In my time abroad, I’ve seen many a toilet or two. And trust me, they differ from what us in the Western would consider to be a proper toilet.
Of course, the most basic toilet is simply a hole in the ground. That’s a given…bury your waste, just like animals (well cats) do.
Here in Asia they prefer a bit of a variation on the hole in the ground (albeit a much more sanitary one). Why I speak, of course, of the squat toilet.
The basic premise is you have a small, usually waterless bowl set into the ground with two foot pads around it and you squat right over it to do your business. Here in China and in most big cities, these squat toilets are hooked up to plumbing systems, so you simply flush and that’s that.
But in more remote parts, particularly in Southeast Asia, there may not be a flusher anywhere, but instead a pool of water and a bucket. Well, you know where this is going.
The pool of water though is two-fold, as you frequently will not find toilet paper anywhere. Instead, you wash yourself.
I mean, think about it. One could argue that a) squat toilets are more hygienic as you aren’t sitting on something a bunch of people have done God-knows-what on and b) if you are dirty, you simply wouldn’t rub a towel across yourself to get clean, you’d use water.
Let’s be blunt here. The left hand is usually reserved for this, well, delicate business. There are large segments of the world that would never eat with their left hands and never dream of offering it in a handshake as it’s considered to be “filthy” (you lefties beware!).
Squat toilets are multi-purpose too, at times serving as drains for showers and even sinks as well! Here in Jinghong I’ve faced minuscule bathrooms where you quite literally have to straddle the toilet to take a shower!
I have also discovered a new variety on the squat toilet that seems especially popular in bus stations here….the trough toilet. Men, if you’ve traveled to developing countries, you’re probably familiar with the trough urinal. Well take the same basic premise but use it for #2 as well…
Basically, a long trough runs the length of the bathroom with door-less stalls over it and you do your business squatting right over that trough in plain view! I previously mentioned seeing it in Longeshen’s bus station, but it’s all the rage here in Jingh0ng and in Kunming as well, where I saw a worker scrubbing said trough late at night (as there is no flushing mechanism).
I found a picture on the internet to give you an idea of what I’m talking about here.
While I certainly prefer toilets of the Western variety (as that is what I grew up with) I can live with squat toilets. Though in the past 24 hours I have discovered is that they are not better than their Western counterparts in one key area…being sick to your stomach, which can become far more of a mess with a squat toilet. I’ll leave that one to your imagination…