Readers' Submissions

Intestinal Fortitude in Krabi

  • Written by The GL
  • April 22nd, 2008
  • 10 min read


This is sort of a different kind of submission. No exotic tale of sexual prowess nor story of a man jilted and conned by a poor Isaan farmer’s daughter turned greedy bargirl. Not a treatise on the comparative advantages / disadvantages of Thai culture versus Western culture. This is just a simple story of an average guy’s Thai experience with something we could all run into.

I did research before my first time going to Thailand. I have heard about them and read about them but I have never seen them. They were, and still are, strange and a bit frightening to me. I am referring to the dreaded Asian squat toilet.

When I first encountered one in the kingdom, I must admit I was at quite a loss on how it worked. There was just the ceramic bowl, sitting there flush against the floor. No plumbing connected to it, just a large plastic bin of water with half of a cut up plastic jug for a scoop. No toilet tissue anywhere. And what is the deal with those footpads? I had no idea how to use it and was just thankful I had no need to do anything other than take a leak. Squat toilet instructions aren’t the sort of subject I felt comfortable asking anyone about and they certainly weren’t posted on the wall of the toilet. Once in a bar, after a few beers, I asked an Australian drinking companion if he knew how they worked. He said he didn’t know and if he ever had to take a dump he would just head back to his hotel. Wise advice I thought. Maybe it is the Westerner in me, but some of the toilets I have encountered in Thailand made me think twice about doing my business there. Almost if it was too disgusting to do it. Don’t get me wrong, the Thais don’t have the market cornered on crummy toilets. They are everywhere including the West. I am reminded of my college days when a girlfriend had too much to drink and went into our fraternity’s bathroom to throw up. She said it was so disgusting she had to first clean the toilet a bit before she could bring herself to throw up in it. Now I knew what she meant. A few times I have encountered some Thai toilets where I opted not to wash my hands on the basis that whatever germs I got from touching my cock were much less dangerous than the germs lurking around the sink. I vowed that there would never be any reason for me to use a squat toilet to do anything other than take a leak.

Fast forward to another year and another trip. I had made some Thai friends over the Internet and I always stop to see them whenever I head to the LOS. They were female, but it was strictly a platonic relationship. I was joined by my buddy Paul on this trip and we met up with my friends in Phuket. Since I am a fan of the James Bond movies, I expressed an interest in going to James Bond Island. We rented a car and headed out to Krabi province. After a nice drive through the Southern Thai countryside, and getting lost several times, my friends finally found the place they were looking for. It was a rickety old boat launch, one of those places that a tourist would never find on their own. My friends told us to stay in the car and out of sight while they went to negotiate a rate for a boat tour. My friend’s car had dark tinted glass so it was hard to see in. My Thai friends came back with a pretty good rate on a two hour boat tour. We were leaving in a few minutes. My buddy and I got out of the car and you should have seen the look on the boat owner’s face. I don’t speak Thai, but I think he said something like “Son of a bitch, if I knew two fat assed farangs were involved I would have charged them 5 times as much as I did.” It literally pays to have Thai friends looking out for you. I noticed a toilet at the far side of the parking lot and I decided to go and take a leak. The bathroom was one of the more disgusting ones I have seen in Thailand. It was dirty, haphazardly built and I wouldn’t be surprised if the sewage ended up in the nearby channel. I once again repeated my vow from above. Squat toilets are for pissing only.

The boat ride was quite an experience. We took a leisurely paced tour down a back bay channel out towards the open water. We passed some impressive rock formations and a floating village. We rode through some caves that had some outstanding stalagmites and stalactites. We observed many kayakers out on a tour of the surrounding bay. Of course my Thai friends made sure we had plenty of snack food and beer for the journey. The weather was sunny but not too hot and there was a nice breeze blowing across the water to cool us off. After an hour or so, we came to James Bond Island. I recognized the mushroom shaped rock. The one in The Man With the Golden Gun movie, where the solar panels came out of it and powered the solar death ray gun. There was a little dock on the island with a few huts selling various wares. When the driver said there was a 20 USD fee to dock there, we decided that was too much money to pay to essentially go on a mini shopping excursion on a small rock in the middle of the water. We settled for riding around the island and taking pictures.

Our boat ride continued and we returned to the floating village and docked near a large restaurant called Panyee Mutearra Seafood. It was a beautiful wooden structure built on a dock over the water. We then had a nice long lunch consisting of a variety of delicious seafood items. Unfortunately we drank all of the beer we took with us and since the establishment was a Muslim one, they didn’t have any beer for sale. Too bad because those beers were sliding down nicely. Now at the time, I had been in Thailand about two weeks. With a steady diet of all kinds of Thai food, especially street vendor food, my stomach was feeling a bit queasy. Too much mystery meat on a stick and other odd assortments of unidentified food my friends urged me to try. When I asked what it was, they would merely reply “It have good taste.” I trusted them so I ate it. I also had the bad habit of going to my hotel room at night, sometimes quite inebriated, and brushing my teeth and forgetting to not drink the tap water. All of this tended to wreak havoc on my internal organs. I thought I would head to the restaurant’s toilet for some welcomed relief. I was glad to see they had the Western style toilets but I was alarmed to see the entire floor of the establishment covered in about a 2-3 cm layer of “mystery liquid.” It wasn’t just water, it had a greenish brown look to it and smelled really foul. I didn’t want to risk dropping my drawers and having it touch that stuff. I decided I didn’t have to go that bad and the urge passed. I went back to the table and saw that more food had arrived. The Thais sure know how to eat!

After we finished that round of food, and another, and another, and yet another, it was time to head back to the boat. At that point I felt pretty bloated from the beer we drank all morning and the massive amounts of food we just ingested. We got in the boat and when we got about 2 meters away from the dock, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach and I had the feeling that I probably should have risked getting my drawers covered with mystery liquid back in the restaurant toilet. We had about a 45 minute ride back to the boat launch. In a few minutes, the pain in my stomach was so sharp it nearly made me double over. It was like that one TV commercial for a laxative in the States, it said “When you got to go, you got to go.” Well that’s what I felt like. I thought I was going to explode yet I was in the middle of the bay with at least 30 minutes to the dock. There was nothing around but water, swamps, and steep rocks. The pain was getting to be excruciating and it took all my concentration to control the urge. I didn’t even want to move much. My friends kept pointing out things for me to look at, but I could barely turn because the pain was so intense and the urge to go to the toilet was so strong. I didn’t want to have a rather unpleasant incident. I thought at one point I was just going to have to hop over the side of the boat and take care of the problem. Those 30 minutes were some of the longest minutes of my life. Though there was a nice cool breeze, I had sweat pouring off me from concentrating so hard on controlling my intestinal activity. Finally the boat dock came into view. My thoughts raced to the crummy bathroom in the parking lot. I was just hoping I could make it there in time. Standing up made the pain worse. I told my friends that I would be right back and I walked slowly yet as fast as I could to the toilet. As for my vow to only take a leak in a squat toilet, well that day it went out the window. When I walked in to the crummy toilet I thought that it was the most wonderful sight I have ever seen. Relief was instantaneous albeit quite violent. And when it came right down to it, you improvised on figuring out how to use the squat toilet. Trust me, in that situation, anyone will figure it out. Just goes to prove again, Thailand will make you do things you never thought you would or could do! By the way, Wikipedia has great links on how to use the squat toilet. But it sure makes me think twice about shaking hands with anyone from a country where they are regularly used. Now I know why they wai all the time in Thailand.

Back home I went to visit my buddy Paul, who likes to take a lot of pictures of his travels and then display them on his wall. I noticed there was one of me taken on the leg of the James Bond Island boat tour after the restaurant. Now Paul is an intellectual man, very cultured and refined. He pointed to the picture and told me that he liked it because I was gazing out over the scenery in a serious and reflective manner. He said he envisioned me contemplating lofty things like the uniqueness of Thai culture or the economic plight of the people who lived in the floating village, or perhaps the filming techniques employed in the James Bond movie filmed there in the 1970s. He asked me if I remembered what I was thinking about at that moment. I said yes I did. At the time, I was thinking that I hoped like hell I wouldn’t shit my pants before I got back to the crummy toilet at the boat dock. The next time I visited him the picture was no longer hanging on the wall.

Stickman's thoughts:

Great story! I sure can relate!!!