H O N G K O N G, Feb. 23, 2001 -- Inspired by Vladimir Lenin's vision of the ultimate in capitalist waste, a jeweler has built two solid gold toilets in a bathroom gilded with 24-carat gold and encrusted with gems.
Lam Sai-wing says he has dreamed since his youth in China about having enough wealth to build toilets of gold — which Lenin in 1921 said would serve as a useful reminder of the waste of capitalist warfare.
The communist leader may have provided Lam with his vision, but his fancy toilets are likely more a celebration of capitalism than what Lenin had in mind: The toilet bowls, wash basins, toilet brushes, toilet paper holders, mirror frames, wall-mounted chandeliers and even wall tiles and doors are all made of solid gold.
The ceiling is decorated with ruby, sapphire, emerald and amber. Even the floor on the doorway to the "ancient Roman-style" washroom is embedded with a handful of two-pound gold bars.
High-Priced Pay Toilet
For the privilege of using the $4.9-million gilded bathroom, customers must remove their shoes to avoid scuffing the gold tiles and spend a very capitalist fee: $138 on Lam's jewelry. Peeks at the gold commode are free for now, but will soon cost $14.
Lam, 45, said he was a teenager in mainland China when he read about Lenin's dream of celebrating a socialist revolution by building toilets from gold. He immigrated to Hong Kong at age 22 and established his successful jewelry business.
He called the gold toilets "a combination of my thoughts and ideals."
Even though Hong Kong abounds in glitz — Rolls-Royces prowl the streets and bowls of shark's fin soup can cost hundreds of dollars — the gold toilet sits in a class of its own.
"It's a novelty, but I wouldn't have a toilet like this even if I had the money," said one visitor to the 3D-Gold shop who gave only her surname, Cheung. "It's too wasteful."
Wang Xifeng, from mainland China, appreciated Lenin's vision and Lam's realization of it.
"It's a good selling point. It's a dream come true."