Yup, urine for some potty humour. That’s par for the course at Toilet Kingdom, where the one room in the coffee shop you usually don’t want to see has taken centre stage. You sit on toilets with Angry Bird cushions, drink out of little potties and bathtubs on glass tables over sinks with glitter and fake trees inside. Little streamers with happy buzzing flies adorn the walls and ceilings. Bathroom mirrors with stray toothbrushes and bottles of shampoo are scattered throughout.
To call this place ‘cute’ seems misdirected, when you consider the subject matter. If you’ve ever been stuck in a bathroom at a party, just imagine the party is in the bathroom. It’s the brainchild of co-owners Quang Le Huu and Phuc Dung Dang Hong, and they didn’t exactly deny that a similarly-themed chain in Taipei called Modern Toilet might have helped with some ideas. But they agreed that Ho Chi Minh City patrons were ready for just such an establishment.
“We want to bring Ho Chi Minh City young people a different way to have coffee,” explained manager Quang, adding that a similar café has already been set up in Hanoi.
Showing me around the place, I pointed at one of the little steaming poops on one of the walls. As I cracked up at the sight of it, Quang exclaimed, “It’s sh-t!” with unbridled glee.
A Bit of a Bummer
Right down to smoothies named King Toilet (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and vanilla — VND69,000) and a parfait named Pink Love Toilet (vanilla, strawberry and fresh berries — VND68,000), the drinks are named just as whimsically as the place is decorated. It’s also pretty family friendly; the only booze on hand seemed to be Bailey’s for your coffee. The Toilet Coffee (iced coffee with vanilla and strawberry — VND58,000) was only remarkable for its toilet-like cup, which is more kitschy than gross once you’ve gotten your head around the place. If anything, the drink itself was a bit of a bummer, so to speak, given how much time and effort had gone into the décor of the restaurant. My contingent had similar findings; inventive packaging, uninspired contents.
The actual toilets here are surprisingly conventional, save for the toilet paper being suspended from the ceiling. On this particular day the young crowd Quang had talked about was present, along with some tots who seemed to get the biggest kick out of the place.
But is the whole thing a bit too out there for foreigners? Asking for a bowl of ice cream and getting it in a different kind of bowl is a tad much for some people, and looking around to see your friends eating out of commodes is definitely surreal.
“It’s an interesting idea,” says Helen Brook, a 25-year-old visitor from Bradford, England. “It is a bit dubious drinking brown stuff out of a toilet, though.”
It’s up to you to decide in this modern game of thrones, although at the end you might feel pooped. — Harry Hodge
Toilet Kingdom is located at 29/2A Duong D2, Ward 25, Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City