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Toilet Talk

INDONESIA | Thursday, 15 November 2007 | Views [9605] | Comments [1]

My kamar kecil in Padangbai (note soggy TP)

My kamar kecil in Padangbai (note soggy TP)

No trip journal is complete without a discussion of the diversity of cultural traditions around that all-important human institution: the bathroom.  I have received no formal training in the analysis of bathroom rituals and traditions, and what I offer here is based solely upon personal experience and inference.  No direct observations of Actual Indonesians using Actual Indonesian Bathrooms were conducted, for the sake of modesty, privacy, and my own delicate sensibilities.


The typical bathroom is composed of a squat toilet made of molded plastic, composed of two foot pads and a curvy round bit leading to a hole in the middle (leading where I do not what to know).  I first saw and experienced the squat toilet in France, and I still remain confused as to whether one should face outwards or inwards while using it.  I’ve tried it both ways and I seem to have spatter issues no matter what, the elimination of which is the true advantage of sit-upon toilets, in my humble opinion.  If anyone has any advice to offer, I’d be most grateful. 

The squat toilets here do not flush, and therefore are accompanied by a small water tank, made of tile, built over a water tap.  A scoop bucket is floating inside.  One is supposed to scoop water from the tank and use it to clean oneself, and this water flow also manually flushes the toilet at the same time.  So, clean body parts, clean squat toilet, everyone’s happy.  Forgive me for my Western-ness, but I just wonder about the wetness issue, since toilet paper is usually not part of the deal.


Then, especially in tourist areas, you have the hybrid Western/Indonesian toilet situation which seeks to appease both Indonesian and Western users.  Sometimes this is a flush toilet with a little hose with a water sprayer attachment (like in US kitchen sinks) next to it.  Sometimes it’s a flush toilet with a bucket of water and scoop next to it. 


Sometimes the hybrid involves a non-flush toilet and a water tank.  The way it works is that you scoop water from the water tank and pour it in repeatedly until the toilet finally flushes itself.  There’s no toilet paper, so you also use the scoop to do the work of TP.  My most memorable experience with this set up was the night I spent in Padangbai.  My 60,000 rupiah/night accommodation did not include TP, so I bought some (conveniently sold by the guesthouse staff) for 3,000 rupiah (about 30 cents).  

Mid-way into my bathroom experience I realized the toilet did not flush and I would need to scoop water to do so.  The water tank was empty, so I turned on the tap.  Then I realized that my feet were getting wet, very wet.  The tank was cracked, so all the water was pouring out, flooding the bathroom floor.  In the rush to turn off the tap, I managed to knock my lovely new roll of toilet paper into the pool of water, leaving me with soggy toilet paper and thinking that perhaps that this was a sign from the Bathroom Gods: when in Bali, do as the Balinese.

Tags: bali, culture, minor mishaps, toilets



I love it - and I thought I was the only one who didn't know how to face w the French-style toilets.

Your picture and description brings me right back to Jakarta!

  Maria Nov 16, 2007 9:31 AM



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