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.