If you travel to Thailand and stay in a western-style hotel, your showering experience will be just the same as at home. But, if you stay in a guest house, many budget hotels or, of course, if you go upcountry into rural Thailand, you’ll be the lucky recipient of one of two styles of Thai shower – and one often not for the faint of heart. Many westerners walk into Thai bathrooms with the expectation of taking an average shower, only to be confronted with something they’ve never seen before. If that’s the case with you on your next trip to Thailand, here’s how to use both styles of Thai shower, so you’ll end up leaving the bathroom clean and not too traumatized.
How To Use a Thai-Style Showerhead – One of the most common showers in Thailand is what most of the expats who live here refer to as a “Thai-style shower”. These types of shower are in cheaper hotels, guest houses and, of course, the homes of the majority of Thai people. If you haven’t seen a Thai-style shower before, you may be confused at first, just as I was when I first came to Thailand. To help you along, here’s what you’ll see and here’s how to use one.
When you first walk into a Thai bathroom in many places in Thailand, the first thing you’ll notice is there isn’t a shower cubicle. Instead, the bathroom is tiny (usually just a wash basin and a toilet) and the showerhead itself is on the wall right next to the toilet or washbasin. There’s no curtain to close off the shower from the rest of the bathroom and, you’ll notice, when you turn it on the shower drenches the whole bathroom, including the toilet and washbasin, with water. Welcome to the Thai-style shower.
Before you even start showering, make sure the clothing you take off and your towel are hung on the hook behind the door or other hook put there for the purpose of keeping your clothing away from the shower water. If you don’t put your clothing and towel here, they will be soaked through the minute you turn the showerhead on, will be completely unwearable and your towel will be too wet to dry you. Also, put your shoes outside the bathroom, as anything left on the bathroom floor will be under two inches of water in about 30 seconds.
To take a shower with a Thai-style shower, simply turn it on and stand under it. The water will sometimes be heated by a small water heater next to the showerhead (which are wonderful as it’s continuous hot water all day), or may not have hot water at all. In which case, you’ll be taking a cold shower.
Lather up, rinse off and turn off the shower, and now is where the fun starts. You will have to paddle through all the water on the bathroom floor to retrieve your towel from the hook where it’s hanging. Once you start drying yourself, make sure you don’t let your towel fall towards the floor as, if it hits it, it will immediately begin to get wet from all the water all over the bathroom floor. Also do not touch the toilet or the washbasin area, as they too will be dripping with water by now.
Dry off, put on your clothing (I use baby powder first, to make sure I’m completely dry in Thailand’s terrible humidity) and exit the bathroom. Put on your slippers or house shoes once outside the bathroom. Voila, you’ve just had your first Thai-style shower with a Thai showerhead. But it gets worse…..
How To Take a Shower In Thailand With a Water Tank and Plastic Bowl – In rural Thailand and at some beach hotels in the south, if you stay in a beach hut, you may be faced with the dreaded Thai water tank. With plumbing in some areas of Thailand still not that modern, the only way to take a ‘shower’ is to use a large tank of water and a plastic bowl. Let me explain.
When you first arrive in a rural or beach bathroom in Thailand for your shower, you’ll be confronted with a large cement open-topped tank and a plastic bowl or ladle. This is the authentic Thai shower.
Take off your clothes and hang them on the hook provided. Again, just like with the showerhead-style Thai shower, make sure your shoes are left outside the door.
Pick up the plastic bowl or ladle and fill it with water. Now pour the water over your body until you are completely wet. (The shock of the first cold water does get better as, after all, Thailand is roasting hot, so a cold shower is quite pleasurable). Now shampoo your hair and soap your body. Once done, use the plastic bowl or ladle to scoop water all over your body until you are soap-free, and that’s your authentic Thai shower.
Before you begin to get dressed though, make sure you use the bowl, bucket or ladle to rinse the soap off the bathroom floor and down the drain. It’s not polite to leave a soapy bathroom floor for the next person to come in and slip on. Also, turn on the tap next to the tank and re-fill it, so the next person doesn’t have to stand around waiting for the tank to fill when they come in for their shower.
These are the two Thai-style showers you will come across in many places in Thailand once out of the modern life of Bangkok – unusual, but they are quite fun. Even in Bangkok at low-budget hotels, you may well have to use a Thai-style showerhead, so now you’re completely prepared. Happy showering.