Monday, April 9, 2012

Malaysian Public Toilets

There's a good chance that one of the first things you'll experience in Malaysia is using the public toilet. You could ask someone "Tandas di mana?" or just look around until you see the universal male/female signs for the bathroom. (On a side note, I once almost entered a room clearly labeled "Perempuan" which means "Woman" to use the toilet before realizing it was the gender-segregated Muslim prayer room.)  When you walk into a stall, you may see this.

It's a squat toilet!

If you're not in the mood to try out a squat toilet, 99.9% of the time there's at least one stall with a Western-style sitting toilet. Just wait until one is available, and indicate to others in line that they are welcome to use the stall with the squat toilet. You may notice that the stall doors go all the way down to the floor. I guess that if people are squatting, they don't want people peeking under just to check if the stall is empty.

The only time that a squat toilet was my only option was in a more rural town than Penang. That experience had me going home and Googling "How to use a squat toilet." Believe me, for a lady, it's not as intuitive as it sounds.

Some people accustomed to squatting have the opposite culture shock problem when faced with a sitting toilet. Upon occasion, you'll notice footprints on the sitting toilet's seat. I guess that's the reason some places post this sign.

Please don't squat on the sitting toilet.

It's interesting that the Western versus Asian toilet styles diverged long before the onset of modern sanitation.  When we were visiting a mock-Edo period village in Japan last week, I noticed that their pretend outhouse literally had just a hole in the wooden floor that was best used while squatting. Compare this to a Texan outhouse.

This outhouse had bench seating for two people.

All toilets whether they're for squatting or sitting usually have a flexible hose next to it. The nice places also have a sprayer attachment on the hose's end. The less fancy places skip the hose and sprayer entirely and just have a bucket of water with a ladle.

Hose off to stay fresh.

Many locals, especially the Muslims, feel that you need to rinse with water down there in order to really clean everything off. Typically the floor and seat are both wet from the spraying down process. Sometimes the walls are wet, too. If you have a hang up about splashed-on potties and floors, get over it before you visit Malaysia! I am sooooo glad that my kids are no longer toddlers because I suspect that they would have hit me with a jet of water or dabbled their hands in the water bucket. When a public restroom doesn't have a hose or bucket, I've seen locals fill up a water bottle at the sink and then bring it in with them for a little squirt cleansing. If everything else gets this wet, I don't understand how they keep from soaking their clothes with water, too.

All that water spraying around is the reason why you rarely find toilet paper in the stalls. Look for it by the sinks or next to the entrance/exit before finding a stall. Many times, it doubles as the way to dry off after hand-washing, too. I carry around tissue paper with me for all the times that the toilet paper is completely absent from the facility.

At hubby's work, numerous companies shared a public bathroom. For a while, toilet paper was never stocked in the bathroom because no one wanted to donate it for another company's use. Instead, hubby's company kept their stash next to the door closest to the bathroom hallway. Employees were supposed to grab what they needed for that one trip on their way out the door. I hear that this especially galled the males since it announced to the world if they were intending to do #1 or #2. Not cool. Due to employee feedback, the revolutionary decision was made to start keeping toilet paper in the bathroom itself. Now all they need to do is invent quick-drying stalls.


  1. I finally found a nice Malaysian public toilet. It's clean, nicely designed, is hygenic, and not smelly. I found it last week in the middle of nowhere in Langkawi. It was so good I went back the next day as well - to take further photos.

  2. My husband is in Malaysia for the first time on business right now. He sent me a very confused text to tell me that the largest bank in the country didn't have TP in the bathrooms. I seriously couldn't even imagine how this would work, so I just had to look it up and Google led me here. He's on his way back to Singapore now and says he's waiting to get back to the airport to go again. Love the info! (Should have looked it up an hour ago.) ;)

    Stephanie from IL

  3. It's really nice to hear the locals gargling and washing their mouths out with the same hose.

  4. Hehe.. I someone told me about this some years ago and it flashed in my mind today so thought to check if this is true. My friend who went to Malaysia for a visit told me that, "Even the most fanciest mall has squat toilets but I must say it's more relieving than normal toilets"

    1. The fancy places have a choice of both squat & Western toilets.



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