First Time with Travellers Diarrhoea – A Tale of Two Toilets – Part One
First time using the bidet shower – or “Bum Gun”
I have historically prided myself on a reasonably strong constitution when it comes to my gastroenteric system. I have only one memory – as a child – of getting food poisoning. After a celebratory roast for the amateur dramatic group of which I was a member, I was laid up for 2 days, hurling vomit and rushing to the toilet at semi-frequent intervals. Despite the meal having been from a carvery, and containing a wide variety of meats, I blamed the parsnips, which only re-entered my acceptable food list last Christmas.
More recently, I had a bout of infective gastroenteritis, which had me off work for two weeks and which – after a semi-urgent trip to hospital to rehydrate me by saline drip – provided a valuable lesson on the importance of drinking plenty when you’re excreting liquid on an hourly basis.
Fast forward a couple of months, to the day following our first dip in the South China Sea – which saw me imbibing a sizeable amount of water. We booked into a hotel – or attempted to – as our room would not be ready for an hour. It was roughly around this point that my stomach turned for the first time, providing a feeling all too familiar from a few weeks before. Laura disappeared off to procure some water and snacks, as we had eaten a small breakfast, leaving me in the toilet-less lobby of the hotel with a ticking time bomb located somewhere in my digestive system. At least if something went wrong, she wouldn’t have to bear witness.
Eventually the room became ready, and we checked in and went up to the room, praying (for both our sakes) that the lift, groaning and whirring as we ascended, didn’t suffer a malfunction.
Getting to the correct floor, we went into the room, I flung a set of headphones at Laura and practically broke the bathroom door down. Sitting on the toilet, I made a stark discovery: that there wasn’t a huge amount of toilet paper to use.
Malaysia is considered by some as having the worst toilets in the world – a notion backed up by my experience in the changing room/toilet from the day before. Toilet paper provides a difficulty with the infrastructure, as the pipes can become blocked all too easily. The solution to this is a small shower attachment placed adjacent to the toilet called a bidet shower. It has also been dubbed – rather more charmingly – the Bum Gun in a lot of blogs. Usually having a tap to allow you to set the pressure, and a simple on/off trigger on the handle, the idea of the Bum Gun is that it allows you to spray away any excess excrement, before using a smaller amount of tissue to ensure that you’re dry and clean. This normally goes in the bin which, if not maintained, can lead to some very smelly toilets. This would be for one of the better toilets – some less well stocked toilets contain a bucket of water, no toilet paper and the best that you can manage with your imagination.
I saw the lack of toilet paper, the shower attachment, and the placement of the bin next to the toilet. This was definitely a toilet where the bidet shower was meant to be used. Naturally, I turned to the internet to help. It seemed fairly straightforward – set the pressure, do a couple of test squirts in the direction of the plug hole (found in almost every bathroom I’ve come across out here), and then aim for your backside for real.
After turning the tap all the way around, pulling the trigger, and unleashing a torrent of water at the wet room plug that had the potential to fire me pinwheeling off the seat, I realised that the process would probably require a bit of refinement. I turned the tap down, letting out test sprays here and there until I hit upon the perfect flow. I let go of the trigger to stop the water, shuffled forward on the seat and aimed. And prayed.
I more or less managed to hit the target, and with the cold water providing a brief respite from the hot climate, it was surprisingly refreshing. After a few seconds was able to stand up and use the remaining toilet paper to pat my posterior dry. Mission successful.
Over the next few hours, courtesy of my floundering gut, I became reasonably adept with the shower head. Once the Loperamide began to take hold, I felt safe enough to take our flight the following morning.