Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 2 February 2017
So you’re traveling and you end up in Indonesia. Suddenly, you wind up lining up at the sitting toilet booth, while the squatting toilet is free. It’s intimidating. You skip the option and stay in line, dancing awkwardly, holding in pee. Once you’re in the booth, you’re left confused. There’s a bucket of water? A bin full of used toilet paper? Why is it suddenly complicated? In that 2 by 1-meter cubicle, you wished you knew more about Indonesian toilets, before you were stuck in one.
Toilets are the most and least favorite talked about topic, when traveling. Toilets are different all around the world, and considering most humans have the same nature calling, anyone who travels will have the challenge of using whatever local toilet there is. Eventually, travelers will have stories about toilets and Indonesia is not too foreign from the list. From our travels, we learned that some people have no idea on how to use the common Indonesian toilet or bathroom. Maybe, we can give you some pointers.
While you’ll most likely find the usual sitting toilets in modern urban structures, Indonesian toilet default is the squat toilet. Derived from the phenomenon of a hole in the floor, the more modern version still involves having your knees up to your chest while doing your business.
Health wise, the bowel movement is assisted during the squatting position, no need to push as hard, especially when constipated. However, if you’re not used to squatting for a good 5 minutes, you’ll get cramps. Having cramped legs during number two is an extreme challenge! Choices are bare with the cramps or cut things shorts. Gah!
In the default bathroom, you’ll find a bucket filled with water and smaller scoop-like device called ‘gayung’. When finished with business, then you take a scoopful of water and splash it on your private parts. When number 2, we use our left hands to clean with water and wash up afterward. That’s why, sometimes you’ll find soap in a toilet.
Gross? Relative. For some, cleaning with water feels more hygienic, rather than with toilet paper. For some, they can’t stomach the ass touching. It might be an acquired skill.
My mother can’t live without a bucket of water in the toilet. The mini bucket on the toilet is a ‘gayung’.
In more modern Indonesian structures, toilets provide both, tissue and water to clean. Most of the time, it’s in the form of a hand pump or hose that’s connected to a tap, located beside the closet. You can also find taps beside the seats to release water. Once finished with wasting, we pump water to clean up, and in the case of number two, sometimes we don’t even have to touch our ass.
The problem for me of these pumps is that there’s no default pressure. Sometimes it’s to weak, leaving me holding the pump too close to my privates. Sometimes, it’s too hard, making things painful. Ouch! So beware and test the water. Literally!
The automated flush is a luxury. Not all toilets in Indonesia have these buttons or levers that can help you throw all your waste to a far far land. If any, not all work well. Our default is that we flush ourselves using the water from the bucket. This requires skill. At times of pooping, one or two pieces can get away from your manual flush, thus you need to keep the water coming and heavy to get those suckers down. I’ve been through a few moments like this; it’s a battle of the sinking ship! Hiya! And it’s a bummer if you find a toilet without buckets of water but the flush is week. Prob.Lem.
In consideration to water amount, the manual flush is so much water friendly. You can control the amount of water you use to flush. Sure, you have the small button for the limited amount of water, but in public toilets I find more broken buttons than working ones. Eventually, flushing big time even for pee.
You might find it odd to see a trash can just for used tissues, but there’s a whole set of issues when it comes to tissues. First, not all Indonesians understand which is toilet paper and which is plain tissue. So, public toilet managements don’t encourage flushing them down toilets as sometimes we use normal tissues. This too, sometimes, is because the toilet doesn’t supply toilet paper, while some of us grew up with them. So, people use any kind of tissues, including paper towel if necessary.
Still think it’s odd that we confuse toilet paper and regular tissue? You won’t be as soon as you find your first roll on the dining table.
Second, most of the Indonesian toilets and drainage system were made to support the default toilets, meaning water treatments didn’t incorporate degradable tissues as part of the material that needs to be treated. Thus, when people start doing it, there will be clogging. I confirmed this with a friend that used work for a private water treatment company. Hence, throw your used tissue in the smaller bin within the cubicle, unless otherwise.
Nature calling is for everyone, and we figure, these tips are too. Considering all toilets are quite similar around Asia, these tips might do some good when traveling the area. Well, except for Japan. They have their own world of toilets, ones worthy to be in ‘Ripleys Believe It or Not’.