Well, the madre came through on her threat promise, and wrote a thorough review of her favourite Thai toilet experiences thus far. Enjoy!
As a guest writer on this blog, and in keeping with the tone of refinement we have come to expect of its erudite offerings, I find myself addressing a matter requiring some delicacy, namely, that of bathrooms in Thailand. No matter where we live – and particularly if we are of the gentler gender – the location and condition of these essential services is never unconcerning.
Being a first-time world traveller last week, I had opportunity to compare the services and general conditions of Air Canada planes with those of Thai Airways. This seemed fitting, since one of these originated in my homeland, and the other in my travel destination. While both airlines offered adequate and even cordial service, Thai Airways outshone AC on a number of counts, including its bathroom. The Thai Air bathroom was brighter, prettier, cleaner, and just nicer than the ones on Air Canada. Thus, I might have been led to expect that this would be the case in bathrooms in Thailand in general.
Not so. Thai bathrooms can probably claim to be more interesting, but – in my recent and varied experience – none of the adjectives listed above could apply. To set the context (for Canadian readers, especially), I will describe the bathroom system here.
Here are features of almost every Thai bathroom I have visited.
1. One may not flush toilet tissue. There is a waste basket located next to the toilet as a receptacle for used paper products. This could be horrifying, except that…
2. There is usually a pressurized hose nozzle located next to the toilet, to be used in hygiene. (I think that in Europe it is called a bidet; here I have heard it called a bum gun.) This makes use of tissue nearly superfluous, except as a drying agent.
In my opinion, this approach to waste management is more ecologically sound, more hygienic, and generally more sensible than the practices common in N. America.
But there are some interesting variations on this theme.
In one road-stop bathroom, the toilet was located on a raised platform. Beside it was a 2’ x 2’ tub, into which drizzled a continuous stream of water from a copper pipe. A plastic bowl with a long handle floated in the tub. This was the flush system: do business, then ladle a dipper-full of water into the toilet to flush it. There was also the usual pressurized hose, but located on the lower floor, only almost-close-enough to reach the toilet. (Hmm… that might explain the general soaked condition of the whole stall when I entered it.)
One night we visited an open air restaurant which had its own bathroom! (Restaurants and other public places are not required to have a customer bathroom; however, facilities can usually be found somewhere nearby). This odd little room had a conventional flush toilet, no hose, and no useable sink: said receptacle was filled with beautiful red plastic flowers, artistically arranged. No problem: there was a shower here which could be used for hand washing. (A shower? Is that for the use of the cook, when things get too hot? Or for customers who come for ‘healthful healing practices’, as advertised outside the restaurant?)
At the bus station in downtown Bangkok, washroom use was not free. We paid 3B each to a masked man seated in a tiny, dingy, glassed-in stall, squeezed ourselves through a narrow opening, and found ourselves in the facilities we needed. Not brilliant, but adequate.
The most picturesque bathroom was the outdoor privy located on the property of our beach bungalow. It was a“squatty” with a manual dipper-flusher, and is housed inside a palm-leaf-roofed shack.
The bathroom of one of our vacation restaurants had a practical feature: each individual stall door had a slatted window inset, presumably for ventilation. The slats were angled, as in venetian blinds, except they were not adjustable. The only problem was that they were angled so that the people outside could see IN but the user could not see OUT!
None of the bathrooms was stinky until the long bus ride home from our island vacation. In that vehicle there was a (non)flushing problem, so whenever anyone opened the door to the facilities the odor wafting through the bus reminded me of the “composting, natural” outdoor toilets typical in our Canadian mountain parks and other tourist areas. These require a bold, stoic approach to meeting daily needs!
I must stop, although I’m sure there are many undiscovered variations awaiting me. If anything really interesting in the field of bathrooms comes up in my travels, perhaps she will permit me another small entry…