How to Take a Crap in Southeast Asia
Perhaps the title of this post comes off a bit gross or inappropriate? Perhaps I am going a bit far? Au Contraire! Let me attempt to explain…
The idea for this post started off as a joke. See, I come from a family who’s conversations almost always lead to fascination with shits and farts. Classy, I know. And they, most especially my Uncle Eric, have hounded me with questions about what the bathroom situation is like in South East Asia.
In addition, the idea to do this really formed during an afternoon in Chiang Mai in a conversation with the Globetrotter Girls (Jess and Dani are awesome, check them out at globetrottergirls.com) about exactly what you are supposed to DO when you are using a toilet in Asia.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what I am supposed to DO, but I tell you, the bathroom situation in South East Asia can be a bit overwhelming. When you gotta go, you gotta go, but there are definitely some things that you should know, especially if you have never traveled to this region before.
There are two types of toilets in South East Asia, western style and squat style. Now, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you already know how to USE a western style toilet. However, when in Asia, if you are planning to spend any amount of time outside of your hotel room, you will eventually be confronted with having to use the later style. Let’s focus on the more unfamiliar squat toilet, shall we?
The first time I had to exclusively use a squat style toilet consistently was in Peru during a 4 day hike on the Inca Trail. What an adventure THAT was. I was a novice, back then, and honestly couldn’t GO without peeing on myself or dropping toilet paper and other necessary lady accoutrements (ahem) whilst I was trying to keep my legs from burning by squatting to do my duty.
I am, like, a total expert now.
The first thing you need to know is that you should always carry a packet of tissues or wet wipes with you AT ALL TIMES. You never know when you have the urge to go, and most of these toilets have zero tp available. The day that you forget to bring some wipes with you, is also guaranteed to be the day that the curry from the night before decides NOT to agree with you. So, lesson number one is to stock up when you can so it is readily available when needed.
Let’s talk about what you see when you walk into the toilet, shall we?
The first thing you notice, is that it is not a western-sit-down-style toilet, but rather a porcelain-style hole in the ground with places marked to place your feet. This area may or may not be dirty, but most certainly will be wet (from cleaning, or who knows what!). The best way to be sure not to worry about this mystery wetness is to roll up your pants. (If you are not already wearing shorts, that is.) I find that a nice roll to just above the knee works perfectly. As you are waiting in the que for the toilet, take the advantage of the time waiting to do this before you step into the toilet. You will thank me later.
You will notice next to the porcelain-hole a large, usually plastic, bucket filled with water that has a small scooper floating in it. (sometimes the scooper takes the form of a small bucket) This water is CLEAN. Do not put dirty things in there! We will learn more about this in a moment.
The other contraption that you may notice, especially in more upscale (har har har) establishments is a “bum gun.” The “bum gun” is a hose that is coming out of the wall with a sprayer attached to the end of it. It is kind of like a hand-held bidet. More on this in a moment as well….
So, now that you have your trousers properly rolled, you are ready to go!
I think the first problem, especially for girls, is to figure out how to DO this without DOING it all over your clothes and feet. The trick is to drop your drawers just a bit, definitely above the knee, and to hold the fabric AWAY from the flow. Take care of the contents in your pockets, however, as, if you have anything (phone, chapstick, numbers from last night, etc…) actually in your pockets, they will for sure end up in the hole.
Next, place your feet on the little groves designed to keep your feet away from the flow, squat down, aim and fire! (I hope I don’t need to mention the absolute necessity for shoes here, so Ill just skip that part.)
You thighs may burn, depending on whether it is just friendly fire or full on war, but after some practice rounds, you will be good to go. Nothing like using a squat toilet to give you some extra solid core and thigh strength!
Now that you have done your damage, what happens next? Well, hopefully you have had the keen insight to have pulled out some of your reserve tp BEFORE you do the deed. If not, it could make for a messy situation or you will just have to rely on the “bum gun.”
My preferred method is a combination of “bum gun” and tp. However, you should note, that sometimes the strength in water pressure of the “bum gun” can be so overwhelmingly strong that all of your careful preparation in staying clean and dry has gone to waste as you spray your bum and your pants as well! Give the “bum gun” a quick test by spraying AWAY from you to test the strength of the water pressure. Then, and only then, give yourself a quick spray followed by a wipe of your reserved tp.
If there IS no “bum gun,” as does happen in many rural areas (I’m speaking about YOU, Southern Laos!) and you want to properly clean all your bits, then simply scoop the clean water from the bucket and do a slight splash on your bum before you wipe.
At this point, do not throw the toilet paper down the hole! This is what clogs rural toilets and leads to messiness, which is usually caused by tourists who don’t know what to do with the paper. Throw it in the bin provided! It is usually inside the toilet, but sometimes there is a communal bin outside as well.
Lastly, you need to know that most of these toilets have no flushing mechanism. How then do you get rid of the mess? Well, take your trusty water scooper and scoop clean water from the plastic bin and into the hole until your mess completely disappears. The next person waiting in line will thank you for this kindness.
Outside, be sure to pull back down the legs of your trousers, unless you LIKE looking like a fool, and put some money in the jar provided. (Wet wipes are also good at this point, used to clean your hands, as there will most likely be no sink or soap provided.)
So there you have it! You have now mastered the use of a squat toilet in asia! Surprisingly, I find that these squat style toilets are usually more sanitary then our usual western style toilet. The simple act of not touching so many objects makes this a fact.
So while you ponder this post, hopefully on your own marvelous porcelain throne, just remember that this exceedingly important information was brought to you here at directionallychallenged.net. You can thank me later though, just keep on DOing what you DO.