A Diatribe on Asian Toilets

In order to prepare for your southeast Asian vacation, it’s important to understand several vital things about the nature of toilets on the other side of the world.

To best ready yourself, create a similar bathroom environment at home. First, spray your entire toilet area with a hose. In Asia, you get firsthand experience with what they really mean by WC, aka, “water closet.” The goal with the hose is to get a nice sized puddle on the bathroom floor. Everything should be wet. Then, grab several buckets and fill them with water. Put them in the bathroom with a ladle of sorts. To really go all out, you can get a garbage can and fill this with water as well.

Most Asian toilets don’t have plumbing, and thus no flushing mechanism. To “flush” the toilet, you scoop water out of one of the 17 buckets and pour it into the toilet, thereby diluting whatever’s in there. Make sure you pour the water slowly! If you are too hasty, you’ll have much of that water added to the floor puddle, and splashed onto your feet. I still don’t understand the purpose of the huge garbage can filled with water in addition to the little buckets.

Here, there is no separation between shower and toilet area. There’s no shower curtain to shield the rest of the bathroom from spray. Many times there’s no sink. To wash your hands, use the hose that fills the flush buckets or the shower head. This will inevitably add to the water on the floor and walls.

Next, practice the squat. You can do this by climbing onto the toilet. Put your feet where your ass should go, and then squat down like the hunter gatherers did it. Normally, these squat toilets will have tread marks for your feet that are either flush with the ground, with a shallow hole dug down in the middle, or they’re sitting a little above ground and you step up.

Balance is important, and so is aim. You need to pee directly into the little bit of water sitting in the basin so it won’t hit the porcelain and splash back up at you. Arrange yourself with care.

You can practice the shake-it-off too, in case you didn’t bring your own toilet paper into the bathroom. If there is, by some miracle, toilet paper, chances are it’s in some remote corner of the bathroom and you have to shuffle over to it. Many bathrooms are equipt with a spray hose that’s meant to clean your bum. There’s some confusion about this with new comers, but you should spray yourself while still squatting, or sitting on the toilet. Do not stand up and spray. Ideally, you want the sprayed water to hit your bum and then land in the toilet. Directing the spray can be really challenging. Some things to keep in mind: you do not want the water to shoot out to forcefully, to shoot soiled water on your clothes and legs, or out on the ground.

It may also help create an obstacle course in your bathroom. Add things like randomly placed wooden planks, mops, brooms, etc. The 17 water buckets help as obstacles. Some bathrooms are absurdly small and narrow, so you may have to modify to the sideways squat. If you’re on a bus or train, you’ll need to be adept at the moving-vehicle-squat.

Turn off the light and practice the squat-in-the-dark. Some bathrooms don’t have lights.

Remember, where to go #2 isn’t always a choice when you’re eating spicy foreign food.

Bring wet wipes. They are the best cleaning method for bathroom and post bathroom: bum, hands, feet. Ladies, you will pee on your feet and sandals any number of times.

Bring hand sanitizer. This is a good option for bathrooms without sinks or soap.

These tips will make your first trip to the “comfort room,” and every visit thereafter, that much more comfortable.



  1. Ask yourself questions like: If I eat this, will it make me poop myself? If I have to poop uncontrollably, where will I be?

    Don’t order a spicy dish for dinner if you mean to travel the next day.

    No one wants to be stranded without a toilet, in a state of Asian Food Emergency.

  2. The big container of water, as you noted often a garbage can, is because lots of time the public water supply is off, so you need a reservoir of water. At least that’s how it is in Kathmandu :-).

  3. How about the modern fetish in fancy hotels of placing beds on plinths that project several inches from the base – just enough to stub your toe or bark your shins.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s