메인메뉴 바로가기본문으로 바로가기

Modes of transportation that reflect ASEAN countries’ wisdom and adaptability

COLUMN

Modes of transportation that reflect ASEAN countries’ wisdom and adaptability
Vehicles that people associate with a particular ASEAN country have always been closely linked to the lives of their people. Southeast Asian modes of transportation are not only well-used but each have a unique history and characteristics.By Lee Ji-sang Travel writer

shutterstock_304651610.jpg

Thailand's tuk tuk is a three-wheeled vehicle.

The modern forms of public transportation that exist throughout ASEAN?buses, taxis, subways (both inner city and suburban), monorails?are largely the same. The modes of transport used by ordinary people, however, have evolved slightly differently in each country. One of the most common is the motorcycle, or motorbike. Thailand has the songthaew, the four-wheeled version of the tuk tuk that is made by repurposing the truck bed to seat passengers. Cambodia’s moto is a modified taxi motorcycle, which is operated in similar form in Lao PDR.

The country where the motorcycle is most prevalent is Viet Nam. In cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, crossing the street is never easy due to the endless stream of motorcycles. The xe om is Viet Nam’s version of the motorbike taxi: “xe” means motorcycle, while “om” means “hug.” The xeom, in which the passenger rides by wrapping one’s arms around the driver’s waist, is very convenient in places with traffic congestion because it can zip nimbly around cars. In Indonesia, a three-wheeled motorbike is known as the bajai, while the bemo is a three-wheeled pickup truck that can seat more people than a bajai. The most popular form of public transport in the Philippines is the jeepney. Jeepneys, which are renovated Jeeps that can seat up to 20 people, are known for their colorful designs and often driven while loudly honking their horns.

Another frequently-used mode of transportation is the cycle rickshaw, which is a modified version of the bicycle. The cyclo, which is common in Viet Nam and Cambodia, has a front section for the passenger and is powered by the driv- er’s pedaling in the back. Myanmar’s cycle rickshaw, on the other hand, seats the passenger next to the driver. Called “trishaw” in English, people in Myanmar usually refer to it as a “side car.” Indonesia’s cyclo is the becak, for which the passenger compartment can be either in front of or next to the bicycle. Less common is the horse-drawn cart, which is known as a “horse car” in Myanmar, dokar in Indonesia, and calesa in the Philippines.

The diversity of public transportation in ASEAN countries is the outcome of the wisdom and ability of people to adapt to their surroundings. While it is undeniable that some of these vehicles are gradually disappearing, others are evolving as tourist attractions. I hope the day soon arrives that we can once again enjoy the street views of a Southeast Asian city while perched on a cyclo or horse-drawn cart.

  • shutterstock_184018916.jpg

    A sea of motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam ⓒxuanhuongho / Shutterstock.com

  • shutterstock_761396512.jpg

    The Philippine jeepney is a mini-bus. ⓒAleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

  • shutterstock_1199497225.jpg

    The becak is Indonesia’s version of the cyclo, or rickshaw bicycle. ⓒBurhan Yuswantyo / Shutterstock.com

  • shutterstock_414619453.jpg

    Songthaew, a mini-bus popular in Thailand ⓒSittirak Jadlit / Shutterstock.com

전체메뉴

전체메뉴 닫기