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An Ode to the Bum Gun

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I would like to take a brief moment to pay homage to one of mankind’s most extraordinary inventions: the butt blaster, the bum gun, the incredible bidet.

We westerners sit daintily upon our porcelain thrones amidst the spicy aroma of potpourri bowls and lavish lemony sprays, quietly going about our most intricate business of the day. Each and every trip to the loo ends the same way- reaching for that thick, fluffy roll of toilet paper, swiping and wiping to no avail, and hopefully doing so from front to back.

In America, toilet paper is life. There is no other way to clean one’s tootie, and if there is another way….just, no.

Meanwhile, in Asia and Europe, the bum blaster stands tall and confident over its WC kingdom…a rather simple tool that reigns with an iron grasp and deftly conquers any booty no matter how big or how small. You find these nozzled hoses faithfully  positioned and ready for battle beside almost every squat and sitting toilet throughout Asia; a lethal cobra ready to nip at the dingiest behind with a most powerful and unrelenting water pressure.

You never forget your first time

My first experience with one of these mysterious contraptions was a mental challenge peppered with nerves and buts and what ifs. I eyed the leery pistol. It sat there, a beckoning metal mouth filled with multitudes of minuscule anticipating holes. I gulped. Coming from a country where toilet paper is seemingly the only way to deal with dirty matters down there, I was perplexed, my mind boggled.

“Nope, ain’t using it.” I thought, and reached instead, for toilet paper. Only problem is, 90% of the time you aren’t gonna find that powdery soft goodness at any restroom in Thailand. And when you have food poisoning from feasting on that suspicious street meat on a stick, things can get, well…shitty.

I eyed the butt blaster nervously. It looked like it would wrap it’s cold, plastic coils  around my neck and strangle me at any moment. This sitting squat position was starting to kill my legs. I needed to make a decision immediately.

Quickly, I glanced around, first right, then left, as if onlookers were hiding, watching, waiting for me to grab hold of the hose so they could jump out, point and laugh at me in my vulnerable state. This isn’t the norm, I don’t do this back home…no one does wtf.

But alas, I had no choice. After successfully avoiding every bum gun in the beginning of my travels through Asia, we finally met for the first time. Gingerly, I extended my hand in greeting, and took hold.

It was like two pimple-faced 16-year-olds sharing a first kiss on a first date. I pushed down on the nozzle and instantly lost control as an overwhelming jet of cool water coated the bathroom walls, my legs, and fuck…my pants.

“Easy girl…easssy,” I coaxed the bucking bronco, a single bead of sweat trickling down the side of my face. Now what. Do I stand? Do I lift one leg? If I do it this way, I soak my pants. If I do it that way…I soak my pants.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty details, but damn, was it awkward. After what seemed like ages, I flung open the tattered stall door in victory, gasping for breath. I had survived! I had succeeded in using the bum gun! The old Thai woman collecting baht at the restroom entrance just stared at me indifferently with pursed lips. Somehow, I had managed to soak my entire outfit.

But, it didn’t matter. I was reborn- a changed woman. A luminous beam of light descended down from the heavens upon my weary derriere and I threw up my hands in infinite glory. Like a caterpillar, I had shed the soft toilet paper skin I knew and loved to rise from the messy tissue scraps  a clean- a squeaky clean butterfly.

Where it all began…

The bum gun had revolutionized my life, changed my toilet escapades forever. Why the fuck don’t we have these in America? It’s a question I ask myself every time I experience the joyful cleansing of a butt blaster.

The original bidet was invented by the French in the 1700s. By the early 1900s, it had evolved from a crude hand pump and chamber pot to a tidy ceramic bowl with knobs and hoses. One simply straddled the thing like riding a pony, and washed away all of the day’s worries.

The Japanese further enhanced the bidet after WWII when they began importing sitting toilets from America. Modern plumbing brought the party into the bathroom, a hose attached to a nozzle.

Today, the modern bum gun is used throughout Asia and Europe, but hasn’t yet become a thing in the good ol US of A. Many Americans have never even seen one. The thought of a bum gun brings smirks and giggles- an alien idea. But, this is ignorance, because that damn water hose is a gift of the gods.

Besides the obvious sanitation benefits, the bum gun reduces the use of paper waste, saving money and the environment in the long run. It’s also handy for those with less mobility, such as senior individuals and young children.

It may take some getting used to, but once you embrace this foreign phenomenon you’ll never go back to toilet paper ever again. There’s nothing more exhilarating than walking out of the restroom with a bottom as fresh as spring daisies.

I’ve counseled a handful of westerners on my travels that confided their anxiety when it came to butt blasters, and I continue to offer advice to anyone that seeks it. Here are some of my personal tips for using the legendary bum gun. photo2

How to Become a Bum Gun Wizard

  1. If you’re sitting on a toilet seat, spread your legs. If you are using a squat toilet….hold that squat a while longer and work them glutes.
  2. Grab hold of the bum gun, right hand or left, depending on what feels most comfortable.
  3. Take a deep breath and get over the fact that you are spraying down your privates. There’s no need to be bashful.
  4. Hold the nozzle downwards from the front and position accordingly.
  5. Squeeze that nozzle like your life depends on it.
  6. Spray thoroughly. Get every nook and cranny. Take your time, pace yourself…slow and steady wins the race.
  7. Finished? Breathe easy, my friend. The hard part is over.
  8. Actually, now you have a new dilemma. I like to call this: Wet Butt Syndrome.
  9. Don’t fret! If you are one of those individuals that is prepared for any situation in life, you probably have some tissues handy. If you don’t give a fuck, you might use your socks. Or, you can just give your bottom a swift little shake to rid yourself of excess water droplets. Everyone has their own unique drying method- get creative and have fun with it.
  10. Rejoice! Your tush is sparkling like a fresh martini after a hard day’s work. Say goodbye to toilet paper fragments, and, well, pesky poop particles.

Now, you’re ready to conquer the world, one well-directed blast at a time!

backpacking, chicken, cooking, eating, expat, food, Southeast Asia, Thai food, Thailand, travel

The Chicken Place

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A plate clatters to the floor, clanging, banging, startling….everyone stops their work to glance at the mild ruckus. The older Thai woman behind the counter with kind eyes and a warm smile makes eye contact with me, and we both burst into a fit of giggles.

I’ve been living in Chiang Rai, Thailand for over a week now, and eating at- what I call- the chicken place has become part of my daily routine. Here, no one speaks English, except for me and my farang friends. But the language barrier doesn’t matter. The family that runs the restaurant- Mr. Art’s- know us, chattering away in Thai. I nod in agreement, pretending to understand, wanting so badly to understand.

Every morning, I savor the 15 minute walk from my tiny studio apartment to have breakfast and coffee. The heat is starting to creep as I pass the highway, and beads of sweat cluster on my forehead and lip. On the bridge, I stop, as usual, to enjoy the spectacular view.

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The Kok River is all amber glass and sheen, draped with a lush backdrop studded with never-ending rows of slumping limestone mountains. An enormous white Buddha statue sits peacefully above the peaks, the stone giants bow down respectively from North, East, South and West.

This is home.

Upon arrival at Mr. Art’s, they know my usual order of chicken, rice and hot espresso, and no longer serve my chicken with the skin on it. They’ve noticed that I always peel off the tender strips before digging in.

Service is quick. I sip ice cold water after my hot walk as a plastic plate is laid gently before me. My eyes, nose and mouth are met with a mound of steaming white rice, topped with thick strips of white-meat chicken, encompassed with neat cucumber crisps. A pink bowl of fresh chicken broth accompanies the dish.

But, I eye the brown ceramic bowl before me. There is one on each table. The lid comes off and the rich aroma overwhelms my nostrils. A homemade sauce consisting of chunky ginger, diced chilli peppers and a sweet and spicy medley of flavors creates the most addicting condiment my taste buds have ever savored.

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“Always fresh. Cook with no MSG,” chef and owner, the one and only, Mr. Art explains enthusiastically to me in broken English.

I’ve never seen such passion for food, and Art’s dedication and love for his restaurant is obvious. The little chicken place on the dusty outskirts of Chiang Rai is constantly busy. Helped by his wife, aunts, mother, father, brother and  daughter- it is one big happy family affair.

All work together doing whatever it takes to keep customers satisfied and the business running smoothly. But, at the same time, smiling and joking with each other, cherishing each day they share together and with their customers.

Belly full of chicken, rice and ginger, I enjoy a pot of jasmine tea and observe the family in the light of a busy new day. I watch with a smile as Art takes a minute from putting together delivery meals to kiss his small son or the women chuckle together as they prepare meals. Art’s young daughter always runs up to us with menus, eager to practice her English with my friend Ale and I.

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“Special menu… red curry,” Art whispers shyly, sliding over a small sampling of pork marinated in a delectable blend of coconut milk and bright, red spices. Every day there’s something new he lets us try, free of charge. He simply loves cooking and wants others to enjoy it as much as he does.

Not only is the food delicious, but it’s the heart-warming atmosphere Art and his family have created that keeps me coming back. Their positive attitude and genuine kindness is the perfect start to my day, and I always look forward to it. They don’t treat you like a customer- they make you feel as if you’re part of the family.

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Mr. Art’s is open early each morning from 7am to 3pm, with fresh, tasty Thai food and impeccable service that has made it a popular dining choice for locals.

A small sized dish of chicken and rice- their specialty, costs a mere 30 baht. Other chicken and pork dishes are offered, changing daily. They also serve yummy bubble teas and fresh, strong coffee. This is a must try spot when visiting Chiang Rai if you want to get away from the typical tourist joints. I’ll see you there 🙂

Bon Apetit!