8 Weirdly Awesome Ways to Travel in South East Asia!
by Kshaunish Jaini
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too! All of us have traveled by the regular means of transportation. But check out these awesomely weird ways to travel in South East Asia! From 'Jugaad' in India to Jeepneys in Philippines to 'Bamboo Trains' in Cambodia, these unique means of transportation in South East Asia really make you travel adventurously! Powered by humans, animals and engines alike, how many of these have you tried?
Jugaad - Unique transportation in India
Literally meaning 'Hacking your way around with a lack of resources', the Jugaad is quintessential India and a testimony to rural Indian innovation. With a lack of availability of a lot of resources, farmers and small business owners have come up with a way to take spare parts from other vehicles and hack together a workable engine on 4 wheels. That's just about it what it is - An engine strapped to a steering wheel connected to four wheels! Really! Useful as it cheap to make and can carry a bunch of people in one go and reach speeds of up to 50kph! But ride at your own risk as there is nothing but air between the open engine and the driver! You'll find many of these whether you're in the cities or hitching a ride to trek in the Himalayas.
Also, no two Jugaads are the same! Designs and parts vary from one piece to another!
Rickshaw, Cyclo, Becak - Adventurous transportation in India, Vietnam and Indonesia
Rickshaw (Cyclo, Becak, Padyak) is known by many names in different countries in South East Asia. But all are similar in their use and as a means of transportation. Light, three-wheeled and meant to carry both passengers as well as light goods. They are efficient to move around in busy streets and quite fun to ride around the first few times after which you'll probably get tired of all the dust in you face. As they are human powered, it is you riding on people's backs and thus a lot of countries have banned these for humanitarian concerns. These three-wheeled vehicles can carry 2-4 people at a time but are usually the slowest on the road.
Motodop - Adventurous Transportation in Cambodia
Motodop (Motorela or Habal Habal as it's known in the Philippines) stands for Motorcycle Taxi. They sort of came into the transportation scene in Cambodia, Philippines and India when motorcycle owners realised people ask for lifts over small distances falling on the way of the drivers. Sometimes also called 'pilots', it offered a way for drivers to make some quick money. Habal Habal is notorious for carrying up to 10 passengers on one bike! How? you ask? Ride out to find out!
Bullock Carts - Ubiquitous means of transportation in rural South East Asia
A cart pulled by two bulls, the Bullock Cart can be seen across most rural roads in SE Asia. It's very useful as you do not really need proper roads for this, it can travel on mud, gravel as well as tarred roads. Carrying upto 10 people in one go, the strength of the bulls is what determines the speed of the cart. Bull power anyone?
Bamboo Train - Transportation in Cambodia
Also known as 'Nori' locally, the Bamboo Train is made of long wooden frames covered with ultra light bamboo placed on reused military tank wheels. Popular both for tourists and locals in Battambang and Poipet, these feel like traveling on magic carpets! Interesting to note that they travel both ways on 1 track and if two Noris meet, the lighter one is unloaded and carried around the heavier one to move on. With a top speed of around 40 kph these flat-bedded vehicles will carry anything that fits - people, animals, motorcycles and farm products!
Jeepneys - Colourful Transportation in Philippines
Popular in the Philippines, Jeepneys originated from American Jeeps left behind after the war. You can easily spot them on the roads as they are vibrantly decorated with colourful designs and paint. These 'buses' can carry 16-25 people but beware, they usually only start once all seats are occupied! And no surprise, you can hail them from anywhere and they'll stop wherever you wish them to.
Tuk-Tuk - The Lifeline of Transportation in Thailand
A motorised version of the traditional human-powered rickshaws, the Tuk-Tuks in Thailand or Auto Rickshaws as they're known in India, are the go-to means of transportation in the cities. There are both small and big varieties of these and some have fare-meters while some work purely on your bargaining skills. Usually meant to carry up to 3 people they can easily wind their around crowded streets. Do make sure your driver does not mistake the roads for NFS gaming, for then this ride without belts or doors can really become adventurous! It is interesting to note that in India, these are now at your beck and call with apps. You can order one to pick you up at your doorstep and track and pay online!
Songthaew - Thailand and Laos
Songthaews can be found in Thailand and Laos. Literally meaning 'Two Benches' as two rows of seats are fixed along either side of the back of the trucks. They act as pick-up trucks or shared taxis alike and carry up to 10 people. In rural Laos, they are made pretty similarly to the Indian Jugaad with two planks fixed atop an open engine and steering. These are the cheapest means to travel by far in Laos but beware of the 'wooden butt' syndrome when traveling long distances in a Songthaew, if you know what we mean. Header picture by Staffan Scherz
What's the most weirdly awesome way you've traveled? Comment below! Also, check out some of the amazing things to do in South East Asia: