As we are now done for a little bit with the travelling I thought that I would take the time to tell you about a few things that hadn’t made it into blogs. You see, while we are on the move so much is happening and I try not to make the blogs too long so there are bits and pieces that are left out for the sake of economy. Well, now is the time to look back and write about a few of those things. So today I thought I’d share some traveller knowledge gleaned along the way and tell you about thongs (of the feet kind) and toilets.
Now the first thing to know is that these 2 things are incredibly closely linked – a lot closer than you might think.
When we left Aus I had my trusty thongs packed and ready to wear. As with all choices for a long trip, clothing and especially footwear have to be comfortable (I know through hard experience that trying to break in new shoes while travelling can be very painful). My thongs were well loved, comfortable and I knew could withstand the rigours of being worn day in and day out.
Because I knew we were heading into warm weather I only packed my thongs and a pair of hiking shoes as footwear. There was no plan or likelihood of us flouncing into a fancy restaurant where I might need “real” shoes so thongs were my daily go-to shoes.
I’m not sure how familiar you are with thongs (that being of the footwear variety 😉 ) but they come in 2 main types; pluggers and for the sake of a better name, non-pluggers. Pluggers are usually a thin rubber base with a rubber strap that runs between your toes, through the base of the thong and ends with a ‘plug’ to stop it from pulling through. The other non-plugger type of thong has the toe piece sewn into a thicker base and doesn’t involve a hole through the sole.
Now that hole is what is so important. And it is the joining point for thongs and toilets, as I’ll tell in a second. First though lets examine developing country’s toilets, yahoo I hear the crowd cry.
Every place we stayed had a normal western toilet. Depending on the country you may also have a basket/bin where you are expected to put your used toilet paper. Many places do not have the sewerage system to deal with toilet paper. It is not as bad as it sounds – you just use it and pop it in the bin and the cleaners come daily and take it away. Easy and sanitary.
Unfortunately though when you are out and about (restaurants/bars etc) they do not necessarily have the same standard. Well, in nicer places the odds go up but as budget travellers we were usually in local restaurants and bars so we seldom encountered what I would call a nice bathroom. Often there might be a western toilet but it may not have a seat (not that you would ever sit down on one anyway – trust me on that) and it might not flush. The giveaway for the no flush is the large bucket/tub of water with a dipper. Once you are done, fill the dipper and use the water to flush everything away. Again, sounds icky but it is pretty effective and a simple process.
Now if you are very unlucky it will not be a western toilet but a squat. That is a porcelain ‘hole in the floor’ with 2 footpads where you are expected to do exactly as the name implies – squat. These, while purportedly very good for both the back and the bowels (????) are completely unpleasant. The main reason being that in many places there is just one unisex toilet and I am here to tell you – blokes have rubbish aim. The walls and the floor are usually unfinished concrete and urine soaks right in and the smell at squat level can be appalling. I had forgotten how bad it can get until our first bar outing in Sri Lanka and I can tell you – it’s enough to make the eyes water.
So that’s thongs and toilets. But how do they connect. Simple – think about splashing water into a toilet to flush it, or worse still a unisex toilet in a bar with badly aiming blokes. The floor of these toilets can sometimes be nightmarish. Now add a pair of thongs that have a hole in the sole (pluggers) and you can see where I am going with this.
At the bar in Sri Lanka I literally borrowed Daves thongs (non-pluggers) to go to the toilet. The smell was bad enough but the thought of that ‘water’ gooshing up between my toes was too much for this shrinking violet. So, my advice… If you are going travelling in developing countries I would strongly recommend a pair of thongs that have no hole in the bottom and thick soles. Saves a lot of ick and also the hassle of trying to buy a comfortable new pair while on the road 🙂
Oh and even if you are not going to local restaurants and bars a lot of travellers will wear thongs in their hotel/hostel shower to avoid the chance of catching anything foot diseasey – I would still go for non-pluggers for that as well. Trust me – that feeling of liquid-between-toe seepage is not nice.
So on that note, having educated you on the thong-toilet connection, I will leave this delicate conversation and post up a few random piccys. If there is something you would like to ask about our adventures or experiences so far please ask in the comments below. I have plenty of time to share my ‘wisdom’.
Next blog will be about packing and travel in general. A few things I have learnt over the last few months 🙂
Didn’t feel right posting a blog about toilets without at least one toilet photo. Admittedly this is a pretty clean example but it does show the whole idea of the concrete, the dipper and the rubbish bag. Definitely don’t want plugger thongs with that floor 😉
And to finish – this is my idea of money laundering 🙂 The mould had gotten into our passport wallets and the left over money from previous countries had gotten mouldy so I washed it and hung it up to dry heheheh Never know when we might go back to either Nepal or Malaysia and need some rupees.