As a backpacker, there are some things that friends and family at home just won’t understand: The partying, the hostel hookups, the 16 hour 3rd class bus tickets “because they were $5 cheaper.”
You’ll share these stories with enthusiasm and watch as their eyes narrow, trying to comprehend why you’re still wearing 15 bracelets on each wrist and how all those bells don’t drive you insane.
But the jangling wrists, the dodgy tattoos and all those beach hookups are nothing compared to telling friends about the Bum Gun.
Also called the butt-blaster, butt bomber and ass hose, this hand-held bidet faithfully sits beside the toilets of Asia, freaking out westerners and causing them to stockpile tissue like the world is ending.
It’s looked upon fondly by long-term travellers and with horror by the newer ones – especially when they learn it’s not a shower head. Yet the Bum Gun is a rite of passage in Asia and it’s guaranteed you’ll never forget the first time.
You walk unassuming into a toilet stall, regretting the bottle of vodka you finished off the night before. Or was it this morning? You can’t really remember. As you latch the door shut with a rusty nail, you turn and see the dismal site of a leaky, smelly and already backed up hole in the ground.
It’s the standard rest stop toilet. So you hitch your pants down around your ankles and hold onto them for dear life as you go about your business.
You’re regretting those 4 am noodles now.
Squatting down, hangover screaming, stomach churning, you contemplate if you can hold it for a couple more hours.
Nope. Definitely not. You do your thing, which is already an ordeal in the 40+-degree weather, and come to the terrifying realization that you’ve run out of your carefully curated store of toilet paper.
As you break out in cold sweats amidst your regular sweats, you look frantically around for anything that could be used to wipe your derriere.
Your eyes light upon the bucket of stagnant water used to manually flush the toilet. “Absolutely not!” Your civilized voice screams. Finally, you settle upon the bum gun. Even as your mind runs through the list of every possible alternative, your hand reaches out to grasp the handle.
You stare at it, thinking about what your friends would say, then sigh as you pluck up your courage and take the plunge.
… And you make the mistake every first-time blaster makes.
Instead of the gradual drip you expected, a full-strength jet of water shoots out of the limescale crusted hose, sending you three feet off the toilet.
Was that an audible yelp?
Not only are you clean, your pants are soaked, the wall is saturated and you’ve probably given yourself an enema.
As you stumble out of the stall still dripping slightly, you stand a little taller. Congratulations, you’ve passed the initiation and earned the right to consider yourself a proper South East Asian Backpacker.
Now that you’re a wizened wizard of the Bum Gun, there are a couple extra things to note to help you adjust to Asian toilet etiquette.
– Always do a water pressure test. We’ve all experienced that zero to 60 jet spray at one time or another. Each hose has a different velocity and spray and must be treated with respect. Spray into the shower drain before you spray into your bottom and avoid giving yourself a colon cleanse.
– For the love of god, aim. You’ll soon find that certain angles are better than others to get both your bits clean and keep your pants dry. Practice makes perfect and by the end of your trip, you’ll be a Bum Gun master.
– Don’t think earning the status of a Bum Gun initiate means you can stop stockpiling toilet paper. You’ll need it to dry yourself off afterwards. Or when the Bum Gun looks especially dodgy, it’s always nice to have a fallback.
It may take some getting used to and a bit of cultural realignment, but once you embrace the Gun, you’ll never go back.
It’ll be one of those fond memories of Asia you’ll recall at family events or when you’re out with your friends and they ask you about your trip.
As their eyes narrow, in that way they do, you can rest easy knowing that they’ll never understand the satisfaction and ease that the Bum Gun brings to thousands of people every day.
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Originally published in South East Asia Backpacker