tiles, a giant crystal lampshade chandelier and beautiful works of art. Walking into the toilet, it is hard not to see yourself staring back. There are mirrors and glass panels everywhere, the urge for a selfie is imminent. Even the basin bowls are made of transparent glass with a wall filled with different size and different shape gold framed mirrors.
Ground Floor: Rome
The Roman restroom is light earth-colored decorated with marble, sculptures and well-known paintings. The corridor is tiled in ancient roman flooring design and the main feature wall is a large circular plaque of a roman god or creature, hard to tell. On the ceiling hangs ancient roman pendant lighting. Upon entering the toilet, you are immediately greeted with roman columns and arches. Similar to the doors of the Colosseum, the stall doors are aligned in steps, not straight across. The main wash basin is a large round marble fountain.
Basement Floor: Caribbean
Again, finding the washroom on this floor is not difficult. The concierge desk is decorated as a pirate ship with sails pointing to the direction of the toilets. Walking down the corridor feels like the basement of a large cruise boat. In the center, you will approach a large wooden pillar with a crest, coat of arms for Terminal 21 perhaps?. This toilet is designed with a nautical theme. Dark wood panels, ocean blue walls, nautical maps lining the stall doors with a large pirate ship poster above the wash basin area, and a sail on the ceiling.
Despite my phobia of public toilets, this was quite an accomplishment. The toilets are not only designed creatively and effectively with detail, they are spotlessly clean. Normally, I waste no time in a public toilet – in and out as fast as I can. At Terminal 21, I must have easily spent 15 minutes on each floor’s toilet taking photos, woo-and-ahh at every design discovery. Every washroom had its own attendant dressed to its theme.
Even the most unglamorous functional space like a toilet can be created in such a way that one can be transported to a different head space. How cool is that?