Me: Hola! How do get to _______?
Local: No problem! Take a tricycle going that way, and then get onto a jeepney and no problem!
This sums up a lot of conversations about how to get from one place to another using location transportation. Completely nonsensical at first and after stumbling my way through it, somehow everything makes perfect sense the next time around. In this case, a jeepney is what local filipinos call their “buses.” A more apt description is a jeep on steroids — if you take that jeep, flatten it a bit, stretch it some, call it something “cool” like Beowulf or Jade Machine, throw on the most extravagant paint job and maybe a picture of Jesus and then shove in 20 people.
One of my favorite part of traveling is riding in all these random local modes of transportation and most countries, especially crafty countries in Asia and central America, seem to have their own. Here are a few of the oddest/coolest ones out there. How many have you been on?
1. Gondola // Venice, Italy
Expensive as f*ck. Mainly because they know every couple wants to ride through the canals on one of these things when they are on their romantic holiday to Venice. Chances are when I’m married, I’ll have to ride one of these with my wife because the “How To Be a Good Husband” handbook says so. If you don’t want to fork out the cash, pay 2 euros and take a traghetto that crosses the canal. It literally is a 2 minute ride, but at least you can get your selfie for Instagram without forking out 80 euros.
2. Chicken Bus // Nicaragua
Talk about repurposing. Central America is where yellow school buses from America go to die, or get repainted into “chicken buses.” These colorful and terribly inefficient buses are named so because the passengers and cargo are packed in like a bunch of chickens and also cause they are pretty colorful. I remember jumping on one bus, and then being woken up and rushed off to chase after another bus going in a different direction because that’s the “normal” way of getting to where I needed to go. At least they were nice enough to launch my 50L bag down to me from the top of the bus.
3. Cyclo // Vietnam
This is a great way to slowly take in street traffic of Vietnam and simultaneously feel like an asshole because an old man has to pedal his single-gear bike and push you and your friends up a hill. On the downhill, you just hope his brakes still work.
4. Habal-Habal // Philippines
This is real. I’ve seen motorcycles carry a family of 6 in Vietnam and India, but this one takes the cake. Why carry 6 when you can carry 6 more people by added a plank of wood that goes across the motorcycle. Why hasn’t everyone thought of this? Look at the guy down there. Look how confident he is. I bet none of those kids are his either. Here’s my favorite part, you probably have to tell the driver your weight before getting on one of these things so he can do some mental math and figure out how to balance you out. You know what happens if you try to lie about your weight? You fall the f*ck off when those two skinny guys they put on the other side still do not weigh as much as you. And he’s wearing flip-flops. What a pimp!
5. Dirty Camel // Sahara Desert, Morocco
The best form of transportation when trying to traverse a dessert. For those taking a tour to spend the night out in the Sahara Desert, you get to sleep under the same blanket that you’re riding on, which probably has never been washed ever. Getting on and off one of these things is actually pretty fun. And by fun, I mean, you hope you don’t get thrown off like an idiot. I actually enjoyed my camel ride, but my butt did not.
6. Felucca // Nile River, Egypt
You really can’t come to Egypt and not spend a night or two on one of these things sailing down the Nile. By day, the Nubian sailors catch the wind and navigate you along the Nile. You take your meals on the felucca and sleep under the stars at night while they sing along to this. It’s incredible peaceful as you watch the landscape change and temples just pop up along the river.
7. Norry // Battambang, Cambodia
I’ve yet to ride one of these, but it looks like the side of someone’s shack was removed and assembled onto a set of rail wheels. Apparently, these things use to go at to 50 kph (30 mph), so those imaginary seat belts would have come in handy. It’s incredible that these things still run and here’s an even cooler fact. When two of these things are heading towards each other, the lighter one gets taken off the track to give way and then put back on to continue on their merry way.
8. Coco Taxi // Cuba
Oh those cheeky Cubans and their ingenuity. What the hell is this thing and why do I not own one to ride around San Francisco? I would call mine Mellow Annie. This might be the main reason I need to get to Cuba as soon as possible. They are also cheaper than normal taxi and you don’t have to deal with any windows, so that is a plus.
9. Auto-Rickshaw // India
3 wheels. 7-horsepower. This is a glorified lawnmower with a shell around it. I drove one of these things 3000 km across India and I loved every shaky second of it. We named ours Ellie after Carl’s wife from Up and she survived the crazy journey. You will find these things are over India and will be one of the cheapest ways to get around town. If you’re lucky, your rickshaw will come equipped with a set of stereo speakers that use up way more power than the rickshaw could possibly output and you can jam out to the latest Desi tracks.
10. Totora Reed Boat // Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
This is a boat that miraculously floats despite being made by tying together a bunch of reeds. You’ll find these on Lake Titicaca (who came up with this name?) where the Uros floating villages are made from the same material. These things are surprisingly sturdy and can hold around 20 people. 21 and you’re probably asking for trouble.
The world is a big place and this is only a small list. What other crazy or cool forms of transportation have you been on? At some point, I’ll probably write about all the crazy planes rides I’ve survived.