After three years living in Thailand I decided it was time I wrote my memoirs… this one may be a little too much information for some but if you can’t tell your diary, who can you tell?
My tummy had been doing somersaults since I had woken up but I had put it down to whatever undoubtedly spicy-fried-stuff-with-rice that I had eaten for dinner the night before. It’s not unusual to feel every single digestive movement within you when you are embracing the local food in Thailand.
Little did I know that there was a particularly pesky parasite harbouring within my body waiting to burst forth – quite literally – and make an appearance. Only time would reveal this, and my what timing Mr. Parasite had. I would soon find myself wishing I had listened to my gut’s grumbles with more attention but we all know that hindsight, and a rather memorable toilet (or lack thereof) experience, is a gift we cannot savour until it is already too late.
Perhaps someone reading this will learn something, and my experience will enable another to avoid what was unavoidably my fate. Read on and take note, dear reader.
As I have already said, I was embracing the local cuisine of Thailand’s deep south, and so I found myself heading over to a little khao geang (literally rice curry) place at breakfast time. It was owned by a lovely couple who would rise early to prepare an array of dishes to be laid out buffet-style for the customers to peruse and take their pick of. As is usual in these set ups, the shop was in the front of their house, backing on to the living room which they shared with the patrons. Unusual by Western standards but very much the norm here in Thailand. Another rather un-Western thing – customer toilets are few and far between in these types of establishments; this fact would become all too apparent all too quickly.
Grumble. Groan. Squelch. I looked at my breakfast of spicy-fried-stuff-with-rice and was unable to conjure up the slightest inkling of an appetite. Strangely enough, being able to feel your internal organs in action tends to be quite the appetite killer.
Grumble. Groan. GRUMBLE. GROAN. Suddenly the urgency with which my insides operated reached a peak with only one message. TOILET. NOW.
Mee hongnam mai ka? Possibly the single most important phrase to learn upon travelling to any foreign land – do you have a toilet?
The husband-wife curry shop duo looked at one another and then at me, in my white school shirt and pencil skirt. They started to explain that it’s their toilet, it’s no good for customers, especially not farang customers in tight skirts… but I was already up and heading to the back of the house where their gazes lead me. Tee nee ka? Here?
I was in there before they had time to answer but sure enough I found myself in what must be the family bathroom. A damp concrete square of a room with a concrete floor and only sky where a ceiling would normally take residence. Good for ventilation I suppose.
I desperately cast my eyes around, looking for the bog, the loo, the porcelain throne… nothing. There was a small container of water, adorned with wrung out flannels, an old bar of soap and a couple of toothbrushes. Next to that, a larger bin also full of water with a Winnie the Pooh children’s cereal bowl floating in it. A quick peek beyond and I found a hole in the ground. A hole, albeit encircled with a porcelain frame, as if to confirm that yes, this is in fact the toilet.
Full disclosure: I should probably apologise for the misleading title of this post – there was a toilet, just not the type that I am used to.
My pencil skirt was too tight to be hoicked up and so I whipped it off and flung it over my shoulder. I’ll save you the details of what happened next but let me tell you that Mr. Parasite put me through my paces. Epic toilet times – a rite of passage when adjusting to a life abroad but something best enjoyed (wrong word) in the privacy of one’s own home.
Something you learn quickly when you are traveling through or living in an Asian country is that there is a distinct lack of toilet tissue, especially in those countires that favour a bidet hose, or bum gun as I like to call it. In fact, you quickly learn that we have developed a whole load of unnecessary Westernised expectations when it comes to the toilet. We don’t need toilet seats, automatic flushes or jet powered hand dryers, but at some point we decided that we do. Had I had the time to think things through before my rush to the toilet I would have grabbed some paper towels from the table. Again, hindsight.
Unfortunately for me it was a double whammy. Not only was there no toilet but no bum gun either.
Panic started to set in. Do I shout for someone to bring me some tissue? There isn’t even a bin. Not an option. There I was, squatting askew a hole in the ground, half dressed with my skirt slung over my shoulder desperately looking for a post-toilet clean up solution.
There’s only so long one can stay in such a position without taking action. I was time to go truly native, armed with gallons of water, a Winnie the Pooh children’s cereal bowl and…
… my hand. Oh yes, native indeed.
Thank goodness there was an old bar of soap.
At the time I have to say that wasn’t one of my most pleasant mornings, but at least now I can look back and laugh, and I can face any toilet situation safe in the knowledge that it will never be that traumatic ever again.
I may look back and find this funny, but many people don’t even have a hole in the ground let alone clean water to wash with or even drink. Check out the gifts you can buy over at Water Aid to enable people to have access to clean water and village water systems.
This isn’t a sponsored post, I just want to make up for laughing at what is a daily occurrence for so many people around the globe.