There is a delicate balance between what you eat and *ahem* regularity that gets all wonky when you travel. It's a deliciously uncomfortable peril of travel that never ceases to stimulate my sense of wonder and my intestines. As you may have guessed, this post consists of potty talk. But since the scene is set in Thailand, it sets it apart from my other potty posts and makes it exotic.
DISCLAIMER: If you have a weak stomach for bodily functions stop reading now.
Or at least stop eating. And maybe go get a barf bag, just in case.
It started off delicious in Bangkok, with a spicy beef salad at lunch. At least that's what I thought at first taste. Until our whole table was overcome with the smell off a full portapotty on a scorching August day. We were dining riverside, it must be polluted with sewage. That's what we thought. Until I took my second bite. And realized my salad was stench ground zero. Welcome to authentic Thai cuisine, which includes the native durian. Otherwise known as the world's stinkiest fruit.
It was a temporary culinary setback. Because it takes more than a putrid malodor to dissuade my adventurous and gluttonous gut. So street food? On a stick even? Filled with all kinds of exotic Thai bacterias? Bring it on!
Since many days I was wearing a bikini and eating pad thai with reckless abandon, I couldn't help but notice my new pad thighs. Not to mention, my white rice consumption was through the roof. Pre-trip I worried my irritable bowel syndrome, combined with my love of spicy red curry and lack of public toilets would result in me shitting my pants. Again. Instead, the opposite happened and I had constipation for the first time in my life. Although uncomfortable, the bonus was that there was more time for sightseeing and less spent anxious, frantically in search of a public toilet. Again.
Oddly, it was constipation that gave me the confidence to up the ante. And go even spicier than I ever had before. Because constipation was my safety net. Until I realized once again my Americanism deceived me. American "hot" is nowhere near what Thai "hot" is. Not in the weather, where we considered making sweat angels on the pavement in Bangkok, and definitely not in the esophagus burning cuisine.
A little coconut water is the remedy. Because my other remedy, wine, is really hard to get in Thailand. And if you do find it, it's both crappy and expensive. And coconut water is cheap and supposed to make you crap. Although I didn't find the latter to be true.
And here we are back at crap. Again.
Because it's an intricate, intertwined cycle.
Which necessitates using the toilet at some point.
Even if you're constipated.
Thailand, like Costa Rica and a lot of the rest of the world, is plagued with poor plumbing. So, while the waste gets flushed down, the paper does not. You are expected to throw the paper that wiped your privates in the trash. Do you know how hard it is NOT to flush the paper down the toilet cause you're on automatic pilot? Because every ounce of your being and forty years plus of potty experience say it's the right thing to do. And cause poop.
Of course it's easier not to flush the paper down if you don't even have toilet paper. And you're squatting over a hole in the floor with only a bucket, some water and your left hand to do the job. While gross, it's really great for the environment. (And a not so delicate reminder to always travel with your own personal stash of wet wipes.)
If you don't find the squat potty challenging enough, just try to pee on a moving train and not dribble any on your pants.
It was in the small town of Hang Dong (no joke, that's the name of the town) where I saw the cleanest, most deluxe squat potty I'd ever encountered in all my travels. But, that's probably because it's so remote that no one uses it.
It was near the end of the trip when we came across a food boat. You know, like food trucks here in the states, but floatier. And as I sat on the beach stuffing my face in a bikini with my pad thighs wondering when I would ever poop again, I raved. "Oh my god, this is so good!" I must've said it six times.
Until dinner came around. And the first kid puked right there next to the table in the restaurant. And then as the evening wore on, one by one, all six of us were puking and shitting. Sometimes at the exact same time. When we clogged the toilet where we were staying, we went outside and spewed on the grass. Oh my god, this is so bad. But, at least I wasn't constipated anymore. Life has a funny way of balancing everything out. Even in Thailand.