Sometimes you simply aren’t prepared. Sometimes you arrive at an airport in a foreign country and find out that your layover is miles away and you need to take the notoriously interesting public transportation across town to catch your connecting flight. Sometimes you get excited to find out about new forms of vehicle that you had never see before. Sometimes it’s fun to be utterly surprised.
When we landed in Manila we had a short layover before our flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. To make this flight, airport employees kept saying that we needed to transfer to Terminal 4 of the airport where domestic flights were handled. “No problem,” we said and began searching for this mysteriously absent portion of the airport which we needed to arrive at with increasing urgency if we were to make our connecting flight. Terminal 4 is a couple miles away from Manila’s main airport. I think it’s actually on the other side of the runways, but not connected in any real way. So to get there you need to take a taxi, jeepney, or a trike. We chose trikes. After a bouncy ride, the trike got us there with plenty of time to get through the small terminal’s security line and bus terminal-esque ticket counter. We even had enough time to spare for Seattle’s Best Coffee that we proceeded to smuggle onto the plane. Fortunately for us, this was not going to be the last of our breakneck trike adventures.
These motorcycle-powered-fun-mobiles are the Philippine version of tuk-tuks that you would likely see in Thailand, Vietnam, or most other Southeast Asian countries. Instead of being in a metal box on the back of a motorcycle, trikes precariously place you on the driver’s right in an eccentric version of a sidecar. These hand-welded structures add to the bikes’ mass by about 8000% and make the 125cc Hondas really earn the dollar or two you’re paying for the ride. It goes without saying that these three wheeled concoctions are not the most comfortable form of transportation, but they’re sure fun. Some people may find the ride to be worrisome, though. As a lover of all modes of transportation, I’d say that they are safe enough and definitely fun enough to warrant use. I have an abounding passion for improvised and evolved passenger carriers and trikes are some of the more interesting that I have had the pleasure to experience.
The too-young driver, the exposed and questionable welding, the “windshield” made to look like a car, or the jostling ride produced by having no suspension on country roads might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The benefit of looking past these dangers, however, is that they are cheap (normally $1-2), effective, and wholly enjoyable if you want to experience the Philippines in a more tangible way. Seat belts and air conditioning are missing from all trikes. The drivers, instead, focus on more important things like disco lighting and speaker systems. These trikes are everywhere and walking anywhere is almost a guaranteed way to be solicited for a cheap ride to wherever you’re headed. Hop in and hold on, I wager that it will be an interesting ride.
Once we had arrived in Puerto Princesa’s lunch box of an airport we rested up at our hotel for the night before our long haul bus ride north to El Nido. Before leaving we made time to trike around Puerto Princesa to a few attractions and to see the city. I’m sure Palawan’s capital can be a lot of fun and surely offers more than we experienced, but we had our hearts set on El Nido’s islands. Once we had arrived, it was maybe 2 minutes before we were aiming towards the first trike driver asking Stephanie “where are you going, Maam?”