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Taking a Break from Thai Politics: Squat Toilets and Bum Guns

Squat Toilets and Bum Guns

Need a break from Thai politics? Here a toilet, everywhere a toilet…

The internet is going crazy over protests in Bangkok this week (condolences to Nick Nostitz). But as I’m in Chiang mai and far removed from the action, I thought I’d write about something way different: Squat toilets and bum guns.

Japan was where I first experienced squat toilets, along with a more relaxed attitude towards potty privacy and getting naked. When I was around five years old I witnessed a pantless toddler pooping on the side of the road, right where everyone could see.

My parents were strict on potty training especially so I found the revelation both unexpected and enlightening. The memory stayed all these years, I guess mostly because pooing where I come from is produced behind closed doors.

Now that I’m all grown up (heh) my interest in toilet culture has evolved to taking quick snaps (yeah for the iPhone): Borneo’s squat toilets (where I’ve been tempted to keep the door open to stop from gagging), Italy’s spring-loaded seats (designed to keep the lids up – clearly a man’s world), ancient toilets carved out of wood, squat toilets on trains even, and loads of toilets in between.

Squat Toilets and Bum Guns

Squat toilets and bum guns…

Using squat toilets as a kid is easy because you are close to the ground. But, when you learn (or relearn in my case) to squat as an adult, balancing skills need plenty of practice.

After a long hiatus from squatting I moved to Borneo where squat toilets abounded. To keep my balance, in the beginning I’d lean my head against the wall (if it’d reach), but soon I was pooing like a pro.

And while I’ve always appreciated that squat toilets are good exercise for the legs especially, I never took to the bum gun.

The closet I’ve come to using the gun was on a trip to Cambodia. After touring Siem Reap’s ancient monuments in the baking heat for hours, I was desperate for relief. And there it was. Dangling next to me. The bum gun. Tempting (almost). But there are potty rules against that too.

Cambodian toilets

Guys can be uber religious about their dedication to using the bum gun. Try it sometimes. Mention a preference for toilet paper and even the most well-mannered expat male who’s enamoured with the gun will growl (whereas women tend to keep quiet about the subject).

I’ve always protested that while Thailand’s water purification is supposedly fine, the security of the pipes leading water to my tender parts was in doubt. I mean, we all know what kind of sludge flows along the klongs and drains of Thailand. Right? Just the thought of the stink getting near my bits … yuk.

Thailand Guru: While it has been reported that tap water exceeds world standards for drinking water in many parts of the city, and the Metropolitan Water Works Authority has made a strong effort to exceed World Health Organization standards by 1999, in some places the water that comes out of the tap is still questionable, usually as regards the pipe network that carries the water to some old places.

But in writing this post I had to face facts. It couldn’t possibly be the water I objected to, because to cool off I throw water sans disinfectant soap on my face. And that’s not all. I also wash fruit and veg in water straight from the tap. Oh dear.

So I’ve now decided that my prejudice comes down to a few key facts:

  • ONE: Using a high powered gun on my bum while teetering on a slippery porcelain squat toilet with my back to a door (that may or may not be lockable) would clench my bum so tight a decent poo would be almost impossible unless I had help from tainted food.
  • TWO: I rarely (ever) use a public toilet for number two so it’s not going to happen anyway (except for the previously mentioned assistance).
  • Ok, that doesn’t stop me from using bum guns at home but it doesn’t happen here either, so I’ll add a number THREE: I’m not coordinated enough to use a bum gun without drenching myself along with the floors and walls and anything else within reach. So there you go.

But… the real reason for this post is this bit of news:

Coconuts Bangkok: In recognition of the proud tradition that was yesterday’s “World Toilet Day,” Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health did its duty by dumping data from its research of public toilets in Thailand, which concludes the highest concentration of fecal matter can be found on the ole’ bum gun. Ewwww.

I don’t know how reliable the Ministry of Public Health’s research is but after reading about fecal matter as well as this Reddit post about bum guns, I’m even more convinced to stick with YAAY for squat toilets and EWWW EWWW EWWW for bum guns.

Squat Toilets and Bum Guns

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

24 Comments

  1. My knees have been pretty much buggered for at least a couple of decades, so I can’t use the squat toilets at all. Neither can I kneel for long, and sitting on floors is a problem for more than a few minutes.

    Also, you said you have your back to the door? I always assumed that the intention was to use them facing the door?

    However … The bum gun is an amazing invention! Especially if it’s a strong squirter. The ones that just dribble are pointless, but put a bit of strength behind it and it’s a wonderful invention :)

  2. I face the back but that could be because I learned in Japan. Read: Squat toilets-embarressing debate on which way to face?

    I’ve always faced the door too, but I see two videos on youtube giving instruction on using a Japanese-style squat loo, and it’s unanimous – face the back! (In Japan, anyway)

    In SQUAT TOILETS: WHAT’S YOUR POSITION? it says:

    Many modern porcelain or metal squat toilet have foot treads to either side of the trough, to provide better traction in case the floor area is wet. Beyond that, the direction you face seems to be a matter of personal preference.

    At petrol station and public restrooms I’ll usually grab the first toilet, which is often western (sitting, not squatting).

  3. Love me a bum gun…it cleans well and saves trees ( Westerners use way too much toilet paper because the thought of touching their own ass is obscene )

    I don’t use public toilets much and wouldn’t use the gun there but I do at home and thats usually one of the first things I will purchase…a new bum gun that only knows my glorious ass :P

  4. “a new bum gun that only knows my glorious ass”

    Hah! One of these days I’ll give it a try but with my luck I’ll break something.

  5. So funny, there are heaps of comments on Facebook (might quit sharing posts there!)

  6. Interesting subject Catherine; in Thailand we all have to deal with it.
    As a men I find the bum gun an excellent system.
    The report mentioned that the bum gun is the most dirty object in public toilets, but this doesn’t mean that the water sprayed is dirty. One could always could spray for a while first to do a rough check for water quality and to clean the nozzle, while holding it with a piece of toilet paper.
    Abroad and in Thai shopping malls, I now miss the bum gun.
    I like the Japanese bidet style too, but the pressure isn’t very high, even though it’s often adjustable.
    Last month when I revisited Japan, I discovered they had implemented a new function. The sound button. When pressed one can hear the sound of flushing like a waterfall. First I guessed it was to stimulate peeing, but now I suspect it is that Japanese people are very shy about body odour let alone sound, so it could be a way to conceal nasty body sounds.
    Those clever Japanese ;)

  7. “One could always spray for a while first to do a rough check for water quality and to clean the nozzle, while holding it with a piece of toilet paper.”

    Good suggestion.

    “The sound button”

    What a clever idea. And saves water too. Too late for High School Horrors but kudos to the Japanese for coming up with the idea.

    I tried out the gun yesterday and wasn’t successful – I couldn’t get the water pressure quite right. It shifted from too little water, to too much, creating sharp stinging sensations in my nether regions.

    The experience did leave me walking around with cold and wet(ish) tingles for awhile though. I’ve yet to decide if it’s pleasant or not (might have to go back for more).

  8. I feel a bit uncomfortable to give a woman advise on finding an effective GPS (Guts-ending Positioning System).
    That being said, I always lift one cheek and hold the nozzle at a comfortable distance depending on pressure. Possibly, it’s a thing one has to get used to, but I prefer a bit of a stinging sensation rather than smearing with or without paper.

    Perhaps the next time ‘you’re going to drown a brown doggie’, you could first try the side method with the nozzle skewed backwards to prevent frontal pollution and subsequently use the front method for a full cleanup, both at a distance where you feel comfortable, but where it’s still effective.

    If all this doesn’t work, wait for the Japanese, the’re working on it right now, see:
    http://www.improbable.com/2013/12/06/sensing-and-sensibility-development-of-anal-position-detecting-system-for-new-toilet-system/

  9. Hah. Well, it’s an odd subject for sure. But after reading some of the Reddit comments (link shared in my post) I almost grew immune.

    “The new-toilet system can capture feces and prevent odor dispersion by adhering tightly to buttocks”.

    What a visual! What will they come up with next.

  10. I was trying to find the Thai word for the “bum gun” again and haven’t been able to find it. I think it includes the word อนามัย and means something like “hygienic hose.”

  11. Here you go: th.wikipedia: ฝักบัวล้างก้น

    ฝักบัวล้างก้น หรือภาษาปากว่า ที่ฉีดตูด (อังกฤษ: bidet shower, bidet spray, bidet sprayer or health faucet)

  12. ฝักบัวล้างก้น: shower [to] wash buttocks
    ที่ฉีดตูด: to squirt buttocks (slang)

  13. Thanks Catherine! I was searching for the wrong words apparently. :-)

  14. Keith, there are sure to be fun words to go with those but it’d take someone more knowledgeable than I am about bum guns to get to the bottom of it :-)

  15. Groan! Indeed, we could be inundated by them ;-) น้ำท่วมไหมครับ

  16. Here’s a new twist on it: The Aerosol Effect

    …when toilets are flushed, water droplets are expelled from the toilet bowl into the air, and when they land, other areas of the bathroom get “contaminated” by toilet water.

    “If an alien came from space and studied the bacterial counts, he probably would conclude he should wash his hands in your toilet and crap in your sink,” Gerba said (2). The alien would almost certainly not put your toothbrush in his mouth because, with its traditional, uncovered spot in the bathroom, it is one of the hotspots for fecal bacteria and germs spewed into the air by the aerosol effect…

    Can you just imagine how far that stuff can fly propelled by a bumgun?

  17. I’d bet quite a ways indeed.

    But, maybe it’s good training for the immune system? I’ve heard American kids these days suffer from too little exposure to dirt and such because they don’t play outside as much, so their immune systems may not develop as well as their parents’ did. If not, maybe it’s time to get one of those Japanese super toilets. :-)

  18. Michel Boismard

    January 31, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Hey,Catherine!let’s just debunk the over-sanitized,germophobic western attitude about microbes in general: A/ A balanced biological environment is necessarily composed of a large variety of germs.In fact they sustain it ! B/ Normal,non pathological fecal matter does not contain any harmful bacteria.We are just culturally conditioned from childhood to consider poop as “uuh! dirty!”(with a typical grimace from our mom that lingers on throughout our lives!)
    So,only wishing a guilt-free,stress-relieving “uchara”with or without that bum-hose!(to be recommanded for efficiency and introduced worldwide,though)

  19. Keith and Michel, I agree that we need germs to strengthen our immune system. But personally, I’d rather it not be poo. Yuk.

  20. Not my first choice either! :-)

  21. Michel Boismard

    February 2, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    But then again,if it comes down to either a squeaky clean bum or a squeaky clean loo,what would you choose?…And,try asking a bush herdsman if he sees the stuff as “dirty” or even bad smelling!Cowdung being heaven sent for him who even uses it as a skin smear (yes,it is a potent germicide)That”yuk”of yours(or mine!)being clearly cultural.Agreed,Catherine or Keith? Now,well above those murky waters:you gave ฝักบัวล้างกัน(ล้างตูด,rather?),Catherine,for the bum jet.Interesting transposition of flora on industrialia by those inventive waterbased Thai s! Those 1950 type shower heads you still find in some decrepit old hotels or around swimming pools with their flat rounded shape,complete with their”stems”became new,metallic ฝักบัว /fak(l)bua(-)/:lotus seed heads,although the loo version has lost its phytomorphy for catering to rectalia exclusively,the term remained.How about a compilation of similar flights of Thai semantic creativity,anyone?

  22. Wow! I wonder if anyone has ever used the phrase “phytomorphy for catering to rectalia” before. :-)

    How about the name of the railway station, which I understand morphed from a field of wild cattle into a loudspeaker? Or maybe just a thorn apple…

    สถานีทุ่งวัวลำพอง ก็เพี้ยนไปเป็น สถานีรถไฟหัวลำโพง

  23. Michel Boismard

    February 4, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    …And if anyone publicly did such things,Keith,he typically has been pooh-poohed by the speech police sometimes somewhere! No,academicians do not make the language,people do.And that means mistakes,illegitimate word loaning and flights of imagination.A language should first be learnt in an orthodox fashion,but from that level,let’s be creative with it,it helps the mind to lift off from its autopilot mode too! Writers who invented new words were probably criticized by the pundits until eventually their creations took hold by public use,which usually lead the purists to grudgingly open the gates of the holy dictionary for them!
    And thanks for the light on “Hua Lamphong”,in fact I have been left clueless from all dics.about the term:just”name of the main BKK railway station”,period.

  24. A while back, I heard a radio interview with the editor for a major dictionary in the U.S. (I think it was Webster’s) where he said it was not lexicographers’ job to enforce the language, simply record it as it was used.

    Your choice of “pooh-poohed” in the above post seemed particularly apt considering the original topic of the thread. So I looked up “pooh-pooh” in the TalkingThai dictionary and found they actually listed it: ดูถูก

    Michel, you have a flair for language. :-)

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