Superlatives | Craziest Transportation

And the Bailey goes to…Southeast Asia!

By Perrin

A crafty tuk tuk chauffeur repurposes CD's as tail lights.

Long boats, windowless buses and wooden train tracks rumble through Southeast Asia. These vehicles entered this world with the baby boomers, and these days they run about as quickly as a toddler taking its first steps.

Head of the transportation monarchy.

Obstacles inherent to local roads make the ride even bumpier: during a 10-minute trip it is possible to skid over both a mattresses-size pothole and a pot-size monkey.  Dirt and exhaust pepper the air like teargas.  Passengers launch skywards like popcorn kernels and baggage and children topple overboard.  Luckily, locals are used to being ejected from vehicles, and they swing back aboard with the practiced finesse of John Wayne straddling a horse.

The roof of this caravan looks like a yard sale. Dibs on the fan!

We rate longboats the smoothest ride in the Mekong region.

After one month of nerve-numbing transport, Anne and I hopped a plane.  We flew uneventfully from Vientiene, Laos to Siem Reap.  It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, when our plane deposited us at the airport – which makes a phone booth look like a spacious facility – there was only one thing in sight: ground transportation service.

The service manager informed us, “Taxi $10.”

$10 for a taxi?  Parked before us was a collection of local cabs, usually referred to as “tuk tuks.”  Cable cars are a trademark of San Francisco; yellow-top taxis are linked to New York; and tuk tuks are a cornerstone of daily life in SE Asia.

A colorful Bangkok tuk tuk awaits.

A tuk tuk, for those who have not yet encountered one, is essentially a motorcycle dragging a 3-wheeled golf cart.  Carved buddhas swing from the roofs and embroidered elephants decorate the upholstery.  Windows and doors lack covering, which can be unnerving, but this does accommodate panoramic views.

Anne and I began negotiations with the tuk tuk drivers.  To our chagrin, the drivers had formed a cartel and the fee stuck at $10.  The priciest tuks of Bangkok had never charged us over $5, so we defiantly left the airport and began walking towards town.

A driver followed.  He quietly explained, “Outside airport, tuk tuk only $4.”  Not surprised, we hopped aboard.

The drivers – not just their vehicles – can throw travelers for a loop.  But as with any old engine, knowing their tricks smooths the ride.

All aboard the Thai limousine!

This we can get used to: the boat from Sihanoukville to Ko Russei, Cambodia.


About sistersbailey

We are Perrin and Sarah Bailey, collectively known as “The Sisters Bailey”. The moniker was born out of a crazy weekend at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz Fest and it was the first time we had ever been referred to as one unit. We grew up in Alexandria, VA together and then separated for college - Perrin to The University of Pennsylvania and Sarah to Northwestern University – and somehow landed together in New York after graduation. It was in the midst of the hustle of Manhattan that we became friends for the first time in years. Somehow we landed jobs in the same industry - Sarah worked in marketing at HBO and Perrin managed creative digital promotions for her media agency’s main client, Disney - just three blocks from one another. One day we decided to leave our jobs, sell our belongings and travel abroad with a backpack and a collective savings of $10K. The stories of our continuing adventures and those of other fearless travelers are here to inspire you.
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2 Responses to Superlatives | Craziest Transportation

  1. Before Donald became associated with the Greater Angkor Project we continued to visit Siem Reap and stayed at the Grand Angkor after it was renovated. They are fed in restaurants intended for large groups with parking lots accommodating fleets of super large buses.

  2. Asia definitely have the most interesting and varied modes of travel. But the most fascinating is seeing more and more locals packed on tuk-tuks and moto’s. I think the most I have seen on a moto is a very large family of 7. Wish I had a picture to prove it.

    Also as a quick up date the Airports in Cambodia (Siem Reap & Phnom Penh) have now had a total re-vamp and are pretty smart now. And there are even flights going to Sihanoukville opening up Cambodia’s coast.

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