MenagerieVignette: Quirky commuting
Vignette: Quirky commuting
March 29, 2013
March 29, 2013

At the core of every city are the rumbles and vibrations, the smoke and the bluish gases, emanating from vehicles of all shapes and sizes. One can never fully explore and understand a city without experiencing the thrills and feels of its transportation system. At best, these roads and railways snake around the city – wrapping the metropolis in a coiled embrace and connecting us, travellers, to its heart and soul.

Trekking along a bone-dry road under the dusty sun in sweltering heat may not constitute one’s idea of an ideal journey. Though we cannot help but omit the journeying part and skip right to the destination itself, trekking via elephants through Indian jungles or paddling via a canoe over the frigid Arctic waters is remarkable enough of a memory to be bookmarked for future reference.

Thus, for this month of transit and discovering the unknown, The Menagerie handpicks inimitable modes of transport from different locales around the world. Not only are these selections worth reading or experiencing; they also serve as the keys to unlocking a new chapter in your life!


1. The Vietnamese Cyclo

This little contraption looks like the average Filipino pedicab, though it is more closely related to the Chinese rickshaw. A three-wheeled bicycle taxi, the cyclo offers seats for two, with the driver pedaling from behind. However, they are quite inappropriate for the urban setting due to the awkward and bothersome loads they usually carry – ten-foot poles, live pigs, and even complete bedroom suites, which usually cause major traffic hazards. Heads up, though – hopping onto one of these will usually cost tourists an exorbitant amount of money, ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 VND (around Php 97 to 195) for one person.


2. Central America’s Chicken Bus

Much like the classic jeepney, which is already a regular means of getting to and from school by some Lasallian commuters, or the baby bus popular in some Philippine regions, the chicken bus or camioneta is the primary form of transport between local towns and villages across Central America. The name of this exotic vehicle hails from the poultry and goats being transported by the natives from one place to another. Splashed all over with religious motifs and colorful graffiti, the chicken bus runs on a strict bus schedule. Just like our own buses, vendors jump onboard selling everything from food to miracle remedies – thus, making for a lively bus experience.


3. USA’s Windmark Ice Angel

Madeline Island in Northern Wisconsin can get really chilly during winter – chilly enough for the frozen waters of Lake Superior to thicken and allow for a couple wind sleds to plow across the blue stretch of ice towards nearby Bayfield. Enter the Windmark Ice Angel IV – the craziest contraption to rule the frozen waves. It can hold at least 25 passengers and it takes only five to six minutes to reach the town of Bayfield. On sunnier days, there are nearby boats with air propellers to ferry the passengers across. How is that for handy?


4. Peru’s Totora Boat

Across Lake Titicaca, Peru, tiny sand-colored specks can be spotted from far inland. Make no mistake – these specks are the reed boats of the local Uros tribes. One of the oldest known types of boats in the world, the Totora boat is built in the shape of a dragon, believed to ward off evil in the ancient times. Good luck charm or not, these light and resistant boats sail easily and swiftly in the calm waters, thus making for good fishing boats for the locals.


5. New Zealand’s Zorb

Zorbing is a sport introduced by the native New Zealanders, and we are so glad they did. If rolling down lush hills inside a giant inflatable ball is what constitutes their idea of a sport, then we would be professional Zorb athletes in less than a day. These zorbs are made of lightweight and flexible plastic with an air layer in between, in order to cushion the rider and soften the bumps as one rolls down hills. And as they say, what best way to experience the globe than to roll around in one? Yes, people actually ‘commute’ in these.


6. Venice’s Gondola

(As you read this portion of the article, you may want to visit YouTube and play the song Like a Virgin by Madonna)

The Venetian Gondola may just be a famous attraction at The Venetian Hotel in Macau, but riding the gondola really is a way of life for the people of Venice, Italy. Instead of cars, Venetian homeowners each have their own gondola tied to a post outside their houses, which is very suitable for the city’s ever fluctuating tide levels. For tourists, however, a 30-minute tour around the river costs a hefty EUR 100 (PHP 5,430 as of this writing) for four people. The canal may not be as pristine as the one in Macau, but the ride, which features The Bridge of Sighs, a former prison in Venice, and many more, is definitely worth it. For the adventurous ones, you may even want to try dancing on the gondola like Madonna. Be careful though, your head might hit the bridge!


7. Thailand’s Tuk-Tuk

The famous tuk-tuk is part of a huge family of auto rickshaws wheeling around the world. However, this three-wheeled marvel provides its passengers with a unique experience by making them sit behind the driver, instead of being beside the driver. The roofed tuk-tuk gives the passengers a better view of the sights that Thailand (Bangkok, really) has to offer, as well as the opportunity to observe the goings-on in everyday Thai life. What makes the tuk-tuk special is the fact that manufacturers are now producing low emission versions of the tuk-tuk. Older engine versions can also be converted into LPG engines, a move that only Philippine jeepneys and taxis by far enjoy.


8. The Segway PT

The smooth transition personal transporter, which was invented by Dean Kamen, is a two-wheeled self-balancing battery operated electric vehicle. The transporter has internal sensors that detect human movement, making it capable of going forward, backward, and even rotate. Primarily used by police forces in various countries in Europe and North America, it is now being offered to tourists in theme parks and tourist destinations all over the planet, such as Sentosa Beach in Singapore, where a Segway Ride is priced at SGD 12-80 (PHP 394-2,627) depending on the duration.


9. China’s Maglev Train

Beijing might be the capital city of China, but Shanghai is the more cosmopolitan city, especially in terms of tourist destinations. Nonetheless, it is only appropriate that the latest technology be displayed in this city by the harbor. Shanghai boasts an awe-inspiring magnetic levitation train that runs at a top speed of 431 km/h. In fact, it was constructed for the benefit of tourists who need a quick route to and from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Major East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and the Republic of China (Taiwan) are filled with bullet trains, but it is only in Shanghai where one can board a train that floats above a huge magnetic field. During this brief train ride, you may even want to snap a shot of the train speed displayed on the monitor. Technology nowadays is just out of this world!


10. Switzerland’s Rotair

Riding a cable car above the mountain is stylish enough, but riding a rotating cable car with an unobstructed view of the Swiss Alps is even more chic. In the mountainous neutral country of Switzerland, ski resorts are among the top tourist destinations. In order to attract more tourists to the slopes, ski lifts are done away with, and are instead replaced by the Rotair, a cable car that has a 360 degree rotating floor that regularly ascends to the top of Mount Titlis in Lucerne. A ride on the Rotair is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to see fluffy clouds interspersed with crystalline snow. Despite the frigid temperature atop the mountains, one cannot help but marvel at the beauty of God’s creation. It is indeed a breathtaking sight.


As Lasallians, we have all the opportunity to explore what the world has to offer. Try hopping on one of these unique modes of transportation, and who knows, an enterprising persona like yourself might just bring one to the Philippines! Just avoid chicken buses. We have too many already.