Millions of three wheeled, black and yellow, jacked-up mopeds buzz around Indians cities every day. Their two-stroke engines and distinctive colour schemes can provide solace to a stricken tourist but what are these strange vehicles that have become such an icon of many Eastern countries?
Strolling out of the hostel our eyes look for one thing. Transport. A bike. A taxi. Even a horse-and-cart. What you’ll find when you step out of Europe is getting around works very differently. Here, in India, what you’ll need is a rickshaw, also known as Tuk Tuk further east in Thailand.
Essentially, it’s a diesel moped with a bench attached to it. You can’t escape the bumpy ride or India’s polluted air but it really allows you to embrace the cities sights – you get a drivers eye view of what its really like to be on the ground, experienced the sights, sounds, smells of true India.
Equally, no two rides are the same on a rickshaw. You can be gently riding down a two-lane highway at a leisurely pace one minute and then thrown into a chaotic junction, seemingly blindly crossing seven lanes of traffic with bikes, people, cars and lorries all heading in different directions and seemingly under no control.
They’re pretty cheap too. At about 15 Rupees, or 15 pence, per kilometre it’s pretty hard to spend more than a couple of pounds even if you’re in a city as big Pune.
What’s surprising, however, is that the company that is causing uproar across the Western world, Uber, has arrived in Pune. Billboards plastered all over the city boast of air-conditioned cars for six rupees a kilometre, a price far out of the reach of most of the Indians these posters tower above.
Origins of the rickshaw can actually be traced back to Italy, when in 1947, the inventor of the Vespa wanted to develop a three wheeled commercial vehicle to help Italy rebuild itself in the post war era, what would later become the Ape. These designs were then copied across the world and mass-produced in the tens of millions.
The Taj Mahal, Mumbai, endless temples, the beaches of Goa. These are the must visits of India – but without this vital piece of transportation, both locals and visitors would be missing so much more of the country.
Buy your UK road legal rickshaw here.