How to Take a Bucket Shower in Indonesia

I am no stranger to bucket showers.  Growing up in Jamaica I had to take them during numerous water shut offs. Our house would have no water for months at a time after a hurricane swept through the island.

After a weekend getaway to Pulau Tidung, I was forced to take a trip down memory lane, when the homestay I was renting for the weekend only had a squat toilet, a bucket and a scoop in the bathroom.

Bucket showers are green friendly.  You can take a bath with less than five gallons of water.  In Indonesia, it can be hard to find affordable accommodation with Western facilities.  I don’t mind getting clean while conserving water. I was reminded of how wasteful we can be in the West with our twenty minute showers and immersing ourselves into bathtubs filled with water.

You will need:
soap (preferably solid), a scoop (or a cup/empty bottle) and a washcloth.

First scoop some water onto your body, dip the washcloth into the water and lather up. Then stoop down and:

(a)  pour the water over your body to rinse off

(b) use the scoop to pour water over your body

(c) dip the washcloth in and rinse.

I find pouring the entire bucket of water rather wasteful and I’d have to fill up more times than I needed to because the water missed a few spots on my body.  If you use the washcloth method, then you will only have to fill up the bucket once more with fresh water to get a clean rinse.

On a recent mountain trip to Puncak, my bungalow didn’t have hot water in the room as advertised. Shocker. However the room did have an electric kettle.  I boiled water twice, poured it into the bucket and filled up the bucket with cold tap water.  My grandmother used to do this every night in Jamaica. At first the water was almost too hot to bear, but I kept the tap running and continued rinsing off until the water was lukewarm.  It felt good taking a hot bucket shower after being in the cold mountain air.


Pulau Tidung, Thousand Islands, Jakarta

The only way to get to Pulau Tidung (Tidung Island) is by a three hour boat ride. This was my first weekend getaway after living in Jakarta for two weeks.  I was craving a getaway from traffic jams, honking horns and the dizzying pace of Jakarta. I got a text from one of my colleagues to be by his house (only a block away) at 6am because we were going to one of Thousand islands in the Java Sea.

Names are called for boat boarding.

The next morning we were at the pier by 7am.  The sun was already up and he air stunk of rotting fish.  We purchased our tickets Rp30,000 (US $3.00) and waited to board.  By 8am, there was no boarding and if had eaten breakfast, I would surely have hurled out my stomach contents.  The air was nauseating.  Boarding was a strange event.There were two roll calls for the boats lined up for Pulau Tidung.  Our names were not called on either list.  It was 9am when we boarded the last boat destined for the island.

Three hours of sitting on leather seats in poor air conditioning later we were in paradise. The water sparkled and it was calling my name! Lodging in the island is primarily homestays. Locals add a room onto their house with basic amenities and rent them out to tourists. We found lodging at a homestay for Rp 300,000 (US $30) a night which included snorkeling gear. A quick change and we were lounging near turquoise waters sipping on fresh coconut water and munching on soto ayam, a chicken soup with rice, avocado and tomatoes

On the bridge walking to a smaller island.
Me sipping on some sweet coconut water.

I had a great time snorkeling, floating on gentle waves while looking down at the corals. The ocean’s temperature kept changing quickly from cool to almost sauna-like.  At times the Java Sea’s temperature was unbearable. The coral was lovely, but not impressive. I had a better time just floating on the ocean.  I stayed out there for hours and got a sun burn on my shoulders and upper back. Note to self: Black people do get sunburn.

Pulau Tidung has a certain charm that makes me want to return as soon as possible. The streets are narrow and at night they are lighted by a passing motorbike or someone’s flashlight.

Narrow streets of Pulau Tidung.
Boats are available to rent to go island hopping or snorkeling.
Kids navigating the bridge to the smaller island adjoining to Pulau Tidung.

The locals serve mostly seafood dishes and the best mode of transport is a bicycle. I can only go back for one night, two nights tops. The homestays there have air conditioning, TV’s and western beds, however their plumbing is strictly Indonesian.  That means squat toilets, no toilet paper (luckily I brought my own) and no shower. Just a stand-pipe and a bucket in the bathroom to wash up your bits. The beach and water activities are well worth me overlooking the plumbing situation, but a girl can squat so many times.

Grilling up some ayam bakar- grilled chicken at sunset.

Getting There:

In Jakarta: Take a taxi to Maura Angke Marina.  Boats depart at 7am.  Tickets cost Rp30,000 (US$3.00)  Note: You may get an air conditioned boat or you may get a refugee boat where you sit in the floor in the sweltering heat.

This was our boat back to Jakarta. We sat on prayer mats with no air conditioning.