Toilets of Southeast Asia

For sanitary facilities, I rank Thailand very high. Toilets are found easily throughout the country, especially at petrol stations; they are always clean, and there is always plenty of water, and they are never crowded.

Exceptions in Thailand are the large Western supermarkets, such as Tesco and Carrefour, as well as large airports. In these institutions, the planners and managements have adopted Western sitting toilets, and instead of water, they provide toilet paper (which one is supposed not to flush down but to throw into a basket that is emptied maybe twice a day).

This definitely is a development into the wrong direction. Proper anal cleanliness requires water, lots of water. A whole role of toilet paper cannot provide half as much anal cleanliness as does half a bucket of water, used for washing, not for flushing.

I find it amazing that Europeans, with their high level of economic development, are, by and large, toilet paper societies, with the exception, probably not by accident, of the one country that is considered the most sexual one in Europe (France), where at least bidets are widely used.

And I find it amazing that young Europeans are not trained in proper sanitary hygiene, which requires thorough washing (best with soap), after each defecation.

While Thailand has the best sanitary facilities, proper sanitary habits are common not just in Thailand but several other Southeast Asian countries as well, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. In all three, toilet tissue may be found rather on restaurant tables than in toilets. (And it is found on restaurant tables in these countries precisely because toilet paper is not associated with defecation: people in these countries do not wipe their asses, they wash them.)

The worst sanitary facilities, and the worst sanitary habits, of the world are found in China (which, of course, only partially is in Southeast Asia). Countries in Southeast Asia with a very large percentage of Chinese immigrants are tainted by Chinese sanitary habits, even if otherwise they are very clean, such as Singapore. Sanitary habits based on paper are inferior to those based on water. Period. No marble floors, and not even gold-plated fittings, are substitutes for ample water supply.

Every way you look at it, China is worst for sanitary installations and sanitary habits.

It starts with Chinese eating habits: plenty of vegetables, especially cabbage. Plenty of spices, especially garlic. The digestive results are feces that are voluminous, soft, discharged at frequent intervals, and extraordinarily odorous. On the contrary, a diet that is tilt towards either meat or simple starches results in less frequent defecation, less odorous feces, and fewer challenges as far as anal hygiene is concerned.

Unfortunately, China also has a long tradition in the use of human feces as fertilizers, especially in vegetable gardens.

And all of this goes hand in hand with a rather low privacy level for defecation. In China, there just isn't as much a taboo zone for doing private business.

Rural Chinese toilets are just a ditch in the ground over which people squad one behind the other. I call this communal shitting. And men smoke and strike a conversation while sitting one behind the other. I find it amazing how Chinese people can operate both at the same time: the mouth and the anus.

There never is any water for anal washing in Chinese toilets, and the Chinese seem to get around with just three or four leafs of tissue.

There often isn't even any water for individual flushing. Everybody just adds his feces on top of his predecessor's. After certain intervals, the whole mess is flushed by somebody with a few buckets of water, quite possibly into a container which is then used to assure that Chinese farmers indeed grow the largest cabbages in the world.

In cities, toilets are usually a bit better. The ditch is set in tiles, flushing is more frequent, and disposal is into a sewer system, not a vegetable garden. But there often still is an almost complete lack of privacy. Seldom there are cabins for privacy. If one is lucky, there may be divisions that are about 30 cm (12 inches) high.

Chinese people don't mind. From childhood, they are much more used to doing private business in public than are contemporary Europeans or Americans. Pre-school children wear pants that are slit along the anal fold, so that they can shit anytime, anywhere without the necessity to take off any clothing. Primary school children, especially boys, will urinate about anywhere in full public view.

I am a highly sexualized person. I cannot familiarize myself with these standards, neither the lack of cleanliness, nor the lack of privacy.

Quite possibly, the Chinese can, because traditionally, they may be the least sexualized nation of the world. Notwithstanding the fact that Chinese emperors had harems with thousands of beautiful girls, and, furthermore, not withstanding the fact that young urban Chinese have new ideas, the Chinese, until not so long ago, neither were sexuality-focused, nor were they sexually very active. The sanitary situation may have had something to do with it.

Chinese traditionally do not practice oral sex, and if I imagine their anal hygiene, this is not surprising. Wiped asses are not clean, which puts up a definite barrier to oral-anal preferences, at least for the general populace. Wiped asses also radiate unpleasant odors to surrounding areas, which additionally creates reservations against oral-genital contact.

Nevertheless, the article under the following link suggests that Chinese men request oral-anal contact from prostitutes:

(Search for the following phrase: nine clouds)

But most mainstream Chinese, especially in rural areas, until now not even kiss. This is one possible explanation why in China, oral hygiene is just as bad as anal hygiene. When kissing anyway is not a sexual practice, there obviously is much less of an incentive for oral hygiene. See the following link for a scientific reference:

(Search for the following phrase: rural couples kiss)

Parallel to the fact that the Philippines and Indonesia have decent sanitary habits (though toilets, especially public toilets, are not as clean as those in Thailand), both countries are also in general more sexualized than China.

Sanitary installations and sanitary habits are less clean in Malaysia, even though the country is richer than the Philippines and Indonesia. Quite possibly, the large Chinese population in Malaysia has a negative impact on the standards.

Vietnam is almost as bad as China, though there usually is better privacy, and often, there is water. Cambodia's sanitary habits are water-based, not tissue-based, but there is a great lack of toilets, and shitting in the open is quite common, even in Phnom Penh.

Japanese computerized toilet

Instructions for a Japanese computerized toilet


Index of all articles


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6 Martin V. Melosi, The Sanitary City: Environmental Services in Urban, Pages displayed by permission of University of Pittsburgh Pre. Copyright.