The year was 2001, and I was traveling by car with some Thai friends from Chiang Mai (north Thailand) to Bangkok – a fairly comfortable 7 hour drive. The roads were good – not too much traffic – pleasant company, all was fine until about half an hour out of Chiang Mai, when the all too familiar pressure of a No.2 began to build; and I knew lasting 6 more hours to Bangkok was not an option.
No big deal you say – just drop in a service station, visit the loo and equilibrium will be restored.
Except this was Thailand – you know; third world country – people too poor to buy toilet paper so they wash instead? Fortunately we had to stop for fuel, so not wanting to be embarrassed in front of my gracious Thai hosts; I slipped off quietly to the toilet block while the car was being re-fueled.
Apprehensive as I approached, the embarrassing deficiency of many Thai toilet facilities soon became all too obvious. Clean but basic, the toilet consisted of a low bowl that you squat over, a tub of water on one side for washing and a small plastic bowl as a dipper to facilitate the operation. Not a scrap of toilet paper to be seen anywhere.
Now I had often seen ‘bum-guns’ in Thai toilets before, and on more than one occasion had found them handy for keeping the mozzies at bay while attending to my important business (toilets in Thailand are usually ‘wet areas’).
I had often idly imagined how they might be used for their intended purpose, but had never actually attempted to do this myself. I always made sure my trusty roll of T.P. was within easy reach – alas – now far behind in the hotel room.
But anyway this was somewhat different; how do you get water to go up, onto something that is pointing down, without pressure? I’m an Aussie I thought, resourceful, and proud of it – if millions of Thais can clean themselves like this – so can I. Anyway the matter at hand was now demanding urgent attention, so without further contemplation as to exactly how I was going to clean up afterwards, I ‘let her rip’-
Ahhh – sweet relief.
Now the messy part.
Surprise, surprise, I found that so long as I remained squatting, it was relatively easy to pour the water down my bum crack onto my free hand, and from there to sort of splash it up onto the affected part. It really was surprisingly effective. The hand that had to do the dirty-work was even clean when I had finished! (I did obviously, still wash my hands with soap & water afterwards)
Pulling my pants back over a now clean-but-wet posterior, I was amazed at how comfortable it felt as I walked back to the car – head held high – confident and smug in the knowledge that I had conquered toileting in Thailand. (I might add – the 40 deg. heat quickly took care of the drying)
Wonderful stuff water – a resource seldom lacking in S.E. Asia.
‘Not for me’ I hear you say? Well, it’s no different to how you clean yourself in the shower really, only easier, because those particular parts of your body are already in the ideal position for cleaning.
The level of comfort I experienced after my service station emergency that day, had never been achieved in my 40 something years previously, with just dry toilet paper.
That day, I became a convert to washing.
Because I grew up in Thailand, I had never really considered cleaning myself any way other than by washing.
In 2004 Les and I were married, and after moving to Australia I was curious and did try cleaning the same as Australians (by only using dry tissue paper). I found it was definitely not as comfortable, especially afterwards; I just did not feel properly clean.
If I have to ‘go’ when I’m out somewhere (that doesn’t have any facility for washing), I will clean with tissue, but as soon as I get back home, I wash. Normally I only use the toilet paper for drying.
One thing I wasn’t sure about in Australia: how comfortable it would be washing with cold water during winter-time. This was not as bad as I thought, and was still much better than just dry tissue paper. Les has now installed a small electric heater in our toilet that warms the water during winter. For me – its the best!
As a woman, I personally recommend hand-held-bidets (“sai-cheed-chum-ra” in Thai) as the most efficient way for a woman to keep herself properly clean. It’s the only way I can feel really comfortable, especially during “that time of the month”. To people who say touching yourself there is ‘disgusting’, I say: its more disgusting not having a clean tut!