Friday, July 6, 2012

Life Without Toilet Paper

As I explained to a friend the other day, my life really isn’t that exciting most days. I really just go to work, eat, sleep and go grocery shopping on the other side of the world. However, there is one big difference I’d like to discuss today: Toilet Paper. 

I once had a roommate that despised buying toilet paper, not because she didn’t see a reason for it but more because she saw it as flushing money down the toilet. Well Jenn, I think you would love to know that I haven’t bought toilet paper once since I moved to Indonesia 6 months ago. 

But how is that possible you ask? Well, for starters most asian toilets or rather plumbing is not designed for toilet paper and unless you carry around your own role you are unlikely to find it in any public stall. Instead it is best to quickly adapt to local practices and orientate yourself to the water bucket method. So for all those first time asian travelers or those curious to go No-TP at home here are some useful tips for living a life without toilet paper:

Typical Indonesian Style Toilet with Mandi (Photo credit:

BYOW (Bring Your Own Water): Don’t assume there will be running water in the toilet or even a full bucket near by to flush afterwards. Check before you do your business. Often there will be a spout or well pump near by where you can fill up a bucket for flushing the toilet and cleaning yourself. 

The Left Hand: In many countries the left hand is seen as the “dirty” hand and with good reason. Your left hand along with water essentially replaces the role of toilet paper. And before the days of regular handwashing and proper sanitation greeting someone with your left hand or taking part in a communal meal with your left hand was a sure way to spread disease.

Wet Pants:  My biggest worry when first using the bucket method was that I would end up with wet pants. Trust me its an awkward angle to try and clean yourself when in a squat over a pit toilet with a small bucket of water, pants most definitely get in the way. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to remove your pants. Simple. Ensure the door is securely locked. Remove your pants and hang them on the door. Do your business. Rinse off. Give a shake and you’ll never have to worry about wet pants ever again. 

My Bathroom in Ende, water hose included! 
The Water Hose is Superior: The bucket method does the job but the water hose is far superior. Honestly all toilets should come with a water hose attachment. User-friendly and seriously your butt has never felt so clean. 

Don’t Flush Anything Down: Unlike typical plumbing systems in North America, Asian plumbing is not equipped to handle toilet paper (same goes for feminine hygiene products). Unless you want a big mess on your hands, don’t flush it down.

Bring your own Bag: If you do insist on still using toilet paper, make sure you are prepared before you go to do your business. Most toilet stalls will not have a trash bin so bring a small plastic bag to dispose of your used tissue (extremely useful tip for female travelers needing to dispose pads or tampons!)

I hope these tips help make your next trip to the Comfort Room a little more comfortable :)

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