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Bangkok and Tuk Tuk or three wheeler transport taxi cabs (06 May 2003)

Bangkok afternoon temperature 06 May 2003.
At 2 pm, Bangkok heat is shown on the mercury at close to 38ºC in the room. If you happen to walk the streets in our place somewhere on the east of the city you could clearly see the floating particles of thousands different kinds in the air under the pounding heat and clouds after clouds of smelling exhaust gases.

My mind floats away into the past. Twenty years ago when I first landed Bangkok (as a rural boy from the hills) alone it was not as hot, or at least not as dirty as today situation. I remember I liked to take tuk tuk taxi to go around the city. Tuk tuk or three wheeler cabs were one of the main private rental transport services in the city and many places in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. Inside the open air cabin of three wheeler, we did not feel too hot. The air was breathable then.

Three wheel cycle with a rattan seat for passenger Tuk tuk are light vehicles capable to carry two passengers or even three if they are small people, plus a couple of shopping bags. The price is negotiable and normally cheaper than air conditioned saloon taxies.

Tuk tuk has come a long 60 years history, and along its way there have been changes.

At the beginning people adapted the bicycle by attaching on one side an rattan seat. Then put one more wheel to keep the balance. So it was called Samlor (Sam = Three, lor = wheel in Thai language). In some places of Myanmar, the seating had two sides to carry two passengers sitting back to back.

An initiative Samlor was combined between a rickshaw and a bicycle. It was found in 1933 at Nakorn Ratchasima province. Rickshaw and bicycle Later Samlor was motorized to make it faster and also to reduce the load on the driver.

In 1960 a used three-wheeled Japanese vehicle was introduced to Thailand and was run for public transport. It has got the name "Tuk Tuk" after the chugging sound of the engine. When most of the tuk tuks switched the engines to LPG type the familiar sound has disappeared. However we still call them tuk tuks anyway.

Motorcycle tuk tuk   Tuk tuk with its own engine

With the rapid increase in number of cars and heavy traffic jams in Bangkok, tuk tuk has started to be seen as something that does not match the cityscape. Authorities have restricted tuk tuks to run only in certain places such as Rattanakosin island area.

Today latest model of tuk tuk is called Samlor Thai Chaiyo. It is a modification with the use of modern technology. Up to now they are mainly used for promotional shows. Modern tuk tuk

At 3 pm I am sweating. I stop typing and walk to the corner to turn on the air conditioner. Looking through the window I could see a group of teenage girls and boys wearing tight jeans walking on the platform. A business man in thick coat and tie suit walks down the building across the street.

I am sorry; I am now pumping my room's heat out into the atmosphere.

Jibb (06 May 2003)

Salawin river, Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand
Hike & Hilltribe village homestay to Salawin river, Mae Hong Son

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