Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tuk-Tuks and Thai Transport

Daytona on the Streets of Thailand

3-Wheel Craziness and Cheap (mostly) Transport 
What do you get when you cross an Ice-Cream Wagon with a Crazed Weasel on Nitrous Oxide and put Dale Earnhart's insane brother behind the wheel?? Well you get the ubiquitous Tuk-Tuk found just about everywhere cheap short haul passenger transport is in demand in Thai cities.  Did I say cheap?? Well mostly yes so long as you negotiate and agree on a price before you get in and speed off into the sunset. Like a lot of places where foreigners bring money and dozy notions that ignore the universal law of "Let's Fleece the Tourists", you can either get a great cheap ride or a surprise price tag. Nothing astronomical mind you, just a little efficient vacuum job on your wallet.

You'll probably pay more than the locals however careful you are or how you bargain, but at least it'll be a little less uneven. Taxis are not exempt from this either by the way. Make sure you have them drop the meter or agree on a price beforehand there too. That won't stop the odd one from claiming the price on the meter isn't the "real" price and adding a few Baht, but at least then you'll have solid grounds for a little creative negotiation. Don't get me wrong, not much here is expensive by N. American standards, so you won't end up wearing a barrel out on the street somewhere regardless.

Tuk-Tuks come in a few other flavors than the more popular 2-seater (well, sitting platform) model. You can get these other contraptions that seat 4, 6 or sometimes more. Like a van that shrank in the wash. Above is the slightly larger version, but still about 14 tons short of the colossal Ram Trucks that infest N. American motorways. A lot of drivers decorate the hell out of there little 3-Wheelers and the Bling can be amazing. Brake lights and other bright Christmas lighting is positioned right behind the driver and in your face so you'll know exactly when they are braking (seldom) or performing nutty traffic heroics. If things are going too slow in your direction, best tactics apparently dictate driving down the wrong side if the road bobbing and weaving around stopped cars and oncoming traffic. No seat-belts allowed so hang on tight kiddies. Gonna be a bumpy ride. Oddly enough, I feel safe riding around in them despite what what we would consider driving insanity. These guys are good.


Above: Drive through snack stand Bangkok style. I'm sitting in a Tuk-Tuk waiting for the light to change while here and there these masked dudes just meander down the middle of the road selling whatever snacks they have in the bag. People buying them so I figure they must be decent. In order to simulate the almost impossible to hear, piss-poor sound quality found in all N. American drive-throughs, the ingenious solution here is to hide behind a thick mask in 400 decibel traffic. Gotta love the solution. Of course the real reason is that the clouds of car exhaust must be absolutely choking to work in. Can't imagine doing that every day. Must be like smoking 40 packs of cigarettes a day. Tough job.

View from the backseat. I need to get some kind of action shots or videos of these guys tearing through traffic like total maniacs. It looks almost lazy and tranquil here. Don't believe it. Forgot to mention that the power plants on these little doogers must be some kind of atomic powered lawn-mower engines on steroids. Sounds like them, but waaaaayyyy louder and my lawnmower never did Warp 5 down the street either. 

Wait a sec,  here come a few scooters...


Lest you think pedestrians are safe on the sidewalks of Bangkok, think again. Motorbikes seem to think they are splendid places to bypass snarled traffic out on the streets. This is a very common sight and it's really nutty when they blaze through sidewalks crowded with vendors stalls, buyers and other assorted pedestrians. Gotta pay attention walking around there. Smaller places like Chiang-Rai are much less exciting from that perspective thank goodness. 

Some tourist Noob sitting in the back of a Tuk-Tuk - wind in his hair, bugs in his teeth and car exhaust in his eyeballs. Shoulda worn shades...  Enough for now. Gotta get ready for next leg of trip in Laos. See you next post...