Understanding 'Kamar Mandi' (Indonesian Bathroom)

Western bathroom typically has 2 forms: shower or bath tub. Indonesian bathroom, on the other hand, is unique. We call it 'kamar mandi' [pronounced: kah-mur mun-dee] in Bahasa (Indonesian language). A kamar mandi usually consists of a 'bak mandi' [pronounced: buck mun-dee] and a 'gayung' [pronounced: guh-yoong]. Bak mandi functions as a water tank/reservoir while gayung is the plastic water scooper/dipper. It is common for Indonesians to always leave bak mandi full of water. When you want to start 'mandi' [pronounced: mun-dee] ritual or washing yourself, just follow these steps:
  1. Go inside kamar mandi
  2. Close the door
  3. Undo your clothes
  4. Take water from bak mandi by using gayung.
  5. Pour the water from the gayung to all over your body until you are totally wet
  6. Use the soap just like what you do when you use a shower
  7. Rinse yourself by pouring water all over your body again using gayung
  8. Dry yourself up by using towel
  9. Do your clothes
  10. Open the door and leave the kamar mandi
So, unique things about kamar mandi:
  • The floor is wet and will always be wet. For Indonesians, wet is clean. This is in contrast with Westerners who love their bathroom dry.
  • You will seldom find a mirror inside kamar mandi since shaving is not commonly done inside kamar mandi.
  • Indonesians typically wash themselves twice a day due to hot weather that causes people to sweat a lot. People who don't bathe daily are considered to be dirty.
  • Most older Indonesians find it difficult to use a shower and most Indonesians never use a bath tub.
  • Some kamar mandi has a squat toilet in it. Do not sit on it, but squat over it when you defecate.
  • Gayung is also used as a toilet flush in kamar mandi
  • There is no toilet paper. You have to use water and gayung again to cleanse your anal after defecation. Indonesians always use left hand for this purpose as they use their right hand to eat, so it is a taboo to rinse your anal using right hand.
Below are the information you can get from the 'bule' [pronounced: boo-lay] (Indonesian term for Westerners) about their experience when using the kamar mandi:

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into a bathroom is that there is water everywhere. It’s as if someone walked into the room and just started pouring buckets of water onto everything in the room. Actually that’s pretty close to the truth. You see, in Indonesia, there is a well-known adage: Wet is clean, and clean is wet. So, if you want to leave the bathroom neat and tidy after you leave, just spray everything down with the handy little hose…you’ll find it right next to the toilet. Or use the small dipper, which is oftentimes floating in a large bucket of water that also serves as the sink. (The traditional western variation of the sink is rarely found in Indonesian bathrooms, except in the wealthier homes.)

The downside of this "wet is clean" philosophy is that you will probably never sit down on a toilet for the rest of the time you are Indonesia. My one American friend solves this problem by leaving a towel in the bathroom to wipe down the seat before each toilet use. She is convinced that her Indonesian roommates remain unaware of the towel’s mysterious purpose in the bathroom. This method, however, only works from the comfort of your own home. The other disadvantage to a continual flood on the bathroom floor is that if you are wearing pants, the cuffs will most certainly be drenched. So don't forget to roll up your pant legs before entering the bathroom. On the same token, never, ever enter a bathroom in socks. I cannot stress this enough.

This one is quoted from Dissertating About Indonesia

Indonesian houses are perfectly adapted to the dodgy water situation. Bathrooms (mandi) have a tiled tub, built in the corner, which can be filled with water when water is available. This is called a bak mandi. There is always a large, plastic scoop which you use to bathe or flush the toilet. Many foreigners have an electric hot water tank connected to a shower, but in my house we use the bak mandi for our water needs.

This one is quoted from Everyday life in Aceh: happiness is a full Bak Mandi


Our old bathroom we thought was small and cramped and we dreamed of putting in a Japanese soaking tub. Now we have a new perspective. What looks like a Meulaboh soaking tub is actually call the mandi and serves as a water reservoir as well as a mosquito motel. Every 2 weeks the mandi water has to be replaced before the mosquito larvae hatch. Our bedroom has its own attached bathroom which is nice. The door to the bathroom is a solid wood door and they nailed a sheet of metal to the bathroom side to help protect it from splashing water. They floor and walls are tiled and there is a 4 inch ledge where the door opens to keep the water in.

Traditionally there is no central water heater. In fact, the locals do not use a water heater for bathing. Most houses have a large water tank that is perched on the roof and gets plenty of sun during the day and so evening showers can be quite refreshing. The water heater in our bathroom is an inline heater and can only heat a little amount of water at a time. This means that you have to turn it on 15 minutes before you want to shower so it can heat up. Then you get wet, turn it off, wash and turn it back on to rinse. This really isn’t a problem since you don’t need the water for warmth when the room is 80-90 degrees.

This one is quoted from Meulaboh Indonesia


Many tourist hotels are now equipped with hot water and showers, but you may encounter another form of bathing at the lower priced accommodations. The Indonesian mandi is generally a tiled water reservoir with a plastic saucepan. Do not climb into the reservoir to bathe! The proper method is to scoop the water out and pour it over yourself. Yes, the water is cold, but with an open mind in a hot tropical climate, you will come to enjoy your rather refreshing morning and early evening mandi. It is customary to bathe twice daily in Indonesia.

Note: Something to keep in mind when taking care of personal hygiene, remember to brush your teeth using only boiled or bottled water. Never use tap water, or you risk a case of "Bali belly."

This one is quoted from Hello Indonesia


Anonymous said…
hahahaha.... I think, it is not too difficult to get used to it as long as we know the right things to do. Thanks for sharing those interesting facts.
Rookieonen said…
hhahahha.... yoe car. there's been misunderstanding in terms of 'toilet', 'bathroom', or 'kamar mandi'.

tapi... yah tergantung orgnya lah... mau mandi di toilet silahkan, mau BAB di bathroom jg silahkan. ;p