during the past few days, i seem to have been getting around town on a lot of tricycles – or what other countries might call rickshaws. my first experience was on one pulled by a motorized bike, which seemed to me, squashed as i was between my grandpa and the bike’s exhaust, like it was trembling threateningly and could explode at any moment. as we rode through the 7 minutes to our destination, i kept having absurd visions of being trapped in the carriage as the bike burst into flames.
but today, as with every time after that first experience, my grandpa paid the equivalent of about 50 cents for a truly skinny man to peddle us both for what seemed like a substantial journey. unbelievably, the cyclist and my grandpa ended up exchanging jokes at the end of the ride while i looked on, incredulous. for a man to be in such good humor after cycling over 250 lbs. of weight for 10 minutes in 90 degree heat (plus humidity) for a mere 50 cents seemed to me to be just the height of absurdity.
last time i was here, i wrote about the interesting experience of riding in a jeepney, the filipino bus. that experience does not compare to being in a filipino rickshaw. because the carriages are so close to the ground, everything feels more immediate, more palpable, more real. looking out, i can only see people’s legs as they walk by, or the wheels of cars as they veer alarmingly closer, or children sitting by the road. the cacophony of honking is louder by far, and the smells – oh my god, the stench! the odor is pervasive, ubiquitous, all-encompassing. it’s putrid, vile, utterly rancid. i always thought the streets in new york smelled bad – especially chinatown – but this stench wins, hands down.
all of which is not to deter anyone from riding in one of these. it’s gross, it’s stinky, but it’s also kind of fun, in a i-might-lose-a-limb-at-any-moment kind of way. at the very least, it’s a one of a kind experience.