My feelings on the matter:
In praise of south-east Asian toilets
Readers of a sensitive disposition should cease reading now.
Sorry to bring this up, but I think they’re brilliant. Not for the minimal hygiene standards they offer in many places they’re found, but for two very concrete reasons:
Firstly, rather than toilet roll, in Thailand and Malaysia at least, there’s a handy little hosepipe with a shower nozzle on it - your own, DIY bidet that leaves you clean as a whistle. You use your left hand in conjunction with this, and then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Given the warm climes, one dries very quickly, but a modicum of toilet roll can also be used for this purpose. For those who find the concept disgusting, here’s an analogy for you: imagine you’re strolling in the park, when you trip over and your hand goes into a pile of doggy doo. There’s a stall in front of you selling toilet roll or water, for ten cents a piece, but you only have ten cents on you. Which are you going to choose? A thorough wash with water to remove the debris, or a few dry sheets of tissue paper to smear what’s on your hand sort of off? I believe I know which one most people would choose, and I see a mild paradox in the disgust that many westerners express towards this particular method of hygiene.
Secondly, the position in which one does what one needs to do. Once the Asian squat (heels flat on the floor, not on tiptoe) has been practiced enough times that the requisite muscles in the front of the legs are strong enough, it’s entirely functional. Not only does it mean that the only part of you to come into contact with anything nasty is the soles of your shoes, but - and I won’t go into too many graphic details here - emptying a ‘toothpaste tube’ is easier when there’s no kink in it: it’s my belief that sitting down to function puts a kink in the ‘toothpase tube’, meaning extra squeezing is needed to get the ‘toothpaste’ out, whereas squatting unkinks it, and allows gravity to do its work.