Transportation is one of the largest innovation since the civilisation of mankind. With the advancement of technology, we get to travel a lot faster and further with greater ease. But imagine the good old days where you get to enjoy life in a slower, but more comfortable pace. Travelling is about experiencing. And experiencing a city at a slower pace can help us to gain a better insight of its people and culture. Here are some good old unique transports available in Asia, which you should give it a try when you visit these cities.
1. Rickshaw, Japan
Rickshaws are said to be invented in Japan around 1869. It was then an inexpensive and popular mode of transportation, as man-power was a cheaper option as compared to vehicles or carriages drawn by animals. The rickshaw’s popularity also spread widely to the rest of Asia, but declined during the early 20th century when newer versions like the Cycle rickshaw (Tri-shaw) was invented. Hand-pulled rickshaws are no longer the norm, even in the country they originated from.
Fortunately, in modern Japan the tradition is still being kept alive. Especially in Tokyo or Kyoto, you can still get onto a traditional hand-pulled rickshaw ride. Modern rickshaws are mostly run by tour companies which help to promote places of interest with the use of a rickshaw ride. The rickshaw pullers are usually male university students who are earning their pocket money, and most of them are pretty well-versed in English too. It will be an unforgettable experience traveling in a rickshaw in a modernised city like Japan.
After the rickshaw was popularized in other parts of Asia, newer versions began to takeover the traditional hand-pulled ones. The newer rickshaws are powered by pedaling a bicycle which is attached to the side of the rickshaw chair. The new look earned the name Trishaw. In Singapore it is also known as the “3-wheel car”. During the days of post World War II the trishaw was a popular mode of transportation, but quickly declined during the 1950s. Similar to the Japanese rickshaw, modern trishaws are mostly operated by tourism groups, offering an alternative nostalgic feel for tourists to experience the city in a slightly different way.
3. Tuk-Tuk, Thailand
With the invention of motorized vehicles, Tuk-Tuks are the modernised version of the rickshaw. Their compact size made them easy to weave in and out of the busy traffic in Thailand, especially Bangkok. Most locals will not take the Tuk-Tuk nowadays, so most of the drivers will look for tourists who are looking for a special experience in Thailand.
Just like what one would do while shipping in Thailand, it is always good to bargain and confirm the price of the fare before you hop in. Do not be surprised if you are taken to a few clothing or souvenir shops before reaching your destination. The salary of the drivers are low, so they do need to make some extra income and commission by fetching tourists to these stores who engaged them as “ambassadors”. There is no obligation to buy from these stores though. Nonetheless, the Tuk-Tuks are already in their sunset days. It will just be a matter of time when they are reduced to an artifact found in museums and documentary books.
4. Jeepney, Philippines
Originally made from the leftover jeeps from the U.S military after World War II, jeepney is the popular and affordable choice among the Filipinos. With the size of a mini-bus, the jeepney can usually sit around 10-20 people, though there are times when it can even squeeze up to 30 people! The jeepney is also a display of the art and creativity of the Filipinos. Drivers will design and heavily accessorise their jeepney, making each jeepney totally unique.
However, the once “King of the Road” is also not spared from rising competitions like Uber. With a growing demand for more comfortable and environmental friendly transport options, the jeepney sector is already facing uncertainties in its future. Though most tourists are not very keen to try out the jeepney, they sure are one of the best representations of the country’s culture. Do get some of them in photos before they are gone.
Time waits for no one.