Tales from the Loo: An unsual Thai history

Tales from the Loo: An unsual Thai history

A new exhibition in Bangkok gives a humorous account of how the nation has dealt with its excrement over the years

A new exhibition called "Tales from the Loo" at the Museum Siam gives us a no-detail-too-intimate look at how Thailand has handled its poop though the ages.

Showing until April 17, the exhibit features several displays dealing with everything from the evolution of the toilet to its adoption in Thai society to the various devices used to 'wipe' -- including coconut husks and of course the much-loved 'sprayer' that can be found beside most Thai toilets today. 

Staff at the museum say the curator put together the unusual exhibit to highlight the fascinating role toilets have played in Thai history over the years, demonstrating both cultural diversity and class divisions in society.

Here’s a quick look at some of the displays in the exhibit. 

Museum SiamReminding us that poop is funny, a motion-sensor on this ancient stone toilet makes a farting noise when visitors squat over it. Classy.


 Monk looOuthouses for monks: This style of latrine was adopted from Sri Lanka around 700 years ago when the Sukhothai kingdom embraced the Sri Lankan branch of Buddhism as the state religion. It was so innovative that Thai monks did not waste any time adopting it for their own temple grounds.


Tales from the monk's looOutside view of the monk's loo. Nearby is a display highlighting the royal loo, which explains that Thai people adopted the Hindu notion of the God-King -- the king was a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. This led to a multitude of rituals, customs and ceremonies pertaining to both the king’s public and private functions. "There was no exception even for his defecation session!" says the museum.


Public outhouses in BangkokFrom the late 19th century, free public outhouses like this could be found throughout Bangkok. Though basic and rudimentary, it was viewed as a mechanism for building a civilized nation. Instead of going to the fields or to the piers as before, Siamese people would do their business in a more systematic and hygienic manner.


Museum SiamIn the main entrance of the Siam Museum, a giant roll of toilet paper welcomes visitors.

Click ahead to page 2 for more. 

Museum Siam toilet exhibitionLift up the seat and there's a toilet underneath this "throne." Fortunately, the relax-where-you-poop trend has yet to take hold in Thailand.



Museum SiamDIY Toilets: "During the 1950s, water seal toilets were hard to acquire due to limited domestic production. No problem! Government officers and villagers collaborated to construct the toilets by themselves," says the Museum Siam.



Museum SiamIn the 1990s, when Thailand’s economy was booming, traffic congestion in Bangkok seemed to be the number one problem for city dwellers. Radio station 100 FM, established to keep commuters up-to-date on traffic information, handed out ‘Comfort 100’ stations, consisting of a bottle and an adult diaper, to car riding Bangkokians to use in case of emergency.



Museum SiamThis paper loo, provided by the Siam Cement Foundation, is lightweight but sturdy enough to bear 100kg and can be folded for maximum freight capacity. It was very handy during the recent floods in Thailand.



Museum SiamWhen the government outlawed outdoor defecation in Bangkok around 100 years ago, public latrines with buckets were introduced for those who had not yet built toilets in their own homes or work places. In one dark room, cleverly lit buckets give visitors interesting but graphic details on excrement collection back in those days.



Museum SiamSiam Sanitary provided the museum with a few modern-day toilets for its exhibit, including these "chick toilets for kids," specifically designed for today’s over-pampered children.


Tales from the Loo

Until April 17 at the Museum of Siam. Free entry
4 Sanamchai Road, Phra Nakorn
Tel: +66 (0)2 622 2599 
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Open till 7 p.m. on weekends)