Ranong - A short history on squat toilets in Asia
Trip Start Mar 28, 2007
4Trip End Jul 20, 2007
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Ranong is another transit town. We checked into the Asia Hotel which I think was a hospital or mental asylum. Rooms have no windows and furnished with peculiar things- a bed-pan, a pair of thongs and a blue telephone (which doesn't work)...at least it had a private bathroom but with a squat toilet!!
I hate squat toilets, squatting like a primate is simply horrifying and for people that have been denied the squatting experience trying to master the act is difficult to say the least.
We had come across the squat in bus stations and on boats...but having one in our room...made life hard...given the circumstances (after all that chicken) we really needed to sit not squat. Anyway, it got me thinking about squatting...yes squatting! So, my spare time in Ranong I compiled 'A short history of squat toilets in Asia'...which is dedicated to my toilet buddy and bestest best friend Lisa...who has had her fair share of squatting experiences in Asia.
The topic of toilets is always hard to broach...but a nonjudgmental (at least I think) Thai lady told me a little about squatting. It appears that squatting is the body's natural position...animals and even little children naturally assume the squatting position when they need to... (um, er, how can I put this politely?) shit. Which brings me to ask why do we have sit-down toilets?
The first squat toilet was discovered in north-west India and is 4,000 years old. To flush, you would pour a pot of water into the loo. Is it not amazing that 4000 years later in Ranong, Thailand were doing just the same thing!
The Romans 753 BC - 410 AD famous for having good plumbing (even though it was lead plumbing) had public toilets where they went to take a crap as well as meet friends, exchange news and gossip. The Romans weren't too fond of paper or leaves to wipe their tushes...they used a communal sponge fixed onto a short wooden stick. You wouldn't want to grab the 'wrong end of that stick'... not surprisingly that old saying does in fact originate from the Romans and their communal shit stick!
Anyway, unlike the Romans, the Saxons were squatting using pots or deep cesspits. Royalty used the luxurious 'close stool', which was a bucket and water tank, with a padded seat. Henry VIII's had a ritzy 'close stool' with a padded seat, trimmed with silk ribbons and studded with gold nails.
In 1596, Sir John Harrington (Godson to Queen Elizabeth I) invented the first water closet with a proper flush for his beloved Godmother. She loved it so much she had another 'John' built at Richmond palace. Tragically, it was destroyed when John died and another 200 years passed before the toilet was reinvented.
I lack any solid evidence here so the following is an account of what I think happened ...I guess the chair-like toilet became extremely popular in the west and everyone wanted one and with the advent of indoor plumbing this was possible. However, the East was not too keen to adopt the 'chair-like toilet'. In Asia they said we don't want your 'chair like toilet' and you can keep the fork too. We're happy squatting and we'll eat with chopsticks...
Later, I read in the Bangkok Post that many physicians blame the modern toilets for the high incidence of ailments such as colon and pelvic disease.
So... squat or you will die of colon disease.
Where I stayed