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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.