Pedal powered rickshaws are a carbon friendly way to travel the streets of Penang, if you don’t mind someone else sweating on your behalf. Known locally as beca, they number around 200 in the Georgetown area, and provide a nostalgic means of transport for visitors. The world moves by at a human friendly speed and the driver imparts a store of local knowledge and stories, with the opportunity to stop as your camera or rumbling stomach desires.
With the recent World Heritage Status, steps have been taken to preserve the dwindling numbers of beca, and encourage riders to maintain and beautify their vehicles and undergo tourism training. Sadly the beca culture is under threat by an increased cost of living, desire for speed, and the lack of young men taking over from the ageing riders.
On this occasion I refrained from taking a trishaw ride, as I’m still scarred from an incident where some slightly inebriated friends and I hijacked a cyclo in Vietnam and left the poor driver running behind in the dark.