My first night in Thailand, I was surprised to find that it required a small step up to enter the bathroom in my hotel room. I had never seen such a thing in the US. Maybe it was unusual in Thailand too. Well, all hotels since that one have required a step, but a step down, not up, to enter the bathroom! I had never seen that in the US either.
These are not normal steps with a riser of seven inches or so, that is, something that would jump out at you as obviously a step up or down, just ahead. No, these are tiny changes of one to three inches. Just enough to trip you up a bit because you didn't notice it.
It is not limited to hotel bathrooms. It is common in many places in Thailand. Major hotels may require a small step up or down when you come in their front door. I've seen the same thing at the entrance to a major mall that had a doorman watching the front door, saluting as you came (maybe stumbled) in or out.
The image (above) is an example from the DPU Place Hotel, a 4-star hotel in Bangkok.It shows the transition from the main room into the bathroom. The room had a gray carpet. The threshold into the bathroom was black tile, at the same level as the carpet. Looking into the bathroom, you see that the bathroom floor had a trim of black tile around the lighter tile floor. So we have a black tile threshold, butted up against black tile trim, BUT the black tile trim (and the rest of the bathroom floor) was a small step down from the carpeted floor.
I took a picture of this (below) from the bathroom side, with the camera down on the floor, looking out into the carpeted area. I propped up the hotel business card against this small step to get an idea of the distance, about 2/3 of the height of the business card. I believe the standard business card is 2" x 3.5", so this step is a little less than two inches. Because it occurred at the transition from one black tile to another (lower) black tile, it was nicely disguised. As your foot went into the bathroom, it would not land until a split second after you were expecting it to land. So you'd catch yourself, maybe grabbing the sink, at the surprise of the extra distance down.
At the Golden Dragon Resort Hotel in Singburi, I took two pictures of the inside of the room. This is a very nice, newly constructed, hotel with large rooms at an affordable price.
Let me tell you about the elevation changes in this one! In the first picture (below) you see the doorway in from the hall to a tile surface, which is at the same level as the gleaming tile in the hall. To the right of where you see the white bath mat on that tile, just before the carpeted part of the floor begins, is the entrance to the bathroom. The threshold of the bathroom door is the same tile as used on the bathroom floor, a yellow color, so clearly different from the darker tile of the entryway. The tile on the threshold sits up the thickness of one tile, or 1/2 inch, from the surface of the entryway. Then on the other side of the threshold is a drop of 2-5/8 inches onto the tile floor in the bathroom. So they have two ways of catching you with this entry into the bathroom. If you don't notice the threshold is just slightly higher than the entryway, you might catch your toe on the front edge of the threshold tile and then as you lurch forward from that surprise, you have much further to go down to catch yourself on the bathroom floor below. Fun!
Coming toward the camera from that bathroom door, you'll see the carpet begins. Okay folks, there's a one inch step up from the entryway floor to get onto that carpet. Watch your step.
Now I turned the camera around and took another picture (below) looking from the entryway area out across the room to the lovely porch beyond the carpeted area. The carpet goes until you reach the curtains, which are pulled open in the picture. Then there is the porch, which is tiled and then the outside windows. Lovely to look at from inside the room.
By now you're already expecting a step up or down onto the porch, right? Okay, you're right, it's a 3 inch step down. But maybe you were expecting the step down to occur at the transition between the carpet and the tile? Well there you got it wrong. No, the carpet stops at the edge of the curtains when they are closed and the tile begins. At first the tile is on the same level as the carpet, for 7-1/4 inches, in fact. And THEN you make the 3 inch step down.
Well I've learned to expect these little surprises now. So I watch where I'm going, especially at a transition from one room into another, or from one type of surface to another, and I haven't actually landed prone on any floor yet. It would be fun to talk to a Thai builder or architect to find out how this building practice got started and the reason(s) for it. I suspect that the building rules in the US that are designed to make it easy on those in wheel chairs is the reason we don't see these sorts of things so often in America.