Thai Toilets

If you are considering going to Thailand this could either be something you have been warned about or equally something you have never even considered. Do not fear your guide to the Thai toilet system is here! You may be thinking how difficult can a simple toilet be? Well I wouldn’t say it is necessarily difficult however for western visitors the toilets can be very strange and in Thailand they have some very unusual features. I will take you through the main 2 styles of toilets, list some features that can be incorporated into either style, how to use them and a little bit about public toilets.

Western style

I refer to the sit down toilets as western style. It looks pretty much the same as what you may be used to but you may have to use it slightly diffrently depending on its features (read below). This is the type you sit on to do your business.

Squat style 

Also known as Thai style. This toilet is usually ceramic or metal with a similar looking toilet bowel however it is set in the floor with flat plates either side of the hole sometimes with grip lines. To use these toilets you stem either side of the bowel/hole and do a squat position to do your business usually facing the door or your bum to the wide bit. You do not sit on these toilets! You hover. Make sure you have a good balance, for those used to western style toilets this can be a bit tricky at first, if need be you can most of the time put your hands on the walls either side for stability. I would suggest not to try the squat toilets in a train unless you are used to this style as the rocking can put you off balance and falling could be quite gross (not everyone’s aim is good). Genrally these toilets are more normal for the Thai people as they believe sitting down to be unhygienic.

Bum Gun

This miniature hose is nick named the ‘bum gun’ by many travellers. It is the Thai equivelant of tissue paper and is used to squirt water at your private bits to clean them. It is meant to be cleaner and I can see why when it s used correctly. Usually it is next to the to the toilet, mounted on the back wall or whatever wall the toilet is against. It has what looks like a hose pipe and then a trigger spray often held to the wall on a little stand a bit like a shower head holder but smaller. The idea is you position the shower head near you bits and press the trigger to squirt a little water there, we are not talking a enema here just a little bit of a refreshing spritz. It sounds simple but I have heard many stories of ferangs that got it wrong, one of the more amusing being a girl who said she kept spraying her poop up the walls trying to use it. I would suggest to take your time with the aim, some people like to go back to front or front to back, some say like tissue you should only use it one way for hygiene but I don’t think it really matters as long as you arn’t squirting it all over the floor/walls. I would say try experimenting a few times and you will find a position that is easier and has the desired cleaning effect. The water does tend to come out slightly cool so it can be quite refreshing however be careful about the trigger, only squeeze a little at first as some can be powerful. Most toilets have this feature both western and Thai.

Paper

Some toilets have toilet paper HOWEVER the sewage system in Thailand is not made for the use of paper. It is not used in the same way as western countries where we use it for cleaning, oh no this is for drying and most places provide a small bin to put used paper in. DO NOT use lots of paper and flush it! The hostels will appreciate blocked pipes about as much as poop sprayed walls, It will not go down well. Forget what you know about using toilet paper this is how you do it, you spritz with bum gun and then use a single sheet or two to pat your southern regions dry, you then fold the paper up and place it in a bin when provided (located next to toilet) or flush it if there is no bin. Paper is not supplied in all toilets with a bum gun so if you find yourself without paper then you either start carrying it with you on drip dry.  When there is no bum gun they have probably updated the sewage pipes and you can use paper for cleaning providing you don’t use much.

Bin

When there is a bin you should put wrapped sanitary products and used toilet paper down here. Usually it is a small waste paper bin located to the side of the toilet.

Water bucket and scoop

If you though that the above was strange it’s about to get stranger.  This is the Thai version of a flush. It looks like a bucket of water with a pail/scoop usually near a tap for refilling the bucket. It may seem bizarre, I had no idea how to use it for longer then I would like to admit. This is how you flush the toilet, if there is this system then usually you will not see a button on handle to trigger the flush. What you do is, get the scoop, fill it with water from the bucket and then simply pour the water into the toilet bowel. If your belongings are still present repeat, I find that pouring it quickly gives a stronger flush.  The water is cleanish, I wouldn’t drink it but it is ok if you need to get your hand wet to get the scoop although after I would recommend washing your hands. if the bucket is low on water or empty you may have to refill it through a tap usually located above the bucket. If the tap is not above the bucket look around the stall it should be low on the wall but high enough for the bucket to fit under.

Choo choo do doo

When on a train you may just find the urge to go more likely on a overnight train. I have not travelled on many Thai trains however I did the classic Bangkok-chiang mai trip by sleeper train and I can give you an idea based on my journey. The carriage I was on was females and children only, it had 2 toilets at the end of the carriage. Both were very basic, not very clean metal toilets, they had doors and were cramped but ok. I had the choice of either squat or western, I did try to go for the squat but once in position realised I was playing a risky game with the train movement putting me off balance. I then tried the western where I managed to accomplish my task. The train did sway quite a bit so I wouldn’t recommend trying a squat toilet here unless you have been using them for a considerable time and feel very confident.

Public toilets

I found most areas I went to in Thailand had plenty of toilets in popular public places or tourist stops however most off them you have to pay for. Usually they cost about 5-20 THB. And you can insert money into a slot or quite often there was a person sitting near by. It is worth noting that in a few tourist stops there may be a person trying to charge you more then it normally is.

In Ayutthaya  I walked towards a toilet and heard a Thai lady saying 50 baht however as her stall wall a way from the entrance and I could see another stall nearer, I went towards the other stall pretending I hadn’t heard her in case she wasn’t really the operator. At the other stall I saw a sign saying 15 THB, she had followed me so I acted apologetic and she asked for 15THB.I paid and went with no problem. Although you may be thinking what the hell you only managed to save the equiverlant of maybe 70p why does that matter? It may be worse in other areas, I didn’t plan to do it to save money however 70p in Thailand could buy me 2 food on sticks and another trip to the toilet.

Running away to Pai circus!

I have spent 4 days in pai and during this time I visted Pai circus every night! If your looking for fun, there is no better place then the famous pai circus school and hostel.

Accomodation

When I got to pai orgionally I planned to stay in pai circus dormatories  however after the first night my spider paranoia made me decide to move into my own hut. When I arrived at the circus I was warmly welcomed by one of the western volunteers and shown around the hostel. I was quite suprised by the dormatory, as a girl used to brick buildings this bamboo room was quite a shock.

The room itself was a 12 person dorm which consisted of bunk beds. It what you would expect for a cheaper hostel but unlike chiang mai things were much more traditional. There were geko’s on the celing, holes in the floor, holes in the mosquito net  and a spider in the middle of the room. The batroom was a shared, located near the lobby. I didn’t think much of the accomodation I was in but after looking at another dorm I realised that mine was in need of some repair and the other dorm was in a much better condition. Maybe i just got unlucky and ended up with the last place to recieve refubishment.

Social

  The social areas included a outside space, hammock hut, pool, trampoline and sheltered space with tables for eating or beer pong.

The entertainment was amazing, every day they had circus lesson from 4pm untill 6pm, during my stay I tried poi, tight rope and the staff. 7pm was the ‘family meal’ which I thought was a fantastic idea, for a small amount of money you could take part in a all you can eat buffet and enjoy socialising with the other travellers. Every evening they would have parties or activities, while I was in pai they had quiz night, beer pong, Performance form ‘clap clap circus’ and open mic. Although I left the hostel after my first night they wecolme outsiders into the social areas for the nightime events from 7pm.

There was a very laid back atmosphere, often I would sit in a hammock listening to people singing or play drinking games. After the open mic some of us gathered in the hammock area to listen to a man playing a wonderful circular metal instument, the night then progressed into a music circle where a guitar was passed around. I have so many fond memories of our little hammock area including playing a drinking game I had previously not heard of called ‘My vagina is’, we used a megabucket and it didn’t take too long to get very drunk.

Security, storage and space

They had some space in the main lobby area that they used for temporary luggage storage. The dorm room had good sized lockers however some were unforcunatly broken or almost broken, one good hit/kick would have broken into some of them where they needed a little maintenance. Spacious dorm room meant it was easy to move around and set your bags near your bed, as is customary on most hostels.

Staff

I could not fault the staff or volunteers that were very helpful. I recieved a warm greeting when I arrived and the volunteers helped create a fun and friendly atmosphere. They gave great advice and seemed to know the area well.

My conclusion

Pai circus was incredible, the only thing that I felt let it down was the accomodation however while I was there i saw signs that they were working to improve the hostel structures.The social atmosphere was well worth coming for and the entertainment was the best that I have experienced during my whole trip in thailand. While I might have only stayed a short time, I found myself bumping into people from the hostel all over pai and I couldn’t resist coming to visit for the evenings.  This hostel is one of the main factors that made me not want to leave pai.

Zipping through the Jungle

Today I decided to go on a zipwire adventure in the jungle. I have done a few zipwires in the past, usually accompanied by uncontrollable shaking and asking the guide to kindly push me out of my safety zone. Despite my fear once I am in the air I enjoy the thrill of flying.

‘Dragons flights’ course, based in chiang mai, was completly mind blowing compared to the single 300m zipwires i had experienced.With its 49 platforms, 26 ziplines (longest 800m, 500m,300m), 3 abseils, sky board,sky bridge,cable walk, timber ladder, 360 degree veiw panoramic sky bridge, timber sky laddder, spiral staircase and tree house the places I had previously visited in the UK could not even compare. My package included transportation, food, refreshments and a free T-shirt for a very good price considering others were offfering similar for more money.

I was suprised to find myself bravely jumping, running and leaping off the platforms without needing a push! later on the course I became more bold on the zipwires, whizzing through the trees handsfree, throwing shapes and even going upside down. Gone was the girl shaking with fear replaced by an unknown adrenaline junkie. I was surrounded by incredible jungle scenery, the mountain veiws were beautiful from the platforms, bridges and obstacles. 

I felt like I was in an adventure playground for grown ups while i climbed, soared in the air and did small treks through the jungle. The only time I was heard screaming was on the abseil, which unlike the ones I had done previously did not include a wall. Instead of walking down you find yourself falling towards the ground attatched to a rope, skillfully controlled by an experienced guide.

  
The food did not taste very delicious, which I expect from any day trip but there was good variety of OK food that satisfied me. They provided drinking water which you could tie to your harness while exploring. It was a nice end to the trip sitting down, eating and drinking a cup of tea.

I blame the cheeky thai guides for my new found thrill seeking confidence. They made the experience so much fun with they’re teasing and pranks. “Go” one of our guides would instruct me and then as I jump he would shout “don’t jump!”, making me giggle. These men know how to have fun playing with the ferangs while ensuring our safety.

I had so much fun, I think it was worth every baht and I would jump at the chance to do it again.

Digging it at Deejai!

Deejai is an amazing hostel and it didn’t take me long to feel at home. With its smaller number of people to a dorm, surperb social areas and fantastic value you would be a fool not to stay. I liked this hostel so much the first time I stayed that I booked 3 more nights for after my trip to pai.

Acomodation 

  

This hostel has 4 people to a room, providing 2 metal frame bunk beds with a ensuite wetroom/bathroom. It has the options of either fan or A/C rooms which were at a slightly higher rate. I found during my stay in november that the fan was more then adquate however the A/C rooms have a remote control so you can edit the tempature to your prefrence. The whole hostel was clean and tidy.When staying for the 2nd time I was in a A/C room and noticed the small upgrates such as the nicer flooring and bathroom set up.

Social

The hostel had a good size reception room with plenty of tables. There was a computer and several electrical outlets for charging gadjets and keeping in contact. The foyer also doubled as a cafe which serves a variety of thai and western food at very reasonable prices.

Sevral times I managed to get red trucks (taxi) cheaper by finding people in the lobby who were going to the same place and many of us would go out to the popular nightlife spots.

  

  
Deejai gardens, which was 5 minutes walk provided a pool, garden, treehouse and bar area. The pool was always clean and was a great way to cool off. with plenty of tables and seating in the garden it was easy to find a table. The treehouse was one of my favourite spaces, with several hammocks that I really enjoyed lounging on. The bar serves a mix of western and thai dishes which were super yummy at a good price. The bar was open late and served drinks at a normal price for the area. Occasionally they would have BBQ’s and parties at the pool. Unforcunatly I was not around for one of the parties but I can vouch that the BBQ’s were lots of fun and helped me to meet people.

  
If you go to the hostel alone you may think the social side of things avarage however most of the socialising and new friend finding happened around the deejai gardens. it would be a shame not to visit as in my opinion the garden was one of the best features.

   

 
Security, space and storage
On arrival I was encouraged to use the luggage storage while I waited to check in. The luggage storage was in a a room off the lobby/reception area. It consisted of a large rack along one side of the room however because of the hostels popularity on the day I arrived the rack was full and several people had left there luggage on the floor, which was not really a issue as the room was so big you could still easily navigate yourself around.

Staff

The thai team of staff were very friendly and helpfull however occasionally there was some language difficulties. They gave fantastic advice and even showed us how to make our own kathongs! These lovely people were very funny. I had my first real hostel based ‘thai family experience’ there during the BBQ where many members of the local community and the business came together with the guests.The brittish owner is friendly, approachable and gave good advice. The hostel staff even managed to get me a discount on almost all of the tours/activities I did.

Conclusion

I loved my time in Deejai so much that i ended up staying for almost double the time i was planning on! I became very comfortable with my chiang mai home. My favorite features of this hostel were the smaller dorm sizes and socialsing by the pool. I would highly recommend a stay at deejai, the fantastic value and facilaties made this a no brainer. 

Tips on Thai language and customs

In the short amount of time I have spent in Thailand thus far I have tried to pick up some simple peices of language and customs. To me there is nothing worse than seeing a forigner offending the locals with their lack of knowlege and sensitivity. The only thing worse, is embaressing yourself by playing the forigner fool.

Although this is only my 14th day, I have already picked up a few words and customs. Last week I was privillaged enough to meet the family of one of my most respected collegues from the UK. They taught me so much about their customs and way of life. I will share these small wisdoms with you so that you might gain the respect and favour from the kind people of thailand.

Customs in Thailand are of the greatest importance. To break a custom and show disrespect may even land you in prison! After talking to a friendly thai I have some understanding that the prisons in the western world look like luxury by comparisson. These things are not to be taken lightly.

Shoes off! When entering houses, Hostels, Temples and some businesses.

Mind your feet! never point or touch people with your feet. This includes playing footsies and indicating or nudging things with your feet. Stepping on money you drop is considered highly offensive as you are touching the kings image with your feet!

Do not disrespect the king! The best advise is not to talk about the royal family or thai politics ever.You can be arrested for being disrespectfull or insulting to the king. Many thai people may also call him Dad  and the call the queen Mum. They have the highest love and respect for their royals.

Do not disrespect Buddha! That includes taking silly pictures with images of buddha, buying buddha statues for souveniers, being loud or rowdy temples. The religion here is buddhism, the people worship him, even if you are not buddhist please respect their religion.

No touching the head! I do not know too much about when it is OK but even touching another persons head in a joking way can be offensive. The head is the most spiritual part of the body.

Cover up! When entering temples cover the legs, shoulders and chest. My favourite way is by wearing a long skirt or harem pants and using a silk scarf around my chest and shoulders. When using a scarf there should be no visable cleavage, shoulders should be covered but visable head and hair is acceptable.

Thai people don’t like rain. This is not so much a custom as a ‘tit bit’ of information. I am told that they believe because their blood/body is hot, the cool rain will make them sick. Care is given to keep the head dry especially with children and infants.

Chopstick etiquette. When eating with chopsticks make sure they are the right way up, bigger section or notches on top and eating with the opposite end. Use a pincer approach. I felt like a simpleton eating with chopsticks upside down in a scissor meathod after it was pointed out to me during a thai family meal.

‘Thai time’ is what backpackers refer to when things in thailand often happen late/early. Thai time is quite casual on timekeeping but do not depend on thai time. Its best to be punctual and patient.

Du wai (bow) ettiquette. A’Du wai’ is a slight bow with the hands in front of the chest with the palms touching. similar to a christian prayer hand position but with a slight nod/bow. The Du wai is always done by the younger person first, If you are unsure you can du wai first. The du wai is usually used with a greeting, goodbye or thank you. Thai people genrally dont expect forigners to know about the du wai but they will be plesently suprised if you do this gesture.

Ka, kap or krab? In thai language usually one of these is added to the end of a word depending on the persons gender or the gender they identify with. Ka is used for females or those that identify more as female such as ladyboys. Kap/krab is used for males or those that identify as male such as tom boys. Kap or krab? both seem to genrally be used for the same thing but the pronounciation is diffrent. Kap has no r sound and krap does. I am unsure about the male pronounciations however through talking to some men and listening to thai men it seems it is pronounced similar to ‘cup’. I recently met one man who got confused, for weeks has been pronouncing it as ‘crap’ after listening to a few thai peoples conversations he realised he wasn’t saying it right when he picked up that they were laughing at the ferang (forigner).

Sawadee or known in engligh as ‘Hello’. make sure to add your masculine or femining ending (see above). For men thats sa-wad-ee-kap or for females its sa-wad-ee-ka. This is also used sometimes as a goodbye but thai pople don’t use goodbye like we do,  not  say goodbye to everyone they meet.

Kop kun or known in english as ‘Thank you’. Make sure to add the feminine or masculine ending, Kop-kun-ka (female) or kop-kun-kap (male). To me it sounds like the pronounciation of ‘kop-kun’is cup-aun but everyne remembers pronounciation diffrently.

Departure drama!

So I had a very eventfull flight. I departed gatwick for a 11 hour flight to Bangkok on the 10/11/15. I have done other journeys like this but I have never had such a bad flight with so much drama.

I genrally love flying, that excitement, the rush as you take off and the weightless feeling as you ascend amongst the clouds. My favourite veiw is from the sky, seeing the pink and orange glows over a sea of fluffy clouds during sunset. I have always flown economy, most flights I have taken include brilliant service from the hard working cabin crew, watching films and relaxing.

When i sat down I was almost bouncing out of my seat with excitement, finally I was setting off for the adventure I always dreamed about. Surprisingly I was not very nervous, I felt like today my life was really starting to begin, I was free from the routine of  6 days a week working and leaving the uk behind with a mission to explore and make personal discoveries. I quickly realised the people on the other 2 window seats were also backpacking, a sweet couple from portugal who had excellent speaking english. They were travelling together and hoping to find a way of living location independent, being designers i felt that with a little determination they would find success.

On take off the lovely lady beside me confessed she had a fear of flying and may panic. As my heart lifted with the plane hers was gripped with fear, I admired her bravery although she was frightened she handled it very well. I started to watch movies and relax. Later in the flight I left my seat to answer the call of nature but as I approached the back of the plane a fellow passenger started to strike a conversation about how he was annoyed that his friend could not get a seat on the flight so he was ging on a bit of a bender, he spoke about how he liked to fight but tried not to because he believes in karma, I found his odd ideas of karma amusing. After maybe 10 minutes talking over the meaning of karma the urge to escape him was becoming more prominent, I am genrally a peacefull person however the thought did flash through my mind that at this rate i may have to wrestle him to save myself from a very uncomfortable flight. Finally after the people from my row distracted him I was able to slip away. I swear he was standing and drinking by the toiets the entire time waiting for victims to entertain his need to socialise.

I didn’t get much sleep through this flight, my zip off trousers dug into my belly and the girl next to me needed the toilet very often, being on the inside she had to pass many times. unfortunately  because of my poor seating choice I was given the last choice in meal which was a vegentarian pasta that i found terrible. Being dyslexic I struggled to do the thai visa form and had to ask for several copies sevral times, the first few times I waited 30-60 minutes for the staff to bring new forms but after a while I decided its easier just to visit the back of the plane and ask them there. It took exactly 5 forms for me to get it right, they are not difficult but with a lack of sleep i found it hard to concentrate.

During the ‘night’ when the airplane had turned down the lights the cabin crew found the bathroom smoking. littrally smoke coming out of the bathroom. Luckily the bathroom security aka that lovely man who had been drinking knew who was to blame. Watching the crew confront the spanish lady across from me regarding her smoking and trying to explain the her the implications of smoking in the bathroom while she did not speak any english was amusing. It was not so amusing when I heard them asking her where she had put the ciggerette as it may cause a fire in the hull of the aircraft. Yes you heard me right a FIRE in the plane!

I managed to arrive in bangkok tired and desperate to get to my hostel. The fire had been estingished and I was ready for my next challenge, the sky train.

Things I did not need to pack for Thailand

There are many things that I soon realised are completely unnecessary when in Thailand. They may be useful for other locations, only time will tell but in Thailand most of these seem pointless to pack. I have made this list with things I have packed or considered packing.

  • Hiking Boots – completely pointless so far. Its just too hot and they are too heavy.
  • Zip off trousers – I used these for the flight and soon realised when arriving that if i was only going to Thailand they would be useless. When I wore them walking in the uk they were comfortable but on my 11 hour flight mostly sitting they became quite uncomfortable and because they are tight to my waist in Thailand they made me feel all hot and sticky.
  • Socks –I packed about 7 pairs of socks and I need about 2, if that.
  • Fancy flip flops – I read a guide talking about how you should bring pretty flip flops because you want to look good in the evening and they replace your heels. While in Bangkok the flip flops are cheap (UK standards), I was reluctant at first to wear them on dirty streets and I worried about them getting pinched when I leave them outside. It is custom to take shoes off before entering temples and many other places.
  • Denim skirt – I brought this as my one little going out outfit but so far I haven’t worn it once. It is still too hot even though it is short, heavy and everyone seems to go very casual, not worring too much about dressing up.
  • Go pro camera case – This is one of the things I am considering ditching as it takes up so much room and all the little assesories pack away much better in the ziplock bags I brought. I was thinking it would protect the camera but because its so bulky and the camera is quite tough I tend to use a small pouch instead.
  • Portable charger case – I am very gratefull that i have a portable charger however I could have packed it without the hard case it came in and saved myself some room. Because the case is a little bulky for my day bag I just don’t use it. When i put all my valubles in my daypack it won’t fit with the case.
  • Clothing – obviously you cant stroll around khao san road naked so some clothing is required however clothes are so cheap here that i will probably replace 80% of my clothing.I had 2 t shirts I packed and I bought about 4 basic vest tops. The vest tops were £4 each I could have saved money by simply taking 2-3 tops and buying interesting tops I like a lot more out here for £1.50-£2.00.
  • Water bottles – I packed 2 bottles for water which are now pretty useless. I only drink bottled water which is about 25p for a big bottle or 13p for a smaller size from the local 7 eleven. There is water sold everywhere. There have been times when water has been spiked or tampered with but when you buy water in a shop it has a plactic seal around the top so you know its initially ok.
  • Suvival kit – I am thinking of getting rid of this, it contasins a fire lighter, emergency poncho, water sterilising powder, a whistle and severel other bits and peices. I guess this might be good if you are taking a unguided hike but really why would you go wondering off in the thailand jungle? and why would any of that stuff save you when the main threats are probably dehydration and animals/insects? I might do a guided walk but then I don’t think there would be much oppertunity to use it if i stick with the guide.
  • Jumper – My excuse for taking this is that I thought it might get cold at night. I was very wrong it is November while I am writing this, just after the wet season and it is perfectly warm enough to go round in just a T-shirt all day and all night. It may be useful in another country but It is definatly not worth buying before you get here as the clothing is so inexpensive to buy. Buying it before going to the next country would also have the benefit of not having to take it around with you while travelling.

If you have any more suggestions for the list please let me know. Hope this helps anyone whose packing, I will do another list for the things I have found the most usefull.