During your journey through Southeast Asia you can be sure you’ll move in a thousand and one ways, including the train and bus. The more daring will also opt to rent a motorcycle, to move quickly and comfortably interurban. However, the means of transport par excellence, especially in cities, is undoubtedly the Tuk-Tuk. Of all Thai cities Bangkok is the most tuk-tuks concentrated, so during your visit the country’s capital we encourage you to travel in tuk-tuk at least a couple of times.
The history of Tuk-Tuk in Thailand
The tuktuk is the motorized version of the so-called “rickshaws,” the two-wheeled cart pulled by a person who became fashionable in the late 19th century . The rickshaw first appeared in Thailand around 1870, when it was already common to see them in other parts of Asia (mainly China). In fact the rickshaw was so common in China that it even appears in comics such as Tintin and Blue Lotus, when the adventurous journalist and his dog Milu visit the city of Shanghai in 1934. The advantage of the rickshaw over a normal horse-drawn carriage was that, although its carrying capacity was lower, it did not take an animal to transport people or goods through the city. For this reason many lower class people who could not afford the expense of buying and maintaining a horse or ox opted for this new version of the transport cart. Thus Thailand was filled with handcarts for passenger transport and rickshaws quickly became an icon in Bangkok.
From the handheld version to the motorized version
Over the years, the tuk-tuk has been modernised – especially for passenger transport versions – to improve passenger comfort. After the Second World War , with the improvement of industrial processes and the expansion of combustion engines, the first motorized tricycles appeared. The first manufacturer to launch a motor tricycle was Piaggio, with its Ape, almost at the same time as it was triumphing with the Vespa. The Ape are still an omnipresent vehicle throughout Italy, especially in the villages. Its simple air-cooled engine made it a robust, indefatigable and almost unbreakable transport machine (even at low speed). It didn’t take long for the Asian markets to copy the successful design of the Ape to start producing what is now known as tuk-tuk..
Tips if you are going to take a tuk-tuk
Tuk-tuk drivers are smart and will always try to get extra baths out of you every time. In addition there are other tips you can follow to fully enjoy your journeys in tuk-tuk:
- Avoid rush hour : being in the middle of gigantic traffic jam sitting in a tuk-tuk breathing in car smoke is not too pleasant
- Avoid tourist areas : the prices of the journeys they will try to negotiate with you are exorbitant
- Always negotiate the price before starting the journey
- Do not contract activities within the tuk-tuk: vehicles come with advertising leaflets of tours, massages or activities usually more expensive than through an agency.
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