The world is full of unique and varied terrains and locations that need unique and varied transport in order to traverse them and get people around, whether it be for a daily commute or to entertain the tourists coming to these places. Here we document 15 of the world’s most weird and wonderful forms of transport.
1. Ice Angel, USA
There are around 21 tiny islands off the coast of mainland Wisconsin with only a few left inhabited. Usually, getting between the islands is as simple as hopping on the ferry or, in the winter, a two-mile ice highway freezes over and is thick enough to drive on but during the in-between times, when the ice is thin, Ice Angels are employed to skate over the surface using air fans to propel them either over or through the ice.
2. Tuk-tuks, Thailand
Motorised rickshaws, these tuk-tuks are open air taxis named for the sound that their two cycle engines make. Found predominantly in tourist locations, they are essentially extended scooters with seating and a roof and can be expensive if you aren’t prepared to haggle.
3. Gondola, Italy
The city of Venice is built in amongst a complex network of canals that sees the buildings on stilts in order to keep out of the water (sadly, a system that is failing) but by taking one of these gondolas with its own dedicated gondolier who will punt you through the city, you can drift by the many beautiful sights.
4. Hydrofoils, Greece
The quickest and most stylish way to hop between the Greek islands of Crete and Corfu is, without a doubt, the flashy looking hydrofoils. Boats that are fitted with shaped vanes that bend and flex to the pressure of the wind, as they pick up speed, they are lifted out of the water and glide along its surface so as to reduce drag and make them faster and more efficient than other water transport. They are however expensive and complicated to maintain.
5. Coco Taxi, Cuba
The streets of Havana, Cuba’s capital, are used to seeing all sorts of odd vehicles. Still teeming with immaculately kept American cars from the 1950s and until recently they were home to the camel bus, which was part truck, part bus, the Coco taxis are shaped like hollowed out coconuts or NFL players helmets and whizz around the city looking for fares. With yellow ones designated for tourists and black ones for the locals these small but nippy vehicles are a common site on the Carribean island.
6. Wicker Toboggan, Portugal
On the Portuguese island of Madeira, residents of the capital, Fuchal, have been using these wicker and wooden toboggans to hurtle down Monte Mountain since the 1850s. Now they are used more as a tourist attraction as two people pilot it from the rear whilst you sit in the basket. It can be quite the experience since they have been known to hit speeds of 48kph.
7. Ojek, Indonesia
The roads are so congested in parts of Bali, Indonesia that motorbikes are often preferred in order to weave in and out of the traffic. This is no different for the taxi system with scooters patrolling the streets and almost anyone who owns one being allowed to take a fare for a ride. This has its pros and cons but it certainly does add something unique to Bali.
8. Bullet Train, Japan
This super modern, super fast train has become something of an icon of Japan showing off its ruthless efficiency and comfort at speeds of up to 320kph. Barely noticeable unless you are seated by a window, it pulls away tremendously quickly and hurtles through the Japanese countryside in a smooth and peaceful manner putting many other train networks across the globe to shame.
9. Khlong Boats, Thailand
The water taxis of Bangkok transport commuters, tourists and produce through the canals of the city in these deceptively rapid riverboats. In such a densely populated and hectic city, they offer a vital service that allows people to get away from the congested roads and still navigate the city.
10. Pulled Rikshaws, Japan
Once the most prominent mode of transport around Japan, pulled rikshaws have all but been outlawed both there and in many other countries due to the concerns of the welfare of the rikshaw drivers. However, in the region of Asakusa, Tokyo they are allowed as a tourist attraction and keep part of the country’s tradition and history alive.
11. House Boat, India
Say house boat to most Europeans or Americans and images of a long, narrow and impractical barge appear in their minds but the ones that drift about the waters of Kerala are grand and luxurious creations that have seperate rooms and balconies. Made almost entirely from reeds they don’t need a single nail to keep them together and can effectively be used as floating hotels.
12. Longtail Boats, Thailand
The long tail boats of South East Asia are wooden canoes with a small inboard motor that are a huge part of the culture and way of life in places like Thailand. Unlike their canal going cousins the Khlong, these boats are used for coastal transportation but are in danger of disappearing soon due to logging restrictions brought in by the government in 1989 making the timber used to make them harder and harder to come by and imported timber making construction significantly more expensive.
13. Mid-Level Escalators, Hong Kong
In a city so tightly packed as Hong Kong, space is at a premium and so someone came up with the bright idea of the mid-level escalators. Much like the travelators you see at airports, these escalators go along horizontally at a level high above the streets below which has, in essence, created a city within a city as shops and businesses have started to pop up in this sky level as well. With a three tiered system of the ground, the escalators and the high rises, the city has become increasingly more complex (and arguably hierarchical, certainly when it comes to transport) but it is an almost sci-fi approach to population problems and overcrowding.
14. Funicular, Hungary
A vertical railway that runs through the Budapest, the capital of Hungary, the funicular allows commuters to get to the castle district high up on the hill in a cheap and easy fashion. During the second world war it was bombed beyond use and it wasn’t restored to its full glory until the 1980s but now operates a regular service.
15. Songthaew, Thailand
The songthaew are part bus, part pick up truck that offer seating inside the vehicle or a small platform to cling onto out of the back of it. Integral to many Thai public transport systems they are a cheap and easy to use transportation but often even the locals aren’t quite sure where the drivers are headed, such is the nature of their erratic timetables, so it is best to check just before you jump on board.