This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Need a break from Thai politics? Here a toilet, everywhere a toilet…
The internet is going crazy over protests in Bangkok this week (condolences to Nick Nostitz). But as I’m in Chiang mai and far removed from the action, I thought I’d write about something way different: Squat toilets and bum guns.
Japan was where I first experienced squat toilets, along with a more relaxed attitude towards potty privacy and getting naked. When I was around five years old I witnessed a pantless toddler pooping on the side of the road, right where everyone could see.
My parents were strict on potty training especially so I found the revelation both unexpected and enlightening. The memory stayed all these years, I guess mostly because pooing where I come from is produced behind closed doors.
Now that I’m all grown up (heh) my interest in toilet culture has evolved to taking quick snaps (yeah for the iPhone): Borneo’s squat toilets (where I’ve been tempted to keep the door open to stop from gagging), Italy’s spring-loaded seats (designed to keep the lids up – clearly a man’s world), ancient toilets carved out of wood, squat toilets on trains even, and loads of toilets in between.
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Squat toilets and bum guns…
Using squat toilets as a kid is easy because you are close to the ground. But, when you learn (or relearn in my case) to squat as an adult, balancing skills need plenty of practice.
After a long hiatus from squatting I moved to Borneo where squat toilets abounded. To keep my balance, in the beginning I’d lean my head against the wall (if it’d reach), but soon I was pooing like a pro.
And while I’ve always appreciated that squat toilets are good exercise for the legs especially, I never took to the bum gun.
The closet I’ve come to using the gun was on a trip to Cambodia. After touring Siem Reap’s ancient monuments in the baking heat for hours, I was desperate for relief. And there it was. Dangling next to me. The bum gun. Tempting (almost). But there are potty rules against that too.
Guys can be uber religious about their dedication to using the bum gun. Try it sometimes. Mention a preference for toilet paper and even the most well-mannered expat male who’s enamoured with the gun will growl (whereas women tend to keep quiet about the subject).
I’ve always protested that while Thailand’s water purification is supposedly fine, the security of the pipes leading water to my tender parts was in doubt. I mean, we all know what kind of sludge flows along the klongs and drains of Thailand. Right? Just the thought of the stink getting near my bits … yuk.
Thailand Guru: While it has been reported that tap water exceeds world standards for drinking water in many parts of the city, and the Metropolitan Water Works Authority has made a strong effort to exceed World Health Organization standards by 1999, in some places the water that comes out of the tap is still questionable, usually as regards the pipe network that carries the water to some old places.
But in writing this post I had to face facts. It couldn’t possibly be the water I objected to, because to cool off I throw water sans disinfectant soap on my face. And that’s not all. I also wash fruit and veg in water straight from the tap. Oh dear.
So I’ve now decided that my prejudice comes down to a few key facts:
- ONE: Using a high powered gun on my bum while teetering on a slippery porcelain squat toilet with my back to a door (that may or may not be lockable) would clench my bum so tight a decent poo would be almost impossible unless I had help from tainted food.
- TWO: I rarely (ever) use a public toilet for number two so it’s not going to happen anyway (except for the previously mentioned assistance).
- Ok, that doesn’t stop me from using bum guns at home but it doesn’t happen here either, so I’ll add a number THREE: I’m not coordinated enough to use a bum gun without drenching myself along with the floors and walls and anything else within reach. So there you go.
But… the real reason for this post is this bit of news:
Coconuts Bangkok: In recognition of the proud tradition that was yesterday’s “World Toilet Day,” Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health did its duty by dumping data from its research of public toilets in Thailand, which concludes the highest concentration of fecal matter can be found on the ole’ bum gun. Ewwww.
I don’t know how reliable the Ministry of Public Health’s research is but after reading about fecal matter as well as this Reddit post about bum guns, I’m even more convinced to stick with YAAY for squat toilets and EWWW EWWW EWWW for bum guns.