They are called Xe Lam in Vietnam, Bajaj in Indonesia, Traysikel in the Philippines, Thone bein in Burma and Tuk tuk in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Naïve tourists would call them “tuktuk” altogether as long as they have 3 wheels. Some call it “motorized rickshaw”. *oh puhleze!* Bottomline is – there are proper names to call these fast, agile, noisy, law-breaking piece of machineries.
These, of course, are not original Southeast Asian. But as inventive and resourceful as we are – we get to create our own versions that reflect our cultural identity.
The original Tuk tuk was first manufactured by Daihatsu in Japan and was exported to Europe, South and Southeast Asia in the midst of the world "small vehicle" craze.
The Thai Tuktuk (left) was first manufactured around 50 years ago. The name “tuk tuk” came from the sound of the earlier single stroke models that goes “tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk” *hilarious!*. And of all these 3-wheel wonders, Thai Tuk tuks are the only ones that can run in reverse!
Lao Tuk tuks (right) are relatively taller and looks slimmer! It’s bigger (but slower) than Thai or Cambodian ones but the design is similar to the tuktuks of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It’s actually a modified common motorcycle with its rear wheel removed and fitted with a passenger area. Vietnamese "Xe Lams" are imports from Thailand and Japan. The Vietnamese government are planning to phase them out!
The Philippine version “Traysikel” (left) came from the Americans after World War II. It has become a major transportation icon for Filipinos since then. Local manufacturers have different styles of “traysikels” – but actually, it’s an imported motorcycle fitted with a sidecar and amazingly decorated (like the Jeepney).
The Bajaj *pronounced as “ba-djai”* of Indonesia originated from India. Where it is one of the most famous means of transportation. The Bajaj is very common in Jakarta but it’s never promoted as a cultural icon.
The Thai tuktuk landed me an overnight in jail. The Lao tuktuk made me slam it onto a light post (which was standing on my way) and the Philippine traysikel rolled over to its' side – while I'm still on it.
There. Take that!
Clockwise: The Xe Lam of Saigon, Tuktuk of Phnom Penh, and Bajaj of Jakarta.
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