In Photos: A Tuk Tuk Ride Through The Bangkok Night
A tuktuk rushing past traffic as the signal turned green.
A tuktuk rushing past traffic as the signal turned green.(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

In Photos: A Tuk Tuk Ride Through The Bangkok Night

As the clock hits 5:30 pm, 19-year-old Kho gets ready to head out. He starts the engine, lights a cigarette and revs hard on his accelerator. Kho and his tuk tuk are all set to tear down the streets of Bangkok on another of their daily midnight runs.

While taxis are usually victims of traffic jams, tuk tuks can slip and slide through the gaps.
While taxis are usually victims of traffic jams, tuk tuks can slip and slide through the gaps.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)
A tuk tuk rushing past traffic as the singal turned green.
A tuk tuk rushing past traffic as the singal turned green.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

Tuk tuks have developed into a long standing symbol of Thailand – besides being a tourist attraction, they are an efficient means of transport (especially when it comes to maneuvering long rows of traffic).

A tuk tuk eagerly waits for customers at the gate of Chatuchak market.
A tuk tuk eagerly waits for customers at the gate of Chatuchak market.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)
A tuk tuk driver poses for a photo after he dropped off a customer.
A tuk tuk driver poses for a photo after he dropped off a customer.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)
Riding in a tuk tuk at three in the morning while the driver tries to reach terminal velocity. Yes, with flashy fairy lights, roaring buzz saw engines and reckless driving that makes you clutch onto your seats as you pray for your life – now that sums up Bangkok.
A sensation that sums up Bangkok? The reckless driving of tuk tuks
A sensation that sums up Bangkok? The reckless driving of tuk tuks
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

Riding a tuk tuk in Bangkok is much more than an effective means of transport – your trip is incomplete without this experience.

A tuk tuk waits for the traffic signal to turn green.
A tuk tuk waits for the traffic signal to turn green.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

Kho has been driving the tuk tuk for over a year now. He says he gave up his education so that he could earn a living. He usually waits at the entrance of Khaosan road, which is one of Bangkok’s heavily visited touristy areas.

He energetically calls out to potential customers. Sporting a t-shirt and shorts, he will greet you with a kind smile before the two of you start to bargain over your fare (as is usually the case in Bangkok). He is usually rides from 6pm to 4am.

Kho talks to his tuk tuk driver friends while waiting for customers at the stand.
Kho talks to his tuk tuk driver friends while waiting for customers at the stand.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

He has picked up some English from his conversations with tourists and says it has helped him attract more customers. Kho, who is shy by nature, says he prefers to smoke his cigarette than talk to his passengers during the journey.

Tuk tuks are lined up near the entrance of Chatuchak market as the day comes to an end. Soon they will be calling for customers as the market closes and people are on their way back.
Tuk tuks are lined up near the entrance of Chatuchak market as the day comes to an end. Soon they will be calling for customers as the market closes and people are on their way back.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

Tuk tuks, or what is locally known as Sam Lor in Thai (which literally translates to three wheels), have been around since the World War II era, evolving from hand-pulled rickshaws to the motorised three-wheelers that we see today.

They get their name from the sound that the older engines used to make.
Tuk tuks are very efficient when it comes to carrying bulky goods and are often used by locals for that purpose. 
Tuk tuks are very efficient when it comes to carrying bulky goods and are often used by locals for that purpose. 
(Photo: Debayan Dutta) 

A blue and yellow tuk tuk zipping through traffic with the flashy lights and roaring engine is a common sight and sound in Bangkok.

But the outskirts are a different story. Here, the tuk tuks give up their flashy blue and yellow shells for a dull greenish tone. They are used as shuttle cabs or to transport goods.

It is interesting to note that these three-wheelers were originally designed to carry bulky goods. They still stand true to their nature. You will notice a stark drop in rates when you are negotiating with the tuk tuk drivers on the outskirts or in other cities of Thailand.

A tuk tuk is parked near the market area so that locals can avail it to carry their goods home. 
A tuk tuk is parked near the market area so that locals can avail it to carry their goods home. 
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)
Tuk tuk’s now face stiff competition from cabs and MRTs but they still stand tall, thanks to tourists and their efficiency.
Tuk tuk’s now face stiff competition from cabs and MRTs but they still stand tall, thanks to tourists and their efficiency.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)

While the tuk tuk was an important means of transport back in the day, the establishment of the MRT, monorail and effective cab services have proven to be stiff competition. However, tourists still flock to these open air three-wheelers for a dose of adrenaline.

A tuk tuk driver poses for the camera. They are often very welcoming of tourists and will greet you with a smile.
A tuk tuk driver poses for the camera. They are often very welcoming of tourists and will greet you with a smile.
(Photo: Debayan Dutta)
Rest assured, they will be around for a while. 

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