True exploration should always be about more than merely getting from A to B, and here at Gecko’s we love a bit of local transport – hopping aboard boat or bus, spending time with the locals, transforming journeys into adventures. Here’s five local transport types that have caught our eye on our travels.
Colourful, boxy and enjoyably uncomfortable in a squeeze-in-there’s-room-for-one-more kind of way, the undisputed king of the Philippines’ road came about after the Americans troops left surplus jeeps in the Philippines post-World War II. Stick on a roof, splash on the dayglo paint, and the jeepney was born, clattering through the country and a much-cherished modern national icon. Instantly loveable from the outside, inside things can get pretty cosy - typically drivers like to delay departure until their vehicle is full, then wait a little longer as people continue to clamber onboard. Hop on an old workhorse and bounce uphill, cheek by jowl with the locals, to the Banaue Rice Terraces– the most memorable and fun way of getting to one of the world’s great sights.
Motorised boats may be the cruising option of choice for many on the Nile nowadays, but feluccas – those small, graceful open wooden boats with photogenic triangular sails – have got a few centuries experience on the water going for them. They’re at their most attractively languid in Aswan, navigating among the river’s islets, providing passengers with a welcome breeze or the perfect vantage come sunset. But to get the best from the felucca, jump onboard for a longer stay –spending a few days on the river,camping on banks by night, is the calming way to explore Egypt.
A worldwide mode of transport, the tuk-tuk’s origin story harks back to post-WWII Italy, where the Piaggio Apewas invented, the cheap and cheerful two-stroke engine just the ticket for getting the straitened country moving again. These days however, the motorised rickshaw is synonymous with the mean streets of Asian cities, none more so than Bangkok. Sure, it can be just as slow as a regular taxi, you cop a lungful of pollution and there’s little more space than in a matchbox, but for many taking a tuk-tuk is as essentially Bangkokian as visiting the Grand Palace or the Emerald Buddha. Delhi’sanother great place for a ride on the wild side courtesy of the auto-rickshaw – just ask your driver to look out for elephants and cattle.
Tortora boats, Peru
They know how to weave in Peru. Yes, there are the colourful textiles that you’ll barter over in Pisac’s maelstrom of a market, but the most impressive piece of textile work belongs to the Uros people, residents on their very own home-made islands afloat Lake Titicaca. At nearly 4,000 metres up, the pure air as clear as gin, Andean high peaks gleaming on the horizon and the water a royal blue, the Uros people industriously use Titicaca’s tortora reeds to create their islands, their homes and beautiful boats. High ended like a Venice gondola but with a sturdy flat hull and sometimes adorned with the decorative figureheads, these boats can be surprisingly large – look out for impressive 50-footers – while smaller ones may eschew sails for paddles. If you’re travelling up Peru’s coast, look out for the tortora’s northerly cousin, cabalitos(little horses) in Huanchaco – small canoes made of reeds that local fishermen expertly negotiate the waves on.
Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, China
It’s estimated that China will lay more rail tracks in 2011 than the rest of the world put together, and the world’s fastest long distance trains - Beijing-Shanghai – will soon be rolling out as well. On a smaller scale is the 647-metre Bund sightseeing tunnel, a Shanghaiattraction linking the Bund with P?d?ng in six full-on, psychedelic, downright weird minutes. Once in your little tram, get ready for a journey into some retro-kitsch subterranean 1980s lair: garish lighting adorning the tunnel on all sides, comical commentary booming out words like ‘magma’ over questionable house music, while waving puppets and movie screens showing more odd, often inexplicable images ramp up the surreal factor. Definitely a love-it-or-hate-it experience, devotees of cheesy tourist attractions will think they’ve struck gold.