Posted by: Ted | January 28, 2008

Vegetable Sprayers in the Loo?

After spending a few months in Southeast Asia I can make two proclamations with conviction: First, everyone has diarrhea. Second, there is no Pepto Bismol on this continent. On the latter comment I have searched dozens of shops in so many cities and have turned up nothing. Nada. Zero. Bupkis. On the former, I suggest that it is simply a matter of deductive reasoning. Don’t get me wrong, I love the diverse flavors in the cuisine of Southeast Asia and can’t seem to get enough of it but after a few months it hits you: Where is the fiber and grain in this diet? Where are the fresh vegetables, salad and roughage? Fried of course. But if that doesn’t convince you, just visit the toilets with the urgency of most everyone else.

One of the best-kept secrets in any nightclub or public restroom that is not discussed in mixed company is “the hover”. While the guys may be scratching their heads on this term, the girls are nodding in understanding, hoping I won’t elaborate any further. Guess again. Simply stated, most American women avoid sitting on a public toilet seat so they perfect their own style of accomplishing their business without physically touching the toilet seat. Like a chopper pilot holding short of landing. If you’re good at this maneuver, this method will come in handy when visiting Malaysia. Although the western style toilets are beginning to show up in more expensive establishments, the Malaysian standard is still the norm.


The Malaysian toilet is simply a hole in the floor, hopefully connected to a sewer system but there are no guarantees. Sometimes you get a flush handle on the wall. Sometimes you get a bucket of water with a scoop. Fancy ones are even tiled like a country club bathroom. But the ever-present “vegetable sprayer” is always nearby. Since this is a predominantly Muslim country, the preferred method of concluding your business is not toilet paper but a generous “hosing down” when you are finished. In fact, few facilities even have toilet paper so you learn to carry your own. Cleanliness of these restrooms ranges from one end of the scale to the other but generally corresponds with the pricing structure of the business it is located in. That explained, I can return from this digression to support my first point stated earlier.

Examine most of these restrooms and you will plainly see the remnants of earlier patrons who are obviously suffering from the same diarrhea problems that I have had since heading north from Singapore. My suggestion to these businesses is please supply a bigger scoop and bucket or try adding a longer “vegetable sprayer” with higher pressure to chip away at the problem and provide more sanitary facilities. That will be easier than convincing the population to change their diet and eat more fresh foods. Come to think of it, what basis does an American have to tell other countries about a healthy diet? Guess I will keep my mouth shut and my belt open for a few more months as I continue sight seeing the facilities heading northbound.



  1. OH MY!!!!!! very interesting 🙂 I guess i’ll experience foreign restrooms in your eyes. We Americans are way too spoiled!

  2. Heather – I’ve had so much fun reading about your travels! You’re definitely not sitting at home watching time pass you by! Your sister passed on your website to my sister (Crystal) then to me. I can’t wait to hear more about China! Take care, Carrie (Pearson) Huhtanen

  3. Wow. A honeymoon suite and diarrhea. Nice combo.

    So are Americans spoiled or just prefer not to walk around in their own poop?

    You know my opinion on that one.

  4. WOW !!! Might I suggest some baby wipes? Having recently had to use them ( on the baby, not me sick-o ) they are very efficient at cleaning what ever area that needs cleaning. Good luck in Cambodia ! You and aunt Heather be careful and enjoy your time where ever you. When you get home sick and want to come back we have a room available, if you dont mind 4 dogs, 2 chickens, 2 ducks, and a baby.

  5. I would almost feel sorry for you…but having visited Malaysia myself I totally understand the toilet situation. I must add that I hope you were informed about shaking hands in Malaysia. There is only one hand acceptable for this custom because the other one is used for wiping a certain area of your body on a regular basis! I hope this was mentioned to you…if not…too late!

  6. eewwwwww! I would have to pass…I have nightmares that I can’t find a clean toilet to pee, this would freak me out!

  7. Wait until you find foot prints on the toilet seat! As western style hotels are being built they do install standard western style toilets. However the Malaysian staff don’t like to sit on them either! Instead, they actually STAND on the toilet seat and squat the way they do with the hole in the floor!

  8. Soon after I arrived in the Philippines I found black shoe sole marks on toilet seats, and I didn’t know why. I was distracted by wonderment at the hoses (usually without sprayers), buckets of water, buckets of poop tissue, lack of tissue rolls, hot water and soap… Eventually I saw dark grey shoe print/boot prints on a toilet seat, so I realized that Filipinos would stand on then squat over toilet seats. Most restrooms that had toilet bowls didn’t have seats attached! Then I went to Malaysia and found that many places had not toilet bowls, with or without seats, but rather these ceramic basins in the wet floors. Lovely. I am so glad to be back in the U.S.!

  9. Asian toilets can be pretty bad. Nobody seems to clean them…. ever. I would not call them restrooms, resting is something one would not be advised to do. Asians consider sitting down on a seat where somebody else has taken a dump is pretty dirty too and you know how guys miss…. All pretty obvious really.

    After using the veg sprayer or rinser in Asia for the last 8 years, I am now lost with out one since moving back to Europe. Feel dirty if I can’t wash after wiping my ass, I am amazed that westerners really consider that wiping with dry tissue will ever make one clean… It’s what one gets used to I guess. The bidet needs to make a serious come back in the west it would save a LOT of paper too.

    Pepto Bismol is a US drug, there are many modern alternatives available in Asia and probably better at a fraction of the price. Most pharmacies can supply them.

    Pity no blog about Cambodia, suggest staying longer in one place, please forgive me for saying that your blog is a bit naive, you need to lose what I call the Disneyland syndrome, most backpackers see the world as big theme park. Oh, and its not better or worse than home, its just different.

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