I wanted to think like a local so I got up my courage and approached a tuk-tuk driver to begin the haggling dance. Tuk-tuk's originated in India but most people associate them with Thailand. This vehicle looks like a 3-wheeled motorcycle with a covered frame. Some artistic drivers "pimp" them out so they are decorative but most of them are so rickety, it is hard to image they can hold as many people as the Indians manage to cram into them. You will see them driving along with people hanging out the sides, oblivious to the oncoming traffic.
Of course, I was ripped off because I have a tattoo across my forehead that says, "Stupid, White, Woman," in bold script. Even with 25 official languages spoken in India, the drivers can read this with rupee signs in their eyes.
After a lot of hand signals, bartering, eye rolling and showing of numbers on my phone I managed to be swindled slightly. I jumped in and held on for dear life. I am not sure what was more frightening, the ongoing traffic, the non-stop beeping of horns to warn other drivers we were advancing, or dodging the cows that wander the streets in a lax manner. I won't even talk about the construction, smog, potholes and pedestrians we navigated. Once you reach your destination, you pay the driver, jump out and kiss the ground knowing you survived what could have been your first and last time driving through cow manure.
If you think this is the end of the tuk-tuk adventure, think again; you still have to return. Now they have you at their mercy. The drivers know you want to go home and the "double" rip-off begins. I approached a group of five drivers and showed them the business card for the hotel, only to be surrounded, with them trying to out haggle me in several languages. I am not proud to say, but I caved like a tin trailer in an Oklahoma twister. I was to the point I would have given them my first-born - sorry Rikki - to return in one piece.
I vowed I had my one-time experience with the tuk-tuk and now I could graduate to a taxi. Easier said than done. The taxis refuse to take me places because it is interrupting their naps on the side of the road, or you will take a taxi to a location, but can't find one to bring you back. I even went as far as to sign up for a taxi service online, booked the car, and he never showed. So now, I have taken a tuk-tuk so often that they know me by name - Dumbass.
I had one driver run out of fuel so I perched while he pushed us to the petro station. While we waited our turn, I began to play a game on my phone. Soon I had six heads poking into the tuk-tuk wanting to watch. I don't think iPhones are big with these mostly rural, uneducated drivers. They kept saying, "game, game," to me. I quickly stopped that activity. This same driver had no idea where my hotel was and constantly pulled over to ask anyone for directions. When we got close, he swindled me and asked for more money to cover his gas. I wasn't about to jump out in the dark so Dumbass gave him extra.
Yesterday I had a driver haggle with me and started to haggle his price down. "Hey, aren't I suppose to do that?" I thought. Turns out he wanted to take me to a store for a discounted rate. "Ah, thanks, but I think I will pass."
After all this brouhaha, I decided to seek the haven of my serene pool, located beside a slum; but that is India. A diverse mixture of privilege, poverty, beauty and ugliness all rolled into one. Luckily for me, I can still hear the incessant tooting of the tuk-tuk, six flights up.