Wonderful ‘wee’ experience: Hundertwasser toilets of Kawakawa, New Zealand

  • Asia & Oceania
  • Friday, 10 Apr 2015

Work of art: Welcome to a very unique toilet in Kawakawa, New Zealand, voted the most beautiful loo in the country, and some say, the world. Photos: Tan Ling Suan

TRAVEL SHARE: Reader Tan Ling Suan gets all flushed and excited at a unique artistic Kiwi public toilet.

If you talk about beautiful toilets (now is that an oxymoron?) to Malaysians, they would probably think you’ve lost your mind.

While Malaysians might not have come across one, there are toilets that can be described as beautiful and a work of art.

Well, there was one that I was looking forward to visiting on a recent trip to New Zealand.

My two travelling companions and I made a scheduled stop for lunch at the small town of Kawakawa, in the Northland Region of New Zealand. It used to be a service town when coal was found in the area in 1861, but the coal mines have long ceased operations. The economy is now based around farming.

Having read about its most outstanding feature, a unique public toilet which is considered an international work of art, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Located on the main road, it was a colourful sight indeed.

The Hundertwasser Toilets were named after its designer, a reclusive Austrian artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He loved his adopted home and lived in Kawakawa from 1975 until his death in 2000.

Entrance to the gents’ toilet.

The work is reflective of his style – wavy lines, irregular ceramic tiles, tiny sculptures and coloured glass, using recycled materials which also included local bricks and bottles. It was his final creation, and definitely the most beautiful toilets in New Zealand. It has been declared as the most beautiful in the world by some visitors.

The toilet was opened in 1999. It functions as any other normal toilet, with the usual men’s and women’s sections. The entrance welcomes you with ceramic columns and a curved tufted rooftop. You can walk past quirky touches on the walls. The interior is just as engaging, right up to the wash basins and inside the two spacious units there.

When I was there, it was a cloudy day and the sunlight did not shine through the glassy parts of the interior walls for me to snap it at its best. Anyway, using this toilet turned out to be a very satisfying “wee” experience!

Now, don’t just walk away and think your arty experience is over. Just across the road is an artsy sculpture-garden, Amaze Space. It is an art project which has been described as an “imaginarium”. It displays a mix of murals, sculptures, mosaics and fabrics. The area is constantly evolving as local artists and volunteers continue to contribute and expand the space. As you walk through the maze of mosaics, crazy mirrors and murals, you’d feel almost like a child looking at playthings. It is definitely a delightful space for kids.

Kawakawa also boasts being the only town in New Zealand to have a railway track running through its centre. The vintage steam engine takes passengers for a 30-minute ride through the town centre and out into the countryside. It operates only on Fridays to Sundays but more services are available during holidays.

The interior of the ladies toilet, so pretty you wont be in a hurry to leave.

My sister, who has lived in New Zealand for about 20 years, was pleasantly surprised to find a shop selling hangi, a Maori traditional dish. She said it is seldom available in public eateries. She promptly bought a precooked bundle for us to dig into at dinner time. We all found the combination of different chunks of meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb) and vegetables rather tasty, with a smoky flavour.

I was looking forward to tasting this again when I passed through the same place on our return to Auckland about a week later. Luck was not on our side – it was sold out! The storekeeper said there had been an electrical failure earlier that day and many had come to buy it. Do look out for this shop along the main street if you are passing by and curious enough to have a taste of hangi.

Yes, the bit weird and wonderful, colourful Kawakawa has been one of the most memorable stops on our trip!

** The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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