6 UNIQUE FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION IN ASIA
Upon my first visit to any new Asian city, I am most excited to try the local food. Perhaps the second-most interesting feature unique to each new destination is the creative ways that people are transported across the city. Below are some of my favorite modes of transportation across Southeast Asian cities:
BAJAJ: JAKARTA, INDONESIA
A bajaj, named after the Indian Bajaj motor company, is a motorized rickshaw. There are an estimated 20,000 of these in Indonesia’s “Big Durian” capital of Jakarta. They will seat two comfortably and even accommodate five or six with a little motivation. The drivers are generally upbeat and fairly honest, though a little negotiation is necessary. Just ask a young local what you should pay to your destination before getting in.
The ride can be fun. These guys will fearlessly make a U-turn in any scenario. There is little protection from the city’s dust and pollution. Make sure you’ve got your camera handy to capture the exhilarating view of one of the biggest, baddest cities in the world.
TUK-TUK: THAILAND, CAMBODIA, LAOS
The ubiquitous ‘Tuk Tuk” is so named due to the sputtering sound of its determined engine. They can often travel faster than taxis due to their ability to maneuver through traffic. Unfortunately, as taxis are also cheap in Bangkok, tuk tuks are often not a particularly cheaper option for “farang”. Also, tuk-tuk drivers are some of the worst people in the world. Keep this in mind.
As always, bargain hard before getting in and feel free to ask a nearby local what a good price to pay is. Hold out for that price, or just take a damn taxi.
In most Philippine environments, the trike the is most common means of motorized transportation. Powered by a motorcycle, with a cab frequently covering the motorcycle itself, as opposed to a tuk tuk, in which the cab is detached from the bike. Trikes are generally safe and cheap, with rides starting around 20 pesos ($0.50) depending on your bargaining skills. Like jeepneys, the local minibuses made from former army jeeps, trikes are often painted in a fun, colorful manner.
TRISHAW: RANGOON, BURMA
A trishaw is simply a motorless bicycle with a seat affixed to the side of it (in Burma), or behind the peddler (Vietnam, Philippines for example). Dhaka, Bangladesh is perhaps the trishaw capital of the world, featuring more than 400,000 vehicles in the street. A ride in a trishaw is environmentally friendly. In China, rickshaws are a former icon. However, most cities have banned them outright and they exist solely as tourist attractions.
CYCLO: HANOI, VIETNAM
I differentiate “cyclos” from “trishaws” for the simple reason that the seat is in the front, which is unusual outside of Vietnam. Personally, if we can find a driver we trust, these are our favorite modes of transportation for urban distances. Being ushered around in the front and paraded along like the pope, for all passersby to view is a bit embarrassing for some, but we love it. Plus, cyclos offer an unobstructed view of the hustle and bustle surrounding you. Be sure that your peddler and you have a solid understanding of the fare agreed before you set out.
JEEPNEY: PHILIPPINES, EVERYWHERE
The jeepney is the most common mode of transportation in the Philippines. Resembling something out of The Road Warrior, no two jeepneys are alike. Spray painted images of Jesus and Mickey Mouse make art out of transportation, as spray painted images of Jesus and Mickey Mouse start and stop their way across Philippine cities. Complimenting their haphazard paint jobs, their routes are nearly impossible to figure out if you are just arriving in a city. But just ask a friendly local and they can explain which one to grab, as each jeepney does have a number and the major destinations also spray painted on the side.