Asia is a great teacher. It has taught us how to haggle, fry up a Pad Thai, and wear embarrassing elephant pants daily. It also presents a number of fantastic toilet paper alternatives, perfect for these apocalyptic times we find ourselves in.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks (and if you have, please can I join you?), you will have heard that the world has gone bloody crazy. COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across the globe and it seems that aside from a persistent cough and a high temperature, the most noticeable symptom of the pandemic is sheer stupidity.
So much so, that we are now in the midst of a global toilet roll crisis.
To begin with, I thought that the public had simply misread the symptoms and believed COVID-19 to cause excessive amounts of diarrhoea. However, with the 24/7 updates going out daily, I have to conclude that people have just lost their shit. See what I did there?
If you have just embarked on your weekly shop with cheeks clenched, hoping to grab the last toilet roll before you’re due to meet Mr Hanky, I fear you are going to be disappointed. All around the world, shops have been ravaged, leaving no bog roll for the taking. Fear not though, we backpackers are already prepared for this.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce the best toilet paper alternatives, inspired by travelling to Asia!
Best Toilet Paper Alternatives Inspired by Backpacking Asia:
1. Bum Gun
Our saviour! It is the backpacker favourite: the bum gun! Used in many countries over Southeast Asia, the bum gun is a handheld bidet that allows you to clean yourself using a jet of water.
Whilst the bum gun does take a little getting used to (your first attempt will certainly leave you looking like this: 😳), after a few tries you will wonder how you ever got by before you stumbled upon this highly efficient invention.
Don’t beat yourself up too much if your first experience with a bum gun leaves you looking like you’ve just jumped into a swimming pool, it has happened to us all at some point. Check out these bum gun tips to perfect your technique!
2. Japanese toilet
Japan is famous for a whole range of things… anime, sushi and of course, futuristic toilets. If you have yet to use one of these multi-purpose thrones, this is the time to add it to your bucket list. Not only do they clean your bits using a washlet or bidet function but many of them also have heated seats and even an inbuilt massage system!
Toilet bidets usually come with a pressure function and they have an edge on the bum gun for this reason, (it is very easy to give yourself an accidental enema using one of those bad boys)! There is also usually an inbuilt air freshener designed to tackle bad smells and noisemakers to disguise your plopping.
For obvious reasons, these are a great alternative to toilet paper but they are also a full-on cultural experience that we don’t want to miss! Sad news for those on a budget though, you’ll need to splash at least $200 USD before you bag yourself one and that’s at the cheapest end of the scale!
Pronounced tah-boh, this somewhat basic device is a Filipino invention that has finally found its place in the world. The small scoop is commonly referred to as a dipper. Modern tabos are made from plastic but traditionally, they were constructed from bamboo and coconut.
In order to use a tabo, you will need to utilise the accompanying bucket of water. Simply dip the tabo into the bucket and pour the water over your rear end until you think you’ve shifted the excess. Soap can be used but isn’t necessary. Of course, there is considerably less pressure coming from a tabo than a bum gun, so you may need to utilise other tools if you want to be 100% clean…
Check out the video below for some tips on using the tabo!
Similar to the tabo, this teapot-esque invention is used as a water vessel for cleaning off that after toilet residue. They are traditionally made from copper or brass so they look like a funkier version of the above. They are mainly used in countries with a large Muslim population such as Indonesia.
Lotas can be used in both a squatting or seated position but again, they take a little time to get used to. Point the lota towards your backside to clean your bits. Beware though, it is very easy to get your clothes wet until you perfect your technique.
5. Family cloth
In the growing eco scene across the world, there has been talk of using washable toilet wipes, also known as family cloth. Although we couldn’t find any proof that these are exceptionally popular in Asia (and we haven’t seen them), I know for a fact that some of the backpackers reading this will have been caught short at some time and had to pull off an old sock to limit the mess. Don’t worry, there’s no judgement from us…
6. Banana leaf
For those of you who fancy yourselves as a bit of a Bear Grylls, this option is for the most rugged travellers only. As many of you know, bananas grow in abundance all over Southeast Asia and those lovely leaves are pretty big. Of course, you don’t have to stick to banana leaves but ideally, you want a leaf that is big, easily foldable and smooth. Watch out for spiny leaves and always check your foliage for ants, you could end up getting a nasty surprise if you don’t watch out!
7. Wet Wipes
Ask any backpacker what their number one hygiene item is and they are likely to tell you wet wipes. This moistened toilet tissue is an absolute lifesaver and will keep you clean and fresh all day long. However, once the panic buyers stop to engage their brains, they will quickly realise that this is the next best thing to loo paper so you may not be able to get it for very long.
It is important to say here, for the sake of the planet and everybody’s comfort in quarantine, wet wipes are not flushable. Please don’t try and flush them or before you’ll know if you’ll have even more crap to deal with!
Although most bathrooms in Asia come with the mighty bum gun installed, if you are too scared to chance shooting a jet of water up your ass, then a full-on shower may be the best way to go. Realistically you wash your butt crack every time you shower anyway (we hope) so this shouldn’t be too different. Just remember to always clean up after yourself, especially if you are sharing the shower with somebody else!
One final idea…
Whilst this one isn’t strictly Asia related, I just think it is too much of a good opportunity to pass up…
9. Shitty Newspaper
If you can think of any great alternatives to toilet paper that we’ve missed, let us know in our Facebook community! And if you’re still not sure you can make the move to the bum gun, maybe try your luck at the arcade instead!
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