Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Tuk Experience - Sri Lanka
The current 'tuk-tuk' setup is a modification of a Japanese delivery vehicle popular in the '60s. Drivers operate the engine with a motorcycle style steering mechanism to guide the vehicles. Originally two-stroke engines, they are also available in four-stroke versions with delivery and pick-up models on offer as well.
The name 'tuk-tuk' quaintly mimics the sound of their idling engines, which is a 'soundtrack' that is part and parcel of Asian city life. Most tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka are a slightly modified version of the Indian Bajaj model imported from India, though there are few manufactured locally and increasing imports from other countries in the region, as well as Piaggio (an Italian brand). Bajaj enjoys a virtual monopoly in the island with its agent being David Pieries Motor Co. Ltd.
In January, 2007, the Sri Lankan government imposed a ban on all two-stroke three-wheelers and, therefore, three-wheelers with only four-stoke engines are now imported to the island. Most three-wheelers are available as hiring vehicles, while the few others are used as private vehicles or haul goods.
Provided you have bargaining skills, three-wheelers have proved to be the most economical way of travelling quickly for some time now. Whilst some people avoid three-wheelers simply because they cannot be bothered bargaining, others avoid them for their notoriety in hospitality. Women, especially those travelling alone, avoid hiring three-wheelers at night. However, there are instances when they do come in handy. They are mostly found at main junctions, near bus stops, on the go, or at 'three-wheel stands' (a.k.a. three-wheel parks). They take turns at hires and, most of the time, they occupy their idle time playing cards and chatting. Some maintain their parking area (I have seen places where they have planted trees and has taken the initiative to build religious place of worship of their own).
Recently, along came the metered three-wheelers. A very reliable set of people compared to the previous lot. They require no bargaining skills (the fare is displayed on the metre) and comes to your doorstep when called (there are several three-wheeler companies to choose from, some providing 24-hour service). Nevertheless, ladies still avoid night travel alone with them.
Customer feedback - Metered taxi
"One day a driver stopped by to give an umbrella to a person while I was in it. At first, I thought he was somebody known to him, but later he told me that it was someone who forgot his umbrella in the three-wheeler."
"I called this guy around 10.30 p.m. and the fellow was so sleepy and went all around the road. We almost died that day!"
"This guy was talking non-stop and it was very annoying."
"One day the fellow left me and went because I got late to show up. I had to call the taxi company again."
"There was a huge traffic jam and fellow took a shortcut and I arrived right on time for work."
"When giving directions to the operator, tell them the closest main town, as they know only the main towns. On the other hand the three-wheeler drivers know every place."
"Don't ask them to come to regular three-wheeler stands. They are bit reluctant to do that."
"The three-wheeler driver helped my drunk friend with water and a face towel even though he ruined the vehicle with vomit."
"Most of them have the courtesy to say good night and thank you. :)"
"Their waiting charges are very reasonable."
"Some even settle the balance money to the rupee."
"At night, some pretend not to recognise the currency notes when settling the fare. Beware!"
"I forgot my wallet once and I didn't know the driver's number to call because I found him on the road (I didn't call their office to book the hire). I called their office and explained what happened as soon as I realised that my wallet is missing. They located the driver for me and he delivered my wallet! :)"
Future tuk tuk
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