You are used to the western style pedestal-toilets, yeah? Don’t sweat, we have them here in the city of Chiang Mai, too. Occasionally, you will still find some traditional “squat” toilets because they are what the Thais (and most of Asia) are accustomed to using.
If you are taking the bus from Bangkok you will come across some of these squat toilets along the way at gas stations. Usually, there is a combination of pedestal-toilets and squats. If there’s more than one bus at the same bus station, get ready to stand in line for one. Or to the ladies, I say, be adventurous and squat!
A note about using the squats: Many restroom floors are wet. It’s the way of Asian bathrooms, so get used to it. (If you think about it, having carpeting in a restroom just doesn’t make sense. It’s nice to just hose it all down when cleaning). Ideally, it’s easiest to use a squat toilet if you are wearing shorts. But, if you’re wearing long pants, be sure to roll or pull them up first. It’s the “pull-down, pull-up and hold” trick while you do your business, while making sure nothing falls out of your backpack, and that your backpack strings don’t end up in the toilet. Be prepared to multi-task when using the squat. If you’re just doing #1 and don’t have toilet paper, you could use the water spray to clean off (Sorry, but this is the potty training post in Thailand so it had to be said!).
Expect to pay about 2-3 (song-sum) bahts to use some of the public toilets. As for toilet paper, either bring your own, or pay the ladies at the entrance a few bahts for it. Also, you will find that some squat toilets do not have a mechanical flush. Instead, get the small bucket provided for you and throw the water in yourself. Also, it’s a good idea to rinse off the floor after you have finished to clean any mud or sand you may have brought in with your shoes. See? Tile floors make sense!
If you’re in the old city area of Chiang Mai, it is likely you will find a toilet easily as there are many restaurants, coffee shops, retail shops and travel agencies. Just say “toilet?” “hong nam?” or “soo kaa?” and owners or the staff will be generous enough to say “Yes” or “kaa” or “karp.” If they say it is for customers only, then buy a drink there. Now, you really, really have to go!
Just remember that most gas stations have toilets and many are well maintained. If you are at either of the large malls, at Airport Plaza or at Kad Suan Kaew Central, clean restrooms are available. There are many signs displayed in Airport Plaza that will lead directly to the toilets. Kad Suan Kaew is a bit more tricky. The toilets are on the very bottom floor towards the back beyond the hot pot buffet on the ground floor. It is NOT in Tops Supermarket. You can ask a local to point which direction it is located by saying “hong nahm yoo tee nai?”
Tesco Lotus and Big C malls will have very well maintained toilets (some have squats and the pedestal-toilets)
Many hotels, guest houses, apartment/hotels or condotels usually have nice facilities that are cleaned on a daily basis. If you desperately gotta go, check out the nearest one available to you and you’ll be able to find a decent toilet there.
One last thing: Don’t forget to bring hand sanitizer. Some facilities, especially gas stations, do not have soap. So, don’t let the thought of having to use the occasional squat toilet stop you from visiting beautiful Chiang Mai! Think of it as part of the travel adventure and experience!
Toilet at Peppermint Coffee House