Pee Pee Island: A Girl’s Guide to the Asian Squatty Potties

Guidebooks make reference to it – the Asian toilet a.k.a. Squatty Potty. Sure, guidebooks refer to it, but no one from Lonely Planet tells you how to use it. There is no diagram. They let you figure it out. For all of the ladies out there who are planning to travel to Asia, read on.

Trekking through hill tribes in northern Thailand, our guide, Hay, would use the term “Going to Pee Pee Island” when he or someone had to go to the bathroom on the trail – fitting since there is an island in Southern Thailand called Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee). So, I have affectionately decided to start using the term.

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My experience learning to pee in a squatty potty came with much trial and error (wet shoes and pant cuffs too), over the past few months and a few countries. I became somewhat proficient over time.

First, whenever possible, carry some sort of toilet paper with you at all times. In a real squatty potty situation, even in most western ones, there is never toilet paper provided. I have no idea why. The only reason I can come up with is that the plumbing can’t handle excessive paper usage. One way to control that is to not furnish it. Or maybe Thailand just has a shortage of paper products – evidenced by their tiny napkins.

The Western style toilet

toilet sign 2.jpg

Ok – now down to the details. I will start with the western toilet in Asia.

This toilet looks familiar – a throne to sit on. You may be excited to encounter one of these. As you are doing your business, you look around and notice there’s a toilet paper holder, but no toilet paper, of course. Hope you brought your own. You’ll see a large bucket of water beneath a water spout and a small trash can. The bucket has a smaller scoop/dipper floating in it. These items are important, not there for looks, as I had once thought.

Don’t be fooled by the western looking toilet. The plumbing is not good, the flusher may or may not work.

When you’re done, take your toilet paper out of your pocket, throw it in the little trash can. Then go to the bucket of water, use the scooper floating in the water to fill up and pour down the toilet. Do this several times (use your own judgment). This creates a natural flushing mechanism.

Should you be the considerate type, take note of how much water is left in the bucket. If low, turn on the spout and fill it up for the next person.

You have now mastered the Asian Western toilet. You won’t have to worry about this in higher class hotels, mainly public toilets – still good to know!

The squat toilet

The true Asian squatty potty is basically a porcelain hole in the ground raised up off the floor, about four inches. There is no plumbing/flushing mechanism so you will find the typical spout, bucket of water, dipper to flush and a trash can. The squatty potties are not meant to have toilet paper put down them, definitely use the trash can!

toilet sign.jpgUpon entering the foreign abode, you may be confused. Do you stand over the hole? Squat over it? How not to splash? If you’re wearing flip flops, where do you stand? Stand on the “foot rests” – signified by feet platforms on the porcelain structure itself. I’ve put my feet outside the edges of the porcelain structure. It doesn’t work as good, trust me.

Once you’re standing on the foot rests, get your pants out of the drop zone. I squat a bit. This still leaves about three feet between you and the actual toilet, which directly affects the splash factor. Think high school physics – the longer the drop, the more the splash. Reduce the distance between you and the toilet – best way is to get into a catcher’s stance. Now look down. You’re in the best possible position. After you’re finished, use your toilet paper, put it in the nearby trash can, scoop water out of the nearby bucket and pour it down the hole a few times. A few times I poured the water over my feet as I hadn’t mastered the shorter drop zone at that point.

What about the “other stuff”? Assume the catcher’s stance again, same steps, except you may have to refill the bucket for the manual flushing a few more times.

I still remember when I finally figured all this out. I was at a bus terminal in Chiang Mai, so proud I wanted to burst! I bought my toilet paper for three baht, went in, did the catcher’s stance for the first time – and then – noticed some Thai writing – right at my eye level. Eureka! I had found the sweet spot, the writing was right where your eye level was supposed to be! I came out a new woman – a successful new woman! I could have made a diagram for Westerners, sell it outside the public toilet for about 10 baht – more valuable than toilet paper. Maybe that will be my next business – Squatty Potty Cliff Notes with diagram. Wouldn’t you buy it?

There it is – the instructions Lonely Planet doesn’t provide. Hopefully, this information will come in handy. It took me two months to gain this knowledge – my way of giving back! Happy movements!

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  • Robyn Sneed said at 2013-07-21T21:12:45+0000: After living in Asia for several years I can agree with the descriptions. I have a few more tips which I share with close friends...