Everybody knows the famous tuk-tuk from Thailand. You must have seen that TV ads from VISA with James Bond riding a tuk-tuk in the streets of Bangkok. Tuk-tuk is synonymous with Thailand. However, does anybody know that Myanmar also has tuk-tuk running the streets of towns and cities in Myanmar? Just introduced a few years ago, it has become a popular and cheap form of public transport in Myanmar. Myanmar tuk-tuk is different from Thai tuk-tuk. In Thai tuk-tuk, the passengers sit facing the front of the vehicle. It is a factory designed and produced vehicle. Myanmar tuk-tuk is essentially a converted Chinese motorcycle. The back wheel of the motorcycle is removed and a passenger compartment attached to the back end of the motorcycle, with some changes in the structure of the motorcycle. There are usually two rows of passenger seats in the back compartment, facing face to face with each other. It can usually accommodate around 8 passengers, with some more hanging at the back of the vehicle. More often than not, it is also used as a cargo truck, carrying quite a large load of goods.
Myanmar tuk-tuk is a very convenient way of transport in small towns and cities of Myanmar. Usually, they run as taxis or as local buses in small cities where there are no or very few regular bus services. The fare is also reasonable, and the vehicle also faster than the trishaw. As most towns in Myanmar don’t have regular bus services, tuk-tuk fills this requirement running as taxis and buses.
Although tuk-tuk is a very useful and cheap form of transportation in Myanmar, it also has many disadvantages. As there are only three wheels, the design of this converted motorcycle is quite unstable especially at bends and curves. This resulted in a number of fatal accidents involving tuk-tuk. The weight is also not evenly distributed, with more and more load added as the vehicle carries a large number of people or a large load of cargo in the back compartment. Many a time, the back heavy back pulled up the front end, resulting in tuk-tuk turned or tipped to the side.
Even though tuk-tuk is a dangerous vehicle to ride in, it proves to be a very useful and indispensible vehicle for public transport in small towns of Myanmar.