Ever seen a rickshaw? If, like this writer, you’re English and well stricken in years, your grandparents probably had one. Not a REAL one (even if they were Chinese, that’d be silly) but a little model, MADE in China.
ALL grandparents had one – I think it was the law.
They were made of ivory, set on a mahogany base – at least, that’s what they were supposed to look like. In reality, they were made from plastic and dipped in some oily paint crap that just made them LOOK like ivory.
Which is as well, given there were so many. If they’d been real, we’d now only be able to enjoy elephants in PICTURE form.
There was a coolie in the shafts and a posh lady in the seat, holding a sunshade – except the sunshade was usually missing. The whole was mounted on a bit of cheap wood, painted to LOOK like mahogany. They cost pennies to make and were sold in Hong Kong for whatever the locals could con out of the tourists.
No English pensioner’s front room was complete without at least ONE on the mantelpiece.
Anyhoo, the reason Your Humble Scribe is troubling you with this, is that the rickshaw is alive and well – here in SE Asia – but brought up to date, for modern tourists. Now instead of the guy being on foot, he has a sort of half-bicycle attached to it.
In Malaysia, he sits behind you. This is quite alarming when you approach a junction, feet first – and find yourself being stuck out into the oncoming traffic.
But in Thailand, he’s in front. Which is not necessarily better. One day, I chanced to hail possibly the SMELLIEST driver in the country. Birds were falling out of the sky above him. And I was right BEHIND him. I began to wish I was back in Malaysia.
(If this sounds like a foul slur on the Thai nation, I should point out that these guys are actually BUMS – they SLEEP in their rickshaws – whereas the Thais are one of the cleanest nations on EARTH. Get into a lift-full of Westerners and you can smell them. Get into a lift-full of Thais – and provided one of them isn’t a rickshaw driver, you’ll smell NOTHING).
Anyhay, I only write of this as I’ve heard that a number of ecologically-minded Western cities have started licensing rickshaws – to male AND female drivers. And it occurred to this writer that this COULD be a GOOD IDEA, but following his experiences HERE – with certain provisos.
One: in London, forget it – since ’87, it hasn’t stopped raining. Two: the driver should sit in FRONT. Three: they should be made to care for their personal hygiene. Four: they must NOT be a Veggie – for obvious reasons.
And five: if the driver insists on wearing Lycra cycling shorts – they MUST have a nice arse.