There are a couple of places in this world that are known for their tuk tuks, and India is one of them. Basically a tuk tuk is a motorcycle that has a backseat attached to it, so some driver can speed tourists around a busy city. They are called tuk tuks because of the noise they make as they putter around. They are fun to take, but depending on where you are, you need to make a deal with the driver before you leave about how much you are going to pay, and where they will be taking you. There are many scams surrounding these vehicles, but if you stick to your guns, you can get a reasonable price, and have a driver waiting around for you as you go from place to place. The trips are usually short, but the feeling of being rushed around in an open air vehicle is one that is too much fun to pass over if you find yourself in one of the countries that relies on these as a form of transportation.
I recently took a trip to Chennai which, in retrospect, was a lot like a tuk tuk ride. I guess you could call the trip a business trip. I was taking a group of kids from my school to a track meet at a school in this city. For those of you who have been on a business trip before, you know that they rarely give you the opportunity to do anything more than the business that you were sent out there to do. You could find yourself in one of the most amazing tourist destinations in the world, but all you could see of that place is the inside of a board room. At least, I got to experience the beautiful campus of the school that I went to, and a track meet is always going to be a lot more fun than sitting in meeting after meeting. But I was still busy, and like take a quick ride on a tuk tuk, it was nothing more than a whirlwind that I am still trying to wrap my head around.
During the short moments that I was able to get and explore the city, they were never to go some place that would have enriched me culturally. My first responsibility was to make sure that the students I had with me enjoyed their experience first. This meant that I went to a beach where they were able to spend some time figuring out how to boogie board, and dig around in the sand. We also went to a mall to waste a little time before we headed to the airport to fly home. The mall was a little too western for my tastes and was like any other mall that I have been to in the world, but my students enjoyed it. All of this did was give me a little bit of a teaser that made me want to eventually return to India so I could explore it more on my terms rather than the short spurts of energy that was required of me by coming out here on this school trip.
Still I was able to sneak in a tuk tuk ride on my tuk tuk ride of Chennai. It was probably the most cultural significant thing that I was able to do. It was a quick run to a store so I could find a gift to bring back to my wife, and we had to pay the tuk tuk driver a little extra money to have him stick around for us. Still, it was nice to get away for a thirty minutes and have this small moment in this new country for me. I enjoyed the tuk tuk ride, but I am looking forward to something a little slower next time. This way I will be able to experience the moments a little better than being whisked away through the landscape. But it still better to have a tuk tuk ride rather than no ride at all.
Here is to all of those tuk tuk rides out there, and I hope that the next one that you find yourself on, though it may be quick, will still be memorable.