By Shree Ann Mathavan
ONE passenger spent an unusual amount of time at a male toilet in Changi Airport's Terminal 3.
No, it wasn't because he had a weak bladder or had eaten something bad. He wanted to capture the perfect shot of the view from the loo.
Mr Barclay had stumbled upon this view of planes at Changi Airport from Terminal 3 while on transit.
And that was how the T3 toilet ended up in a book showcasing 40 of the world's loos with jaw-dropping views.
British writer and toilet philosopher Luke Barclay's quest to go beyond the stinking loo stereotype resulted in a tireless two-year hunt.
The result: His debut book, A Loo with a View, which was published this year.
The featured loos are certainly far from your standard cubicle.
They include an open-air toilet overlooking snow-capped mountains in North Cascades national park in the US and one with a view of Mount Everest from the Tengboche Monastery in the Himalayas.
You can watch the sun rise from the bamboo walls of a toilet atop Mount Sinai in Egypt.
Or how about being watched by colourful fish as you go about your business in a Japanese ladies toilet that is built into an aquarium?
At Singapore's very own loo with a view, you can watch planes like the giant Airbus A380 at the tarmac from the T3 toilet.
Mr Barclay, 31, who scouted all over the world for the best toilets, encountered the Singapore toilet by sheer luck.
While in transit en route to San Francisco, he 'stumbled' onto the airport loo, he told The New Paper on Sunday in an e-mail interview.
He said of the toilet: 'It was awesome, one of my favourites in the book for sure.
'Men can stand and watch planes taking off, landing and taxiing to the runway, does it get any better?'
Mr Barclay ended up spending his entire transit time trying to snap the perfect shot of the bathroom.
To avoid curious stares, he even had to pretend to wash his hands whenever someone stepped in, he recalled.
His loo mission involved some sacrifices. Mr Barclay, who is single, gave up his British Broadcasting Corporation job as a documentary developer to focus on his book.
That decision was met with a long, stunned silence when he told his parents. His friends were also bemused over his loo obsession.
Mr Barclay said: 'I visited toilets everywhere I went, to check if they have a view. My friends thought I was mad!'
Eventually, his parents and friends came around and they are now staunch supporters of his book.
Nevertheless, he admits there are still those who become 'lost for words' when they learn about his book.
Reception has been encouraging with several readers plying him with numerous suggestions and photographs of other toilets to feature.
So much so that Mr Barclay is even thinking of working on a sequel.
Inspiration first hit him while he was sitting on his own 'ordinary' loo in his London flat.
His bathroom had no view to speak of, so Mr Barclay began to reminisce about a childhood toilet he visited during a family vacation in Cornwall, England.
He recalled that using this particular toilet, which overlooked a 5th-century chapel on a cliff, was 'a memorable and exciting experience'.
'It even prompted me to research the history of the chapel I had seen. All of a sudden it hit me, when a loo has a great view, the toilet can be transformed from the functional to the sublime,' he said.
That thought made him decide to hunt down other such toilets with great views, and the idea of a book was born.
100 great views from toilets
Through tip-offs from friends, Mr Barclay discovered about 100 toilets with great views. This was eventually whittled down to the final 40 with a good mix of countries and views.
Inspiration for the book hit Mr Barclay while he was in a loo at his London home.
He took half of the photographs during a five-week round-the-world trip, while the rest were contributed by the public, something he is 'very grateful' for.
He has always found toilets a good place to de-stress.
While he admits to reading, making decisions and dreaming up ideas in the toilet, he draws the line at talking to friends on the phone.
While his book features some of the world's best toilet experiences, he's also aware that many still don't even have access to a proper toilet.
He said: 'That's a really big global problem as it (the lack of proper sanitation) spreads disease and causes death.
'I think we need to move beyond taboos about toilets and talk openly about the problem.'
A check with some major bookstores showed that his book isn't available here.
However, those interested can buy it online from Amazon.com for US$10 ($15).
This article was first published in The New Paper on Dec 28, 2008.