Sunday, December 10, 2006

If just for the heck of it, take a tuk-tuk ride.

It's like traveling around town on a convertible

One thing that makes Thailand unique is the tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motorized vehicle. It can be found on almost any road in the capital.

Tuk-tuk is a symbol of Thai ingenuity. It is a modification of a Japanese delivery vehicle popular in the country during the 1960s. It has become popular and it is now being exported abroad. Tuk-tuk has made its presence even in far away Kenya, in Africa, where it has become a cheap mode of transportation. There, the vehicle is also known as tuk-tuk, a Thai coinage taken from the chugging sound of the vehicle.

It is also a symbol of Thai artistry. Although the make is similar, tuk-tuks are adorned and painted in the many differdnt ways and colours. The colourfull tuk-tuk has in fact become a tourist attraction in itself because of its novelty.

In the provinces, the tuk-tuk is the most popular means of transport. They operate like taxis, although without any meter. They are occasionally faster than ordinary taxis in heavy traffic because they can easily wave in and out a jam.

Without any luggage, three people can fit into a tuk-tuk quite comfortably, It's possible to fit more in but it gets a bit cramped.

Tuk-tuk fares always have to be bargained for and it is sometimes possible to bargain down to less than the taxi flagfall of Bt35. Most of the times, however, they offer no savings over a taxi, except if you're not good at bargaining and can speak good Thai.

The initial price tuk-tuk drivers quote is likely well over the going rate, but it's easy to bargain it down to a more reasonable one if you roughly know the equivalent taxi fare.

It's essential to bargain the price with tuk-tuks before getting it. If you only ask after the ride, it's likely to end in a request for an outrageous fare which can obviously lead to an unpleasant situation.

Just like taxi drivers, tuk-tuk drivers mostly come from the province and have had no training, sometimes have no idea about the place you want to go.

A subtle point to remember when riding a tuk-tuk is not to rest your feet on the rail near the driver's head. Doing so is very respectful towards the driver.

As tuk-tuks are open-ended, they expose passengers to the high pollution levels in the middle of Bangkok's roads and offer almost no protection in case of accident.

If just for the heck of it, taking a tuk-tuk is fun. It's like traviling around town on a convertible.

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