German couple Tuk Tuk around the world
8 Februrary 2005, BANGKOK - A German couple has embarked on a global journey in the most unlikely of vehicles, a three-wheeled Tuk Tuk commonly used by tourists to taxi around Thailand's busy capital. If successful, the voyage spanning thousands of kilometres across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe could break a world record for the longest trip ever completed by a Tuk Tuk from Thailand. Daniel Snaider and Susi Bemsel said they first thought about switching from their previous mode of transportatio
8 Februrary 2005
BANGKOK - A German couple has embarked on a global journey in the most unlikely of vehicles, a three-wheeled Tuk Tuk commonly used by tourists to taxi around Thailand's busy capital.
If successful, the voyage spanning thousands of kilometres across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe could break a world record for the longest trip ever completed by a Tuk Tuk from Thailand.
Daniel Snaider and Susi Bemsel said they first thought about switching from their previous mode of transportation - bicycles - to a rickshaw-type motorised vehicle while in Peru on the first half of a world excursion which began in Germany in April 2002.
They had seen three-wheeled "mototaxis" in Peru and thought this type of vehicle would create a similar experience to their previous cycling adventure, which covered nearly 36,000 kilometres in 28 countries.
But it wasn't until they reached Thailand last November that they fell in love with Bangkok's Tuk Tuks and quickly decided to pursue the rest of their journey with this motorized mode of transportation.
Snaider, 30, a goldsmith by trade, says driving a Tuk Tuk, exposed to the elements, is not that different from riding a bike. "With a bicycle, it is a very intensive experience - you can smell the air and feel the wind. With a Tuk Tuk, this is possible too."
The pair kicks off their trip on Tuesday in Bangkok, traveling first to Laos and Cambodia. Since they could not obtain permission to travel through China and Myanmar (Burma), they will then return to Bangkok before having the Tuk Tuk shipped to Japan, where they will catch a ferry to Vladivostok, Russia.
From there, they will trek through vast areas of Siberia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, before catching a ferry to Italy, and eventually landing back home in Germany.
On bikes, the couple averaged 100-150 kilometres per day and said they plan to keep up a similar pace in the Tuk Tuk, possibly riding their bicycles at times to maintain exercise.
After looking at various companies in Thailand, they received a sponsorship from Anuwat Yuthteeraprapa, who manages the Expertise Tuk Tuk factory in Bangkok.
In just three weeks, Expertise specially built a traditional Tuk Tuk with some off-road features usually not needed for city travel. For example, the special Tuk Tuk sits higher than usual, with bigger off-road tyres and a safari-type luggage rack on top.
The five-seat vehicle has a four stroke 550 cc engine with four gears and reverse, with a top speed of 110 kilometres per hour.
Anuwat says he has full confidence in his Tuk Tuk to complete the long journey, pointing out that another vehicle from his factory made a similar trip from Thailand to Denmark last year.
He said he agreed to sponsor the German couple because it is one way to live out a longtime fantasy of his own even though he is now too busy to complete it. "At least this way I can make my own dream come true."
His factory outside Bangkok produces about eight units a month and Anuwat says he is currently getting significant orders from various sources in Europe and the United States.
The German travellers said they too have confidence that the noisy three-wheeler will make the trip without major problems, even though they had never even heard of a Tuk Tuk before coming to Thailand.
And how do they feel about crossing some of the world's most remote territory and encountering a multitude of cultures and potentially hostile forces along the way?
"Sometimes when we arrived in small villages in South America, we would literally be surrounded by curious people," said Bemsel, 28, who worked as a nurse in Germany. "Sometimes we couldn't even sleep unless we told them to go away. But we got used to it. It is not a negative thing, it is just how the world is."
She says they also no longer worry about the many warnings from good-intentioned people of impending dangers just about everywhere. "For example, people warned us against going to Guatemala. But people in Guatemala told us that in El Salvador the people will kill you.
"We have learned there are certain ways to minimize the dangers."
Snaider, who was on hand for the entire assembly of the Tuk Tuk, said his approach will be to do everything possible to complete the journey no matter what problems are encountered, mechanical or otherwise. The couple will also be carrying some spare parts and will receive support from Expertise in Bangkok when needed.
"When I think about it, I think about how the first explorers managed to travel the world. It's much better for us because at least we have good maps, the Internet, etc," Snaider said.
"Two months ago when we came here with this idea we didn't know if it would even be possible. Now the Tuk Tuk is finished, it looks great, and we are excited to begin the next part of our traveling adventure," Bemsel added.
Subject: German news