Life in Rural Northern Thailand: How to take a bucket shower with a little pink bowl

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the home in Mae La Oop was that there was no shower.  In the bathroom, there was a western style toilet (which was the envy of the others in our group whose homes only had squat toilets) and a concrete tub filled with water.

At first, I thought perhaps you were supposed to get into the concrete tub to bathe. But the side of the tub came up to my waist, so I wasn’t sure how to go about getting in. Sitting on the edge of the tub was a small pink bowl. I soon learned that using the pink bowl to scoop up water from the concrete tub and dump on yourself was how you shower in this part of the world.

Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge? You know, the one everyone posted on facebook where they dumped buckets of ice water on themselves? Well, it’s like that only without the ice. And instead of a bucket, it’s a little pink bowl. Here is how it’s done.

1. Prepare yourself mentally.

Yes, it is cold water. Yes, you have to dump it on your head. No, you can’t not shower for 10 days.

2. Change tactics.

Maybe you don’t have to dump the cold water on the right on the top of your head. Perhaps it would be easier (and less cold) to just lean over and dump the water on your hair first.

3. Stand up to shampoo hair, allowing water to drip down body to avoid having to dump any more cold water than necessary on yourself.

Ok, this is not so bad. It’s not that, brrrr, cold. Maybe you won’t have to dump a pink bowl full of water on yourself after all.

4. Wash body with shampoo and water that has dripped off your head. Add soap and splash more water as needed.

Just splash, don’t dump the water from the bowl or you will scream from the cold.

5. Attempt to shave legs.

Decide it may not be worth it to shave at all for the next 10 days.

6. Flip head over again and dump a couple of bowls of water on your hair to rinse out shampoo.

Only your hair. Remember the water is freezing.

7. Apply conditioner to hair.

8. Repeat step 6 with conditioner.

You’re getting the hang of this now. Only one final step.

9. Pour a couple of bowls of water on body to rinse off soap.

All right, you can’t avoid it any longer. It’s the only way to rinse the soap off your body. You can do it! Take a deep breath, then quickly dump the pink bowl full of water on your stomach and back. You will shudder from the cold. Just try not to shriek and alarm your hosts.

10. Congratulations, you can now shower in a small hill tribe village in northern Thailand.

Next lesson: How to dry off with a 15”x15” camp towel.

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