Monday, January 25, 2010

World Traveler Part 8: The Tuk Tuk - if you don't pay much attention to what's going on, you'll be fine

One of the things that I had heard about - but wasn't sure if I would experience personally - was the Tuk Tuk.

Oh who the hell am I kidding. Of course I was going to try it. But first I had to get the pronounciation right. Based on my 2 days in Thailand, I was pretty sure I was slaughtering the Thai language and offending everyone I tried to speak to. So I listened to people on the street, who were CONSTANTLY asking us if we needed a tuk tuk, and  took note. It's pronounced with a long "u" sound (like in the word clue).

Aha. Alrighty then.

Then I had to figure out what the benefit was - why take a tuk tuk if the taxis are cheap, plentiful, and air conditioned? There really isn't a lot going for the lowly tuk tuk on first glance. And the tuk tuk is, in a word, dangerous.

In essence, it is a glorified moped with a vinyl roof and backseat. No sides, no seatbelts, no nothin' to protect you from the hundreds of cars and trucks that are DRIVING RIGHT TOWARDS YOU OH HOLY FUCK WATCH OUT. Turns out, those tuk tuks are a great way to get through the impenetrable gridlock of Bangkok. Just don't watch what's going on around you - because if you do, you will see (in addition to the looming city bus over there) your entire life flash before your eyes.

Seriously. It is probably one of the scariest experiences ever. You are in a backseat, with no control over the vehicle, and no protection from what is obviously an imminent head-on collision. You can't see anything because the roof is completely obstructing your view, until the oncoming traffic is literally inches from you. Inches. The driver is not paying any attention to those silly lines painted on the road, and floats across every lane of traffic with a wonton, devil-may-care approach.

Well, I cared. I cared a LOT.

I also cared about the suitcase full of dresses that was strapped precariously on the back of the tuk tuk. Precious cargo indeed.

But in the end, the tuk tuk was the best way to get from point A to point B, as hard as it was to believe. So we braved the traffic and the exhaust fumes know...... DEATH, to take to the streets on a moped built for 3 (or 4 plus an enormous hard sided wheeled suitcase). Because these tuk tuks are nothing if not versatile.

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