Okay so you remember that time I wrote about smear tests? This is going to be a little bit like that... Probably one for the girls and a bit much for the boys to cope with - just warning you now. So Dad, if you're reading this, you can give this post a miss. Periods. Pretty bloody inconvenient aren't they? It was never something me really thought about before coming away, but I certainly wish I had now so I could have been more prepared. This is something no one warned me about and something I had never read about, but I know I'm not the only female traveller to be caught out unexpectedly. I've met several women on the road who have been only too quick to tell me about the horrors they have faced using Thai toilets when they just want a nice clean toilet with loo roll on hand. When you're packing to come away, it's just not something that really crosses your mind because as Westerners, we are so used to having sanitary products on sale in every shop with clean dashing toilets everywhere, and those super hygienic disposal buns for anything that won't flush. But what happens when it's not all so convenient?
Surfing the crimson wave, or riding the cotton pony, never seems to come at a good time and it's far more annoying when you're going on holiday and you just want to be looking fabulous in a bikini instead of bloated and like a beached whale with spots the size of maltesers. Painting a beautiful picture here aren't I? To be honest, I've never been one of those girls who has been that bothered by periods, they're an inconvenience but I just get on with it. If I know I'm going away on holiday or something, I will use my contraceptive pill to control when I have a period, so I can time it for a week later or even a month later. Good old microgynon! But what happens when you're going travelling for a year? Well it's one thing to run two packs of pills together, but a years worth isn't quite so good for you I'd imagine, so how do you cope with having a period in Thailand and what do you need to know?
- First of all, it is important for you to realise the toilet situation is pretty different in Thailand. After travelling through the south I have only been exposed to the best toilets so far, but have heard some of those in the north are a lot less desirable. Down south, most of them have flushes, but I have seen a few that require a couple of buckets of water instead.
Toilet tissue has to go in the bin (in most places) and so do all tampons and sanitary products - that means when you change your tampon, it is left wrapped in a bit of tissue in the bin. Seems pretty gross to a westerner, but it's either that or the whole bathroom with be flooded with whatever else is down there!
Go prepared. Much of Thailand doesn't sell a fantastic selection of sanitary products, so don't walk into a 7/11 and expect to find all your favourite brands. You will want to make sure you have a good supply of tampons in particular as I haven't actually seen them on sale anywhere yet - Thai women apparently use sanitary towels instead as tampons are considered unclean. Pack as many as you can! I met some girls who were having them posted out to them from mum.
The sanitary towels are nothing compared to the slim fit ones at home - while slim, they often seem to come with huge wings. Not quite as discreet and comfortable as the ones from back home, but they do the job when you're desperate and run out of supplies. Just be sure to stock up when you see them on sale as you often won't find them in shops in some more remote places. I think some of the Thai women must be shoving a rolled up newspaper up there instead!
Things like wet wipes and anti bacterial gel are really helpful when you want to make sure you have clean hands and a clean body in slightly less clean places. As a backpacker, you quickly lower your standards of cleanliness to fit with the place around you, and when you add in limited clothes and underwear in your bag, sometimes you just want to feel fresh - these can make all the difference.
If you have quite heavy periods, it might be worth seeing your doctor before you go and seeing if they can put you on a contraceptive pill that will help to lighten them and to make you more comfortable when travelling - but this is totally a matter of personal choice. I've met girls who have the injection, the implant, the coil and a range of other methods for dealing with periods while on the road.
Don't let it scare or stop you! Having a period in Thailand is really not that bad and it is certainly no excuse to lock yourself in a dark room and cry. It doesn't have to stop you from doing anything, I still hiked, swam, sunbathed and explored plenty of places and it didn't stop me enjoying myself. Just make sure you don't push yourself too hard, if you have bad period pains then give yourself some painkillers and take care of yourself. It's okay to have a lazy day when you're feeling rubbish, or to head to the city when you're too bloated to feel comfortable in a bikini. That's the beauty of backpacking, it's so flexible and will fit around how you feel.
Okay that's all my period advice for today - girls I hope it helped you. Guys, well done if you made it to the end of this post.
If anyone has any questions, I'm always at the end of a comment, so leave one below and I'll always get back to you. Or why not share your period horror stories from your travels?