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Old 01-24-2014, 09:15 PM
 
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Paying for toilets and using bathroom was often a pet peeve

 
Old 01-25-2014, 01:41 AM
 
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Biggest culture shock - I guess I would say my first trip to China 26 years ago.

I had studied Mandarin for a year in college (I had to campaign and round up potential students just to get the linguistics department to offer one year) and kept it up in preparation. If it hadn't been for that I would have been lost. We spent 4 weeks backpacking in a big loop through southern China and only met 3 Chinese who spoke English at any level.

As much as getting adjusted to Chinese culture/food was getting used to how things worked in a Communist country. We quickly learned that you couldn't just buy tickets to go anywhere - train, bus, airplane all had to be arranged a few days in advance. If you needed to find out if a hotel had rooms and the person at the desk was taking a nap you waited until they woke up and were ready for business.

We even got thrown out of a restaurant before we were completely done with our meal because the staff thought we were taking too long and they wanted to go home.

I'll never forget getting in line at the rail station in Chongqing - we were a couple hours early but the line was already a couple hundred people long and it looked like something out of a Spielberg movie. People had mountains of bags - some no more than clothing tied up in cloth and held together with strings. Others had chickens in cages. We thought we would never stand a chance of getting our seats.
 
Old 01-25-2014, 07:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MelismaticEchoes View Post
Paying for toilets and using bathroom was often a pet peeve
That just jogged my memory of a few experiences about 25 years ago in Thailand. My wife and I were in Chiang Mai and decided to hop a cheap bus to Sukhothai. This was one of those buses that stops along the road on the way to pick or drop off people. The bus was hot (all the woidows were down), the seats were hard as rocks, and the ride was bone-jarring. We made a stop at a bus terminal, either at Lamphun or Lampang, I can't remember which, but it was a pretty small bus station. It was a good chance to hop out and use the restroom. There was a lady as a desk taking money for the restroom, I think about 5-baht and included a couple of squares of toilet paper.

Before heading to pay the lady, I looked through the door of the men's restroom. The floor was flooded with water that was anywhere from one-fourth to a half inch deep. It looked really nasty. At a guess, there was probably either a broken pipe or a plugged toilet. Thai men wearing flip-flops just went in to slog through the muck like it was nothing to go in do their business. I decided to hold it until we got to Sukhothai which was a long bumpy trip. Worst toilet facilities ever, and you had to pay to use it.

Another time we took an air-con bus from SUkhothai to Chiang Mai. The fare for these buses included a stop at a place to eat and relieve yourself. The restrooms at the rest stop reminded me of a maze. The was no signs to indicated which section was for men and which was for woman. I managed to find what I assumed to be the men's 'room'. Interestingly, there was no roof, just concrete walls with a urinal trough and a couple of toilet bowls in the men's 'room' and the sky above. No toilet paper, but a running faucet on the wall to wash your hands.

One time, I went to the Dusit Zoo with some Thai friends, a guy and a girl. It was interesting, and we had plenty to eat and drink. Before heading back to the car, we all decided to head for the public restroom building. it turned out it was occupied by both men and women. For me, it seemed a bit unnerving and strange because I wasn't accustomed to unisex restrooms.

Finally, we stayed at my wife's aunt's house at Sukhothai. My wife was born at Sukhothai, so there were relatives to visit with there. The aunt was a wonderful woman who had cataracts and couldn't see anything. The house was an old sturdy stilt house made of wood. There was a round hole in the floor of the bathroom, which served as a drain when bathing by sloshing water over yourself. But it was also the toilet. No squat pot. Just a hole in the floor. The next morning, we gathered below the house to chat, where there were a number of tables, a hammock, and other odd and ends stored there. Off in the corner on the other side was the sewage looking like a rather foul peaked mountain with bits of toilet paper peeking out here and there and zillions of flies.

Welcome to Thailand!
 
Old 01-26-2014, 02:44 AM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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^ all part of the 'authentic' experience, NightBazaar! I've seen some shocking loos, myself.
 
Old 01-26-2014, 08:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by The Postman View Post
^ all part of the 'authentic' experience, NightBazaar! I've seen some shocking loos, myself.
LOL! Yeah, I guess it is. We all face culture shock to some degree at one point or another. I think the key to reducing the shock is to understand cultural differences. Things like that doesn't really surprise me anymore. Of course, that doesn't always mean 'when in Thailand, do what the Thais do'. If there's no other choice, then that's a different matter.

Thais can experience culture shock as well. I remember flying on Thai airways between BKK and Narita. There was a load of Thais, mostly from Issan, who were hired through an agency, and given free airfare to Japan for contracted work. I went into the restroom on the plane only to find soggy toilet paper all over the floor, some hanging from the toilet seat, footprints on the toilet seat and left unflushed. I'll bet the flight attendents appreciated cleaning up the mess. Evidently, some of these guys are accustomed to using squat pots and don't understand how to use western-style toilets.
Bao-Bao's Blog: Wet Footprints On The Seat

The solution for the 'mountain of poop' under the house is to not look at it or ignore it. As gross as it seems, worms and other organisms do feast on it and it breaks down fairly quick to become nothing more than compost. Breezes blow beneath the stilt houses which helps dry it out and cut down on the stink. Still, it's the idea of it that's gross. But if that's what a person is used to, then it isn't so gross to them. On the other hand, for those of us who are not used to such sights, once it's been seen, you can't unsee it.
 
Old 01-26-2014, 08:48 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,259,807 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightBazaar View Post
LOL! Yeah, I guess it is. We all face culture shock to some degree at one point or another. I think the key to reducing the shock is to understand cultural differences. Things like that doesn't really surprise me anymore. Of course, that doesn't always mean 'when in Thailand, do what the Thais do'. If there's no other choice, then that's a different matter.

Thais can experience culture shock as well. I remember flying on Thai airways between BKK and Narita. There was a load of Thais, mostly from Issan, who were hired through an agency, and given free airfare to Japan for contracted work. I went into the restroom on the plane only to find soggy toilet paper all over the floor, some hanging from the toilet seat, footprints on the toilet seat and left unflushed. I'll bet the flight attendents appreciated cleaning up the mess. Evidently, some of these guys are accustomed to using squat pots and don't understand how to use western-style toilets.
Bao-Bao's Blog: Wet Footprints On The Seat

The solution for the 'mountain of poop' under the house is to not look at it or ignore it. As gross as it seems, worms and other organisms do feast on it and it breaks down fairly quick to become nothing more than compost. Breezes blow beneath the stilt houses which helps dry it out and cut down on the stink. Still, it's the idea of it that's gross. But if that's what a person is used to, then it isn't so gross to them. On the other hand, for those of us who are not used to such sights, once it's been seen, you can't unsee it.
Lol they actually stand on the toilet seat, haha? Kind of inconsiderate of them, Im sure they're not dumb enough to know you're meant to sit on it.

Yeah I've seen toilets with feces everywhere...made rather nauseous...
 
Old 01-26-2014, 11:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by The Postman View Post
Lol they actually stand on the toilet seat, haha? Kind of inconsiderate of them, Im sure they're not dumb enough to know you're meant to sit on it.

Yeah I've seen toilets with feces everywhere...made rather nauseous...
That was an experience of mine some 25 years ago. A LOT of things have changed over the years to be sure. Of course there are people who know that you sit on western-style toilets. But according to Bao Bao's Blog, which is dated only a little over 3 years ago, footprints are still showing up on toilet seats. I'm not the least bit surprised. You'd really need to get out to the sticks to get a better idea about it, out to areas where porcelain squat pots are about the fanciest you'll find in the way of toilets. It's not really about being dumb. It's about how they've been raised, what they've been exposed to, and what they consider as being an ordinary part of their life. That's not to say there aren't any modern conveniences, but life in the cities isn't quite the same as life in the rural areas of the country.
 
Old 01-26-2014, 11:14 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,259,807 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightBazaar View Post
That was an experience of mine some 25 years ago. A LOT of things have changed over the years to be sure. Of course there are people who know that you sit on western-style toilets. But according to Bao Bao's Blog, which is dated only a little over 3 years ago, footprints are still showing up on toilet seats. I'm not the least bit surprised. You'd really need to get out to the sticks to get a better idea about it, out to areas where porcelain squat pots are about the fanciest you'll find in the way of toilets. It's not really about being dumb. It's about how they've been raised, what they've been exposed to, and what they consider as being an ordinary part of their life. That's not to say there aren't any modern conveniences, but life in the cities isn't quite the same as life in the rural areas of the country.
Yes, but it's also about adapting to new circumstances, but yeah, Thailand is still surprisingly rural - Ive seen stats saying it's only 32% urban and 68% rural but I think it's closer to 50/50 now, especially if you consider Bangkok is already what 12 million out of 60 million, 20%. I guess it's plausible, still seems interesting it's quite a bit lower than the 55% urban of China now (up from like 20% in the 1980s).
 
Old 01-27-2014, 12:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by The Postman View Post
Yes, but it's also about adapting to new circumstances, but yeah, Thailand is still surprisingly rural - Ive seen stats saying it's only 32% urban and 68% rural but I think it's closer to 50/50 now, especially if you consider Bangkok is already what 12 million out of 60 million, 20%. I guess it's plausible, still seems interesting it's quite a bit lower than the 55% urban of China now (up from like 20% in the 1980s).
Yes, it's also about adapting. However, there are several ways to look at that. For example, there are a number of things I could adapt to in Thailand. In some aspects that's not a problem and can be beneficial. But there are some things that I have in interest, desire or need, in terms of adaptation because it may go against the grain of who I am or just isn't essential. With regard to some of the rural folks in Thailand, some of these people have been born and raised in small villages, communities and farms. Believe it or not, but there are quite a few rural folks who have little to no education. It's not unusual for rural kids to drop out of school at rather young ages in order to help the family. Can they adapt? Of course they can. But in this case, the adaptation depends on the exposure to whatever it is they need to adapt to.

To be fair, not every toilet outside of BKK or other sizable cities are squat pots. Modernization is reaching out all over the country. The 12 million population figure you mention for Bangkok is for the greater metro area of Bangkok which is very large indeed and includes other provinces within the greater metro area. But just because BKK is an urban center, doesn't mean that everything is westernized. I don't know of any stats that show percentages of squat pots vs western-style commodes, but I'd hazard a guess to say that squat pots and other makeshift provisions far outnumber the western-style toilets in BKK alone. Here are a few more related links worth reading about squat pots and footprints.

Note the ones with photos of signs regarding the use of western-style toilets.
Thailand Isn't Too Happy About Switching to Western-Style Toilets - John Metcalfe - The Atlantic Cities
Instructions for Using Thai Toilets | Richard Barrow in Thailand
Going To The Bathroom Abroad: The Butt Hose Edition | Lonely Girl Travels
How to Use a Squat Toilet Like a Pro

And then there are the slums of BKK which include Khlong Toei, Khlong Tan, and Phra Khanong. There are a lot of people who live in the slums of BKK. That's not including the greater metro area which widens the slum population but are more scattered. A lot of these people moved into BKK from other provinces to find work that pays more than just working on the family farm. Some become disillusioned and end up returning back to their rural homes where life is hard, but not quite as hectic and crazy as the big cities, and there are people you know instead of seeing strangers each day.
slums of Bangkok, Klong Toey by Zachary Gervais on Prezi

The thing is that while a person may be aware of western-style toilets, some don't seem to have a clear idea of exactly how these things are supposed to be used. So, up they go with feet on the seat because squat pots are what they know and what they're used to. Thus, signs are sometimes posted here and there to be informational and instructive for people who simply don't know. Sure they adapt, but it's not always right off the bat when they're fresh off the farm. Again, you'd really have to go out to the rural communities to better understand it.

To give you an idea of a rural area, below are some links of photos of a house we built in the province of Saraburi.

This photo show the road. To the right, is to the property of the house itself. At the end of the main stretch it looks like it ends. It doesn't. It makes a sharp turn to the right then another sharp turn to the left, which heads out to a main (but still narrow) concrete road.
http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/6451/drivewaybc4.jpg

This is a photo of the house after it was built. It's pretty rural. It was actually built more like a 4-plex. There are four bathrooms. One is a western-style toilet (you still have to slosh water into it to flush it) and the other three are squat pots. The place has electricity, but no phone lines. There's a pump that delivers water, but you can't drink it because it isn't fit for human consumption. Bottled water is used for drinking.
http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/1333/housegi8.jpg

Here are a couple of pics behind the house. Papaya, banana and a large mango tree.
http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/6...ndhouseey1.jpg
http://img504.imageshack.us/img504/8451/bananaxx6.jpg

Some of my wife's family are living there. I have no interest in spending the rest of my life there because it really is too remote. If there was a medical emergency, the nearest hospital is in the city of Saraburi which is too far away. There are no ambulances, so to get to a hospital means someone would have to take you there, most likely in the back of a pickup, and there's no guarantee someone would be around to take you there. Essentially, the house is more like a family compound.

I like visiting, but I definitely don't intend to live there. Is it culture shock? I don't think so. I know the area and I know the people there. I also know that for me, the cons outweigh the pros. Could I live there? Sure, if there was no other option.
 
Old 02-02-2014, 11:34 AM
 
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
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Most to least: South Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong

Almost no English spoken in Korea or China. Hard for a foreigner to get around and eat, etc. Much better in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
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