Using a toilet in Southeast Asia is kind of like playing a game show on TV. You never know what’s behind door number 1. Well, after opening many doors, and then quickly closing some, I’ve learned a lot. I didn’t think this knowledge was valuable, but after being home for a couple of months, I realized most people really didn’t care what country I’d been to or what temple I visited. They only wanted to know the important stuff. “What were the toilets like?” I know, my friends are far superior in sophistication to yours. So here is a little info about every type of toilet I’ve used starting with the best and ending with the worst.
The Western Toilet
The mecca of toilets in Southeast Asia is the western style toilet. Often found in hotels, hostels, and fancy restaurants, this toilet is the highbrow toilet of society. It’s like having a washer and dryer in your apartment in New York City. A western style toilet means you’ve arrived.
But wait, don’t be fooled so quickly. Often the western style toilet is not as western as it seems. For one, the pipes can’t handle toilet paper. This means that locals use what has lovingly been referred to as a “bum gun” to clean themselves. Think of a little shower-head that you spray on your who-ha. This begs the question of, “How do you dry off?” I still don’t know the answer, but will report back when it’s been uncovered. In the meantime, most westerners carry their own toilet paper and simply put it in the wastebasket.
Uh oh, now you’re looking for the handle to flush the toilet, and there is none. Also, there’s a basin of water in the bathroom next to the toilet with a small Tupperware in it. That’s right, you guessed it. You pour the water down the toilet to make it flush. Usually this takes one or two small buckets unless you’ve done a number two in which case it might take a lot more buckets and some fancy pouring abilities.
The Squat Toilet
You’re in a bathroom and you’ve checked all the stalls, and they are all squat toilets. What do you do? Honestly, I was terrified of squat toilets the first time I saw one, but it’s really not THAT bad. In fact, it’s actually fairly easy to use. The hardest part is trying to maneuver your clothing. First, you hike up the bottoms of your pants so that they are up to your knees. The floors are almost always wet, so you don’t want them to touch the ground. Then, you pull down your pants and squat. It’s that simple. No, you won’t pee on yourself. No, you won’t miss and hit the floor. No, you won’t fall over, unless you’ve been drinking in which case you’re screwed.
Like the western toilet, you can’t throw toilet paper in it, and you have to flush with a bucket. Although, I once saw automatically flushing squat toilets in Malaysia. That’s high class squatting right there. Regardless of the flusher, once you’ve used one, they all seem super simple. Always check all of the stalls, as sometimes there is one western style toilet among the squats.
The Hole in the Ground
Okay, this is where it gets a little ridiculous. I’ve peed in more holes in the ground then I care to admit. The best part is, they are in outhouses or actual buildings. You find yourself in the middle of nowhere and suddenly there’s a small building with the word toilet on it. It’s like a mini miracle until you open the door. In that little building is just a hole. Sometimes, that hole is in some planks of wood. Sometimes, it’s in the dirt. If they’re feeling fancy, it might be a hole in the floor with what looks like a slide that takes your pee a few feet away. Creativity is key.
My favorite hole in the ground was on the side of a highway where the building was leaning at a 45-degree angle. I swear, if a butterfly had landed on it, it would have collapsed. The whole thing shook as I stepped inside, but desperate times call for desperate measures. My second favorite toilet was a squat toilet with a tarantula inside. I didn’t see the spider until I was already mid-pee, and trying to pull my pants up with speed was not easy.
Southeast Asia has presented me with a lot of challenges, but the toilets have really become a bit of a game. I always think I’ve seen the worst, and then my tour guide points to a tiny popup tent on the side of a mountain, and I realize I haven’t. Some of my favorite stories have come from inside bathroom stalls.
What’s the scariest toilet you’ve ever used? Have you ever had to google how to use one? Spill in the comments!
This post originally appeared on www.fulltimeexplorer.com