10 April 2003
Riding the Tuk Tuk

We arrived in Bangkok sometime just before noon. The train was late by two hours or so due to the carriage from Butterworth arriving late in Hatyai itself.

The first thing to do was to pick up a tuk tuk to the hotel. They're cheaper than taxis and nippier to boot.

Haggling for one is partly a lottery. You go to the first and ask him how much. If the number is too high, you try to bargain, but not for too long. The best thing to do is to just head for another one and ask again. For a ride from the train station to Banglumphu, we were offered 140BHT, 100BHT and finally 60BHT.

The only safe way to experience a tuk-tuk - from the outside

There's not much space in a tuk-tuk. It's a tight squeeze with two people and baggage and with one hand on a bag and another on a camera, you kind of need more arms to really be comfortable.

And when the ride begins, the first thing that comes to mind is that tuk-tuks are not really designed to carry two people and luggage comfortably and safely. You get this when the tuk-tuk suddenly sits on its back wheels, ready to pounce at an instance. To comply with the most basic of safety laws, a tuk-tuk needs a couple of safety belts and a pair of crash helmets. Air bags wouldn't hurt either.

Tuk-tuks travel at two speeds: Fast and Stationary. The bits in between are a blur, probably due to the adrenaline rush that you get. It could have also been the blood vessels in my eyes getting crushed by the g-forces.

A tuk-tuk is narrower than a car but wider than a motorbike. I wish somebody would tell the drivers that just because a motorbike can get through a gap, it doesn't mean that your tuk-tuk can. Squeezing through seems to be done through intimidation as your ride lurches forward, inches at a time, towards the imaginary gap in front of you. Miraculously, the gap usually opens up.

But the tuk-tuk is in its element hurtling down the centre line of the road, swerving in and out of traffic. You can almost touch the wing mirrors of nearby cars as you zip past, except that doing so would probably result in a trip to a hospital to extract shards of broken glass from your hand.

Finally the tuk-tuk comes to a stop at a destination. You half-expect a reminder to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle until it comes to a complete stop and to see people trying to sell you "I Rode a Tub-Tuk and Survived" t-shirts.


posted on Thursday, April 10, 2003 - permalink