Room at the top

Monday, August 13th, 2012

  • It’s hard to know just how many traffic laws this old Jeepney bus is breaking by western standards, but in much of asia, and especially the rural areas, this is much the same as any average local bus.

    On any day the bus will fill quickly with people cramming three or sometimes four on a seat built for two. Boxes of cargo, sacks of rice, and just about anything else you can think of will cover every inch of floor space, including the space where you might have put your feet. It will be hot, it will be noisy, it will be slow, and it will be uncomfortable, but at least it will be cheap.

    Once the bus is absolutely full and all possible movement inside has been eliminated, people will find space on the roof among whatever cargo is up there too. This might seem very dangerous, but in reality it’s no more dangerous than being inside a wildly over-loaded bus that is likely to be terrifyingly rusty and held together by little more than luck and sketchy fixes.

    I’m not sure I’d enjoy riding a bus like this regularly, but as cultural experiences go I think sampling a country’s public transport is as intrinsic to its culture as sampling its food.