Few modes of transport are as exotic, effective, fun and well known as the Asian tuk-tuk. They go by other names such as auto rickshaw in India or ramork in Cambodia, but they all have the same purpose: to move people quickly and cheaply, with a wee bit of style thrown in. On this episode of Talk Travel Asia podcast we talk about the role tuk-tuks play in local life, travelers’ journeys and as holiday experiences in themselves, which our guest, Julian Carnall, is in the business of doing. 


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That view, shot on the Lanka Challenge
That view! Lanka Challenge by Large Minority

Trevor and Scott banter about their experiences in various types of tuk-tuks:

  • Trevor mentioned that they could almost do a whole episode on Thai tuk tuks. Seems there are so many just between different provinces: the Krabi sidecar, the ultra-fast and noisy Bangkok rockets, etc.
  • They talk about the time Scott drove a Tuk Tuk from Ta Tien to Phra Athit in Bangkok.
  • Trevor feels like there are so many options for getting around Asia and many are public and often crowded, but a tuk tuk is a private vehicle: like the first taxis in Asia.
  • Scott talks about the role they play in local life, being relied upon by millions throughout Asia: way more personal transportation than public. He agrees that they’re basically taxis before there were taxis. Or moving vans before moving vans. Often see more than just passengers in a tuk tuk. Sometimes motorbikes inside, etc. 
  • They talk about the different styles across Asia, also known as baby taxi, pigeon, bajaj, chand gari, lapa, tuk-tuk, 3wheel or tukxi. 
  • Historical note from Wikipedia: in the 1930s Japan, which was the most industrialized country in east Asia at the time, encouraged the development of motorized vehicles including less expensive three-wheeled vehicles based on motorcycles. 
  • How they shape travel: wind in your face, smell the smells, traveling like and with locals, good for journeys shorter than a car but where you might not be strong enough to do it by bicycle. 
  • They talk about discussing tuk tuks with Ric Gazarian on Ep. 45: Out There Asian Adventures and Ep. 101 doing Hit the Road India and Cambodia films. That’s where they first heard of Large Minority and got connected  to our guest Julian Carnall.

Our guest, Julian Carnall, is co-founder of Large Minority, a UK-based experiential travel company, which, according to their website, provides the best gosh-darned adventure holidays in the world! In particular, we’ll chat about their tuk-tuk challenges, which see travelers drive these three-wheeled demons while raising money for charity. Julian joins us online from London, England.

Listen to the podcast to hear Julian answer the following questions:

  • First things first Julian, where are you originally from and how did you get into tourism? 
  • Tell us about some of your earlier roles in tourism.
  • Where and when did the idea for Large Minority come from?
  • What does Large Minority do?
  • Before we get into the challenges, let’s talk a bit about tuk-tuks, what they mean to you and why they’re such great traveling machines.
  • When did you first become exposed to / use a tuk-tuk?
  • Why do you think tuk-tuks lend themselves so well to travel?
  • What are your favorite versions of the tuk-tuk?
  • So tell us about your tuk-tuk challenges. 
  • Where was the first tuk-tuk challenge?
  • Give us an overview of how a tuk-tuk challenge works for participants.
  • How do you prepare people to drive a tuk-tuk over great distances, manage the problems that no doubt emerge? –Especially somewhere like India where the traffic is insane, yeah?
  • What do people have to have or be to participate? Thinking about operator’s licenses, prior travel experience?…
  • Favorite parts of some of the challenges?
  • I imagine technology, eg. mobile phones, Google Maps, really opens up what’s possible, but do you find this also turns participants into not being as self reliant and clever as they maybe could be with just paper maps and no phones?
  • There’s a charity component to these challenges. Where does the 10% of  trip money go to, to support local communities?
  • I’ve seen less tuk-tuks in major cities and they tend to be dirty. Do you think the end of the tuk-tuk is near?
  • How do you feel about the new electric tuk-tuks you see in Cambodia and Nepal?

Talk Travel Asia podcast interview Traveling Asia by Tuk Tuk with Julian Carnall
Meeting friends along the way on the Lanka Challenge


Meeting friends along the way on the Lanka Challenge
All images courtesy of Large Minority

Talk Travel Asia interviews Large Minority owner about Traveling Asia by Tuk Tuk with Julian Carnall
Cambodia Challenge by Tuk Tuk with Large Minority

Talk Travel Asia is brought to you by Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, every two weeks(ish) from wherever in the Asia they happen to be. Alternating episodes feature a guest or the two hosts, cultivating travel insight through intelligent conversation. If you enjoyed the show, please donate, even just a dollar a month: that’s only .50c per episode(ish). 

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