OK, yes, I’m going there – a blog post about toilets – squat toilets in fact! But given that a huge part of my current existence seems to involve figuring out where I can find a western toilet, I figured that I’m probably not alone. So here goes nothing! As promised, this blog contains the highs and the lows of travel!
Now before I go too far, I should preface all of this by saying that I love traveling, I love meeting new people, I love trying new things… but I’ve come to the conclusion that squat toilets just aren’t one of them. I have the utmost respect for other’s choices… but I just can’t do it! (Read on for reasons why!)
For those that aren’t aware, as I wasn’t many years ago before I began to travel, there are many, MANY places in the world that don’t indulge in what I now consider a luxury – the western toilet. In many places of the world, their vehicle of choice is a squat toilet (the eastern toilet). Yes, that picture in your head of a hole in the ground is pretty accurate!
Picture this. In the middle of a shopping mall, from 6-year-old Sienna – “Mum, I need to go to the toilet… NOW!!!” Doesn’t it always happen at the most inconvenient time and place? I’m sure I’m not the only parent to suffer this issue, but, in Asia, there’s a whole other part of the equation not faced at home.
We hurry off and find the bathroom. We open the first cubicle… and see… a squat toilet – nope! We try the next cubicle… another squat toilet. Next cubicle? Another squat toilet! Aaggh! Now ordinarily, there is always at least one “regular”, that is, western toilet, but on this occasion, there was zero, that’s right, NONE! Sienna, still busting, asks at the top of her voice “Mum, why are all the toilets so weird – how do they even use those toilets?” OMG ROFL!!!
It can’t be that bad!
Well, let me explain the predicament further. In Asian bathrooms, in cubicles with squat toilets, the floors are always VERY VERY wet! Now if you picture for a moment, a 6-year-old girl, fully clothed, squatting over a toilet, trying desperately to avoid getting her clothes wet, you’ll be somewhere near the problem I faced.
In some fancier bathrooms you are provided with thongs to wear whilst you “go” – leaving your own shoes nice and dry! The fact that you even need them should tell you something!
So how on earth do they do this? Believe it or not, I have actually googled how to use squat toilets (if you’ve been to Asia and haven’t done that I don’t believe you!) One common suggestion is to remove your pants and underwear – but when the floor is completely flooded and there is NOWHERE to put your clothes, how on earth is that suggestion going to help us? LOL! I’m sure locals don’t remove their pants, and you certainly don’t see them walking out with soaking wet pants!
Until now, I have completely avoided squat toilets – locals have even had a giggle at my expense as I’ve let them pass me in line in a busy bathroom, as I wait for a western toilet! But I do have a giggle of my own, each time I see this in a cubicle with a western toilet – the confusion goes both ways!
But you know what, I’m fast realising that when you travel through Asia (and many other parts of the world), one day you’re going to get stuck. You’re just going to have to do it.
So, as a service to all of you, for those who are traveling or one day hope to, I present to you:
A NERVOUS WESTERNER’S
SQUAT TOILET SURVIVAL GUIDE
(I still can’t believe I’m writing this – travel is just so glamourous!)
Squat Toilets – Step 1:
Make sure you have toilet paper!
Asian toilets are notorious for not having toilet paper, and the last place you want to find yourself is stuck in a toilet without paper! We now carry travel packs of tissues everywhere we go! Another alternative, as demonstrated to me today, is to carry a full roll of toilet paper, in the bottom of your handbag!
I have found that many bathrooms have a toilet paper dispenser on the wall near the basins. These are often accompanied by a sign suggesting it is for drying your hands (have you ever tried drying your hands with thin sheets of toilet paper???) But, if you don’t have tissues or toilet paper with you, best grab some of this before you go in!
Squat Toilets – Step 2:
Remove your pants and underwear!
I am yet to figure out a better option, but the alternative of leaving with wet pants just doesn’t work for me. Finding somewhere to hang them may be difficult, but if necessary hang them off the lock or sling them over your shoulder (DON’T DROP THEM!!!)
Squat Toilets – Step 3:
Face the correct way!
If you can figure out the correct way to face whilst using a squat toilet, you’re doing well. Some say the door, some say the wall – there is even big debates on forums like Trip Advisor. I tend to think it’s the wall, but it might just be personal preference, but if you’ve figured out, let me know in the comments below!
Squat Toilets – Step 4:
Take your place!
Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, around the toilet or hole. Or use the space provided!
Squat Toilets – Step 5:
Apparently, squatting over an eastern toilet is, medically speaking, a better way to go to the toilet! Not something I’d ever thought of, but a fact none the less. If you have weak leg muscles, this part could hurt… perhaps some squat exercises to strengthen your quads?
Squat Toilets – Step 6:
Do your thing!
No instruction needed here! If you haven’t got this figured out by now, your situation is hopeless!
Squat Toilets – Step 7:
Now this is where I really struggle with the whole squat toilet. Ordinarily, when you enter a cubicle you will be faced with 1 of 2 things (or quite often both) – a squirt hose and/or a big bucket of water with a scoop! Yes, really! Does that explain the wet floor?
At this point, I’d like to remind you that it was probably a very good idea to remove your pants.
Option 1: A squirt hose
I’ve read that the squirt hose is the “preferred” method of cleaning up, and I would tend to agree, if one absolutely HAS to use a squat toilet! To begin one should grip the nozzle with one hand and squirt the water at oneself until clean. Hmmmm. Suddenly I understand why the floor gets so wet!
Option 2: A bucket of water and a scoop
Again, I’ve read, that one should scoop water from the bucket with one hand, pouring it over oneself, whilst using the other hand to clean oneself. I would certainly consider this the “least preferred” method!!! I would also suggest that going to the toilet is starting to sound like a game of twister!
I’m not sure about you, but neither of these options sounds like much fun to me! Toilet paper anyone? Apparently, toilet paper is only used for drying oneself! And it should NEVER be flushed – but placed in the bin to the side of the toilet. Many SE Asian systems are very old and just can’t handle toilet paper.
Squat Toilets – Step 8:
Where did you put the toilet paper when you took your pants off??? Oops!!! If you still have it, dry off. If not, I’ve read that gravity and a few moments of airing are a lovely alternative!
Squat Toilets – Step 9:
Get dressed without getting wet!
So your pants are nice and dry… how on earth are you meant to keep them that way as you get dressed? All I can say is, do your best!
Squat Toilets – Step 10:
For the most part, flushing is similar to cleaning yourself. Simply use the squirt hose or the scoop of water to wash everything away. Eastern toilets use far less water than western ones! How economical!
If you just can’t bring yourself to tackle a squat toilet, you have only one option, which was my choice with Sienna today. Hold on and head to another bathroom and pray they have a western toilet!
So there you have it… what a topic! As requested, and promised, we share the good, and the bad, and maybe, in this case, just a little too much!