Actually it has no name. It's simply Granny Mak's little shop. Correction: in fact, it's her home. Poh-Poh (Granny) put a canopy over her front patio, brought in a freezer chest and a drinks cooler, and for years has sold popsicles, cold drinks, slippers and rattan beach mats to passing tourists. She still lives in the back.
A number of years ago a few guys, mostly westerners, started hanging around there in the evenings. There were a couple fold-out card tables, some stools, and cold beer out of the cooler for one quarter the price of the pubs near the ferry pier. It was outdoors, quiet, everyone there knew each other. A pleasant, convenient place to hang out and have a chat and a pint--well, a can. Except for one thing.
It was directly across the footpath from the public toilet, which anyone could smell from a quarter mile away. I held my breath every time I rode past on my way home. What kind of powerful cameraderie there must have been, not to mention cheap beer, that would engage people to hang out drinking next to a disgusting, putrid toilet!
People started referring to it sarcastically as the Toilet Bar.
A few years ago the government replaced the old public toilet with a new, modern hygienic one. No more stench. But the name Toilet Bar stuck, by now an almost endearing title for a near-legendary establishment. A few people tried for a new, classier name--Café Latrine was suggested. But it will forever be known as the Toilet Bar.
Poh-Poh has been gradually taking the Toilet Bar upmarket. First, she started stocking wine. Take your choice: chilled white or chilled red, both cold and cheap. Eventually she even bought some wine glasses, probably because someone told her they were slightly classier than plastic cups. She's rummaged up an eclectic assortment of extra tables and chairs in the past few months, so it's more comfortable to sit. But the pièce de résistance is that she now provides free wi-fi! Where else in the world can you enjoy an ice-cold can of local Carlsberg or a chilled glass of Australian Merlot in al fresco tropical ambiance, with free wi-fi, all for under US$2.00? And a toilet conveniently located three steps away.
I don't hang out there, in case you're wondering. Sometimes I stop off to buy an ice cream, but I don't linger. Ask any of the regulars about me, they'll tell you: I'm an antisocial son of a bitch and, worse, not much of a drinker.
So why would I name this blog after such a place? The Toilet Bar is the gateway to Wang Tong, the place everyone must pass on their way to our village. I hope this chronicle will serve the same purpose for you. Pop open a cold can of San Mig and come stay a while at the Toilet Bar.
photo by Ivan Feign