A few weeks ago, the Thai teachers in the English Department at my school invited me to their end of the year weekend retreat. We left early Saturday morning for Koh Pitok, a small island off the east coast of the Chumpon province. It was supposed to be about an hour and a half drive to the coast. The Thai teachers told me that on the way, we would stop at a beautiful garden called Suan Nai Dum (Garden of Uncle Black). I had no idea what to expect... garden? Boorrrring. Right? WRONG. It turned out to be the highlight of the weekend, even better than the island we were heading to. Suan Nai Dum is, quite literally, the shit!
SUAN NAI DUM
Our recent visit to Suan Nai Dum convinced me that Thai culture is more full of toilet humor than I ever conceived. Otherwise, how would this statue – a giant, giant pile of poop – be possible?
Like Shelby wrote, Suan Nai Dum is a rather interesting rest stop in Chumpon, on Highway 41. More than just a beautiful garden, it was also “proclaimed by the Ministry of Public Health to be a Thai public toilet learning centre, which is regularly visited by students and organizations,” according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
All of the toilets are fully-functioning and they’re creatively constructed into various venues, like the Sky Toilet (360 degree views!), Tarzan and Jane toilets, a Pig Butthole toilet (?!), and the toilet that was voted Toilet of the Year 2006 – certified by someone who has the awesome job of being a Toilet Ambassador.
|sign for the treehouse-style "Tarzan Toilet"|
Though the toilets were certainly amazing, I also found myself drawn to the informative and lighthearted signs (which were, of course, posted on toilet seat lids). These offered some insight into Thai language, which “has countless of idioms and proverbs [sic] linked to the word ‘shit’ for teaching morals to children.” These are some seriously golden nuggets of wisdom (khee – said in a falling tone – means excrement):
- Fon tok khee moo lai (ฝนตกขี้หมูไหล): bad people meet together
- Khi moo raa khee maa hang (ขี้หมูราขี้หมาแห้ง): not useful, nonsense (don’t split hairs)
- Hen khee dee gwaa sai (เห็นขี้ดีกว่าไส้): lit. to see shit as better than entrails/family (blood is thicker than water)
- Gin bon ruan khee rot lang ka (กินบนเรือนขี้รดบนหลังคา): lit. eat in the house, shit on the roof (to bite the hand that feeds you) [source / source]
- Gum khee dee gwaa gum tod (กําขี้ดีกวากําตด): lit. grabbing shit is better than grabbing farts (having something is better than having nothing) [source]
- Maa khee mai mee krai yok hahng (หมาขี้ไมมีใครยกหาง): lit. nobody lifts the dog’s tail when it shits (self praise is not recommended). [source]
- Hen chaang khee khee dtaam chaang (เห็นช้างขี้ ขี้ตาม): don’t try to shit as large as an elephant’s shit (curb your lifestyle to match your means) [source]
Those last three are my personal favorites. Thai language also has some good euphemisms for using the bathroom, including “go to the paddy,” “go to the dock,” and “go to the jungle.” This sitealso mentions, “If you are a woman and you bpai det dork mai (‘go to pick flowers’), you might actually be going to the loo, while the equivalent for men is bpai ying gratai (‘go to shoot rabbits’), expressions which no doubt have their origins in the fields.”
If you listen for it, you’ll hear the word “khee” used a lot. Yes, it’s a waste product (as in feces), but it could also be snot, (khee muuk), cigarette ash (khee boo ree), or even eraser shavings (khee yaang lohp). When “khee” is placed in front of adjectives, it’s an idiomatic prefix implying a negative personality trait – all of which is detailed on this thai-language.com page. For example:
- khee mao (ขี้เมา): drunkard, very often drunk
- khee niaao (ขี้เหนียว): stingy; miserly; parsimonious; cheap
- khee leuum (ขี้ลืม): absent-minded; forgetful
- khee gluaa (ขี้กลัว): “scaredy-cat” — “chickenshit”
Some of my Mathayom girls actually come up to me quite often and say “bpuaat khee” (ปวดขี้) – which I’m pretty sure translates to “I’m dying to crap.” Not entirely sure if this is polite or not, or if they just think I can’t understand them.
As you can see in the sign above, Suan Nai Dum also offers a taste of Buddhist philosophy. A sign near the entrance to the garden explains:
The amazing distinctive “Thai Toilet” reflects Thais’ philosophy of life through their positive and creative thinking about toilets. They appreciate the significance of toilets as “the place for disposing both physical and mental sufferings.”
Another sign, describing the Underworld Toilet, notes:
This place is located beneath a volcano where it is believed to be the hottest abyss of hell. Remarkably, the atmosphere inside the toilet is pleasantly cool. This help to reinforce the message that “the surroundings cannot bring happiness, if your mind is unhappy”, or as a Buddha Proverb says, “Heaven exists in our soul, while Hell exists in our mind.”
Our whole visit to Suan Nai Dum was unexpectedly hilarious and memorable, and it reminded me how much I like Thai peoples’ easygoing and lighthearted way of looking at life. We never would have encountered this magical place had we not been with Thai people, traveling like Thais do.
So next time someone tells you that you’re going to a garden with amazing toilets, don’t be skeptical! You could be going to Suan Nai Dum … or, if you’re in Korea, you might just be visiting Mr. Toilet’s toilet theme park.
|..."squat pots" are a Westerner's worst enemy.|