Adjusting to life in a Thai home.
When I first came over to Thailand I was placed in a job in Hat Yai with a fellow TEFL Heaven trainee. The go-to option for accommodation were single rooms in an apartment block for 4500฿ a piece. We decided to club our money together and rented a 2 bed apartment with a living room, kitchen diner and plenty of space instead, for 10,000฿. We had AC, hot water, laundry service, security… it was an easy adjustment, if any, from life in the UK.
Once Tom had come out to Thailand and we decided to extend our stay, him and I moved out of the city and into a Thai house. It was closer to our school, and we were ready for a more Thai way of life; plus the whole big house was only going to cost us 4500฿ between the two of us so we would be saving money. Now it was time for the adjustments! No AC, no hot water, no furniture. No being on the fourth floor and therefore removed from the creepy crawlies on the ground. Cockroaches, spiders, snakes, even scorpions were now our housemates. At first I used to freak out, but I have got a lot better – I even dealt with a cockroach without shouting for Tom the other day – Mother, you should be proud of me! Many Thai homes don’t really have furniture like we would at home – cushions in a circle on the floor around a mat tend to be the norm, so we did just that.
Our lovely Thai home
Not having AC wasn’t too difficult as the house is all tiled and has big rooms that stay shady most of the day. We bought a couple of fans and there was no problem – in fact, using fan only stopped me waking up each morning with a blocked nose and we saved a BOMB on the electricity bills (in the apartment with 3 of us it was coming to almost 3000฿ – the AC in the kitchen was a massive industrial beast – and now we usually spend around 500฿ which is around a 10GBP for the MONTH).
What took a lot of getting used to (and I will admit that I definitely still struggle with this at times) was the cold water situation. Our water comes straight from a well and sits in a water tank until we use it. It feels a lot fresher but you still can’t drink it because of the nasty things that lurk in the tank. This water sits in the tank and warms up with the sun if it isn’t used – meaning that when you jump into the shower on a hot afternoon, actually wanting that cool, refreshing temperature, it is lukewarm. And at night, or if it’s rainy and cloudy, when you wouldn’t mind a lukewarm shower to warm you up a bit, it is freezing! Sometimes I just resort to boiling some water and taking a bucket in with me to do a bit of a warm bucket/cold shower combo wash, which seems to do the trick.
Luckily we have western toilets and one of them is fully plumbed in so we don’t have to deal with using a squat toilet (not that they are that bad, but sometimes a proper toilet is needed on occasion!). If you ever find yourself faced with a squat-or-hold-it situation, check out this funny but actually informative post.
So here you are, enjoying Thailand for all that it has to offer. You’re walking around in a Thai part of town, or maybe you’re on a long trek, when you realize – oh no! – that pad graprow you had for lunch was a little too spicy. You need a toilet, and you need one right now. There’s no time to get back to your comfy western-style hotel with that familiar looking toilet.
You ask someone near you “Hawng naam yu tee nai?” because you’ve done your homework, and you know that’s how you say “Where is the bathroom?” in Thai. They point you towards a sign that says “ห้องน้ำ” or “สุขา” and you take off running.
You open the door, but – oh my Buddha! – it’s a squatter (cue ominous music). “Now is NOT the time!” you think. But then you take a deep breath, and remember to just follow a few simple steps.
©Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures and Arkom (Kwang) Sriyaprom, 2009. All rights reserved
Click here for the full article – with illustrations! It’s brilliant.
I’m so glad that we moved out of the city and into our own Thai home. We can now spend the afternoons lazing away in the hammock in the front yard rather than watching cable TV in the harsh AC, sat on an awful leatherette sofa. And I can still sit down to pee!