Potty Talk

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…

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10 Responses to Potty Talk

  1. Justin Howard March 12, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    I was actually waiting for this post to come. And yeah, I’m horrified, especially about the trough.

    • Aaron March 13, 2010 at 4:27 am #

      I don’t even think horrified begins to describe my reaction!

  2. Samantha Dermot January 7, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    I can’t believe people there use these “toilets” daily, I’d rather explode than use such a “toilet” 🙂

    • Aaron January 7, 2011 at 8:49 am #

      Hehehe. Yes, they DO take quite a bit of getting used to…

  3. Samantha Dermot January 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Aaron: I’d never get used to that:)

    • Aaron January 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm #


    • Aaron January 7, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

      Oh and in Asia they start training for it real young! Chinese babies have little slits in the backs of their pants abs they’re squatting shortly after they can walk! Just think how much you’d save in diaper costs (when nature calls, why not just squat over a newspaper on the sidewalk?)!

  4. Samantha Dermot January 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    @Aaron: this doesn’t sound right, no matter how much I save in diapers costs. Probably is a good idea in China but is not for me 🙂 But they are ingenious,gotta admit that!

  5. Jaime September 10, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    This is a nightmare… I dont know if to embrace it or hate it. Ahhhh…. Im so torn. I don’t think I ever have been during my travels…lol!!! Wow… just wow. This will be interesting.

    • Aaron September 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

      Haha don’t worry Jaime it just takes a little getting used to! Half the world uses these toilets. Just wait till you get to the one that don’t have a tank to flush the toilet. You just pour a bowl of water from a reservoir in the room into the toilet and voile! Good luck…

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