Posts tagged "tuk tuk"

Check Out My Wheels!

my wheels for getting around in Chennai

Check out this bad boy! These are my wheels to and from the office each day. It does 0-20 mph in 2 minutes, pollutes like a chemical factory and sounds like a cat in a blender. It has almost as much power as a washing machine and 4 inch alloys.

This is the pimped out version, the banana leaves stuck to the side are this seasons must have for all self respecting tuk-tuk drivers. As if a white man in a tuk-tuk needs any more attention drawn to himself while riding through the mean streets of Chennai!

To the right is my usual driver, Sundar. He has an excuse for every occasion: too much traffic, too less traffic, too raining, too less raining, 5 kids, 3 kids, 4 kids and parents, family dog, family cow, high petrol prices, low petrol prices, too late, too early, too far, too less far. No matter what, he’ll rise to the occasion and find a reason to charge me extra. It’s a special class they have in tuk-tuk school: how to charge the filthy rich foreigner more and make him feel guilty about it.

But what a way to get to work and back 😀

Dude, Where’s My Monsoon?

It’s Monsoon season here in Tamil Nadu. Except the monsoon rains are conspicuously missing (useless geekish fact #394: the word monsoon refers to the weather pattern, not the actual rain that occurs during the monsoon).

When I was here in 2006, the monsoon season started as soon as I arrived and finished the moment I left. It’s quite incredible, one day it’s fine, hot and sunny, then next day it rains. Non-stop. For 3 months.

One of the things I wasn’t looking forward to when I came here was the monsoon because the rain just makes it really difficult to get around if you don’t have your own transport. Trying to get a tuk-tuk is a mission at the best of times, trying to do that when it’s bucketing it down with rain that’s already up to your armpits is nigh on impossible.

The whole of Chennai turns in to something like the Venice of India, streets are turned in to rivers, there’s mud every where, you can’t go outside because you’ll drown in the wall of water.

So, although I’m sure it’s some global warming catastrophe and the lack of monsoon is doing untold damage to the local farming industry, for me, it’s brilliant. The longer the rains stay away, the easier it is for me to get to the office and back, do my food shopping at the weekend and generally go out and about.

Infact, I’m selfishly hoping that this is the year where it doesn’t rain.

Oh bugger.

It’s just started raining 🙁

Diamonds in the rough?

I have often posted about how bad the tuk tuk drivers are here in Chennai. They see the white skin and little dollar signs flash in their eyes. A journey that should cost Rs 80 to a local will cost Rs 150 for a foreigner – as if we’re all made of money. Yeah, right!

There are some ways of dealing with the drivers, but they will use every excuse under the sun to try and charge you more; time of day, traffic, one way system, it’s 100 metres from the landmark you said, raining, sick child, 4 kids and well, any other excuse he can think of and tell you about in English.

If you catch tuk tuks everyday like I do to get to work and back, it’s pretty tiresome as you try and explain where you want to go (MAN-DA-VELLI!) and then bring the price down to a sensible amount. My number one expense at the moment (after umm, beer) is travelling around.

Anyways, a couple of things happened to me this week that made me think, maybe not all the tuk tuk drivers are that bad.

Outside my apartment is an informal stop for autos (the local word for tuk tuks). All the drivers know me now and we’ve settled on the inflated price of Rs 90 per journey. No need to bargain or explain where to go. A win-win situation all-round.

The other day there were no tuk tuks outside so I have to walk about 300m or so to the main road and find one. 300m doesn’t sound that far, but in 35 degree heat it doesn’t take much to get the sweat pouring off you! As I was walking down, one of the regular drivers stopped and said he was picking up his children from school and that I should get in. So I did.

What came next was a little suprising, he drives down to the main road, finds another tuk tuk driver, tells him where to drop me and how much to charge – brilliant stuff!

Then today, as I was walking back down the same road carrying two bags of heavy food shopping, another one of the regular drivers pulled up along side me and ushered me to get in. I then got dropped off outside my apartment and he waved me away when I offered him some money. Amazing!

So, not all tuk tuk drivers are thieving little badgers after all 🙂