Asia 2013 Indonesia

An Ode to the Mandi

Oh mandi. I don’t have words to express just how brilliant a creation you are. For the fact that you are so very simple and so very useful is just where your ingenuity starts to come in. You are, for folks with limited indoor plumbing, a saving grace. You are…a bucket.

To Flush

This was my first mandi, in Makassar, Sulawesi

Many westerners freak when they see you floating there unassumingly on a container of water, your long handle poking out so people won’t even need to get their hands wet when they use you. And many westerners may just see you as a means by which to flush those pesky squat toilets without any flushing mechanism. 2 scoops usually does it and your business is “flushed” away for less water than a standard toilet flush uses!

As “Toilet Paper”

But mandi, oh mandi, you are so very much more! You and the user’s left hand are toilet paper when those nifty little butt sprayers can’t be found (which, I have to say, I’ve become quite a fan of). Sounds gross, I know, but think about it… When you’re dirty, you wouldn’t just dry off with a towel, you’d use water, right? Just don’t put that left hand in your mouth because it’s considered “dirty,” and you probably wouldn’t want that stuff in your mouth anyways…

An Instant Sink

Had this mandi at a Homestay in Yogyakarta, Java

With no sink, you serve that purpose too. Splash a little water on your hands with that good old bucket of yours and use a little soap (which you’ll probably need to provide yourself) and, bam! Instant sink! The water just goes straight on the floor!

And brushing your teeth? Why look no further than that handy mandi! So what if the water has been sitting there for a while? Personally I use bottled water for the brush itself and to rinse my mouth out. But the only issue then is where to spit? Why, in that drain on the floor that also serves as your shower drain. Or in the toilet…whichever you prefer (just don’t forget a few scoops to “flush!)”


And this classy mandi was found at a Homestay in Solo (also called Surakarta), Java

Your best use of all, though, has to be your use as a shower. Or bath. They’re essentially “same, same,” as they say in Asia. It’s quite simple really. You fill the bucket with (cold) water and dump it on yourself. A good old bucket bath! It uses less water than a shower and you have a bit more control. But, man, oh man you never quite do get used to that initial shock of a bucket full of cold water hitting your bare skin!

Cold water? I know, I know, I’m no fan either. But people in tropical Southeast Asia just love it! And after all those steamy, humid days out exploring, a cold shower isn’t all that bad. Even if I did never quite get used to them…

But mandi, that’s why you’re so brilliant! And folks, especially in Indonesia, tend to prefer you over a traditional shower. Heck, a regular shower, even with cold water, was a premium in many Indonesia hotels! And some even have them nicely built into the wall like the one above! So, as they say, when in Rome…

Mandi, I just want to tell you this. Your simplicity is just beautiful. And while at first I hated you, now I appreciate you. I’m glad that traditions are alive and well! So stay classy you little bucket you!

What About You?

Have you tried a mandi before? What did you think of the experience?


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

7 replies on “An Ode to the Mandi”

This is beautiful, Aaron. Having travelled briefly in South East Asia, I was previously aquainted with this creation, but I didn’t know it was called a mandi. Now I feel we’ve been properly introduced. Thanks.

Thanks Sam! Mandi literally means “bath” in Indonesian, so I’d imagine the name would vary based on what country you’re in, as not everywhere in Southeast Asia bathes this way!

Hi Aaron, I am from Indonesia..Such an interesting ode you made about mandi! Literally made me laugh here 🙂
Actually that handy little bucket is called as “gayung” in Indonesian. And the bigger bucket is called “ember”.. 🙂

Haha I’m so glad you enjoyed this! And thanks! I learned after I wrote this that “mandi” literally means to bathe. I’m glad there’s a proper term for the type of bucket! Cheers!

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