Okay, I have found my new favorite way to get around. Ever. (Well, until hoverboards are invented.)
Behold the humble tuk-tuk!
As Wikipedia defines the term:
The tuk-tuk (à¸•à¸¸à¹Šà¸à¸•à¸¸à¹Šà¸ or à¸•à¸¸à¹Šà¸à¹† in Thai) is the Southeast Asian version of a vehicle known elsewhere as an auto rickshaw or cabin cycle. It is a widely used form of urban transport in Bangkok and other Thai cities, as well as other major Southeast Asian and South Asian cities.
How I define it is: Three-wheeled, hoverboard-like hellion of the traffic-choked fleshpot!
But yeah, it’s kinda like a motorized rickshaw too. The driver sits in front and one or two farang adults or three somewhat skinnier Thai adults, or up to (we-swear-to-Cthulu-saw-this-today) five schoolkids sit in back. The tiny gas-powered motor putters to life and pulls the whole contraption into traffic.
It is, as you might guess, awesome.
Let’s go on a tuk-tuk ride together, shall we?
First there is the measured buildup, sidling along just faster than the various pedestrians.
The other tuk-tuks swarm about us, waving and smiling.
Notice how the metal filigree between driver and passngers looks exactly like a bedframe? That’s just one part of what gives the experience its Hey-I-just-put-a-motor-on-my-couch-want-to-go-for-a-ride? feel.
Fun Fact: the tuk-tuk’s name is onomatopoetic. It’s tiny two-stroke engine sounds just like—
But look! A tuk-tuk-size opening in the traffic . . .
The sudden acceleration (or “dash of death”) between other, much larger vehicles begins! Any of them could crush us without a second thought! It’s like riding a poodle into a stampede of t-rexes!
But then a stretch of open road is spotted . . . and we make the jump to tuk-tuk hyperspace!
The dizzying crescendo! Your teeth are rattling like a pearl necklace in a blender!
And then, suddenly, the screech of brakes and blinding glare of brake-lights!
Ahhh, we are at our destination. And, um, why are the brake lights inside the passenger cabin? That’s just odd.
But there’s no time to ask. It’s time to pay the man the negotiated fare. (Crap, forgot to bargain again! Guileless, childlike farang.)
Goodbye, little tuk-tuk! We shall meet again, like the next time I need a medium-length ride in motorized transport and don’t have luggage.
More about Thailand soon!
Update: Here’s what we did today, as recounted by Justine.