I know I’ve mentioned it before, on more than a couple of occasions, just how much I love tuk-tuks, so I thought it was about time I brought you into the fun-filled colourful little world of these ubiquitous and versatile three-wheelers.
As I have previously noted, tuk-tuks are adorably cheeky (unless you’re in the other vehicle they push in front of!), faster than a speeding bullet (in traffic at least) and prone to last-minute daring changes of direction (their drivers would do amazingly well on the hardest tracks of Mario Kart). In most holiday advertisements you’ll see the little vehicles in one of 3 colours, red, green or blue; this is definitely the case in the centre of Colombo, but the further out from the centre you travel the more diverse the colours become. Yes, for the easily amused, seeing a new colour is always cause for a little excitement. There is a fabulous teal-coloured one that mockingly keeps zooming past me, it’s my favourite colour and clearly meant to be owned by me.
I’m sure there must be a Sri Lankan version of America’s ‘Pimp my Ride’ because the tuk-tuks range from bog-standard-straight-out-of-the-packet normal to ridiculous. I’ve seen tuks with ornate metal work on the inside, random parts of the dash board covered in coloured faux fur, seat covers (passenger, driver or both) with images ranging from slightly scary babies to crazy multicoloured animal print, garlands of plastic flowers, decorative half-sized silver spades and ladders attached to the back, an array of Buddah statues, additional ‘wing mirrors’ covered with pictures (pretty woman, dragons or landscapes), windscreens fringed with tri-coloured tiny foil leaves, massive sound systems that barely fit on the parcel shelf and flashing lights on the inside. I call a tuk with these last two additions a ‘party’ tuk. The decorating doesn’t stop there, oh no! Where the black roof screws onto the body of the vehicle some drivers have fitted decorative screw covers, the most common styles being either a skull and cross bones or an eagle. Sometimes these are deemed flamboyant enough on their own, at other times I’ve seen them painted in a multitude of colours.
Bizarrely, for some reason unbeknown to me, many drivers seem obsessed with Jamaica, Bob Marley, Che Guevara and the character of Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Many a-tuk is decorated in the colours of the Jamaican flag while others have the face of one of these three heroes plastered on the roof. But by far the best adornment is the ‘tuk philosophy’. These phrases, written in Sinhalese or broken English, are either little bits of wisdom or just hilariously funny one-liners. Unfortunately there are just too many to remember, because as soon as you catch sight of one gem and promise yourself you won’t forget it, another tuk whizzes past with something equally as entertaining plastered across the side, and then it’s gone.
I’ll leave you with what few examples have managed to stick in my head and a link to a short video of me getting a tuk-tuk driving lesson (I’m sure the indicator was on when I got started!).
- Avoid girlfriends save petrol.
- Face is mirror of heart
- Be realistic think the impossible
- The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.
- Only 1 sun shine for all.
- No wife happy life.
- He who fly not high falls not low.
- When gods smile demons frown.
- The past is a bucket of ashes
- No Reves for love No brake for life