Last year was just the same with the years before in Lospalos city, one of post administrative of Lautem municipality. It is usually difficult to get public transport whenever people wanted to go somewhere around the Lospalos city unless they have their own motorbike or willing to walk. However, this year, I am quite surprised to see a new type of public transport exists here. It is a rickshaw type of vehicle with three wheels imported from India. In Lospalos this rickshaw vehicle is called ‘Ojek’ which is referring to the service it provides as public transport within the city. Looking at this vehicle reminds me of Tuk Tuk, the similar type of vehicle existed widely in Thailand as a popular public transport.
Being different with Thailand’s Tuk Tuk that goes faster, this Ojek or Lospalos version of Tuk Tuk goes gently against the road. Until today, some parts of the road in Lospalos are still smoothly paved while some parts are lately have been roughly paved with white rocky soil and it makes the road became a little bumpy. The good thing about riding Ojek is that it enables us to easily see the view along the way while getting some fresh air as it is an open-air vehicle. There is another type of this rickshaw that is enclosed with a transparent glass window that can be open when needed. However, when it goes through the bumpy road, we will be shaken and get a bit upset if we do not hold tightly to the vehicle.
The unique thing about this vehicle is that it uses electricity as the source of energy by recharging it directly to the electric socket. According to the driver who operates it, he at least will need to recharge the vehicle during five hours and it costs around 2 USD of the pre-paid electric card. The price of using Ojek service is depending on the distance with the service cost ranges from 0.50 cents for the nearest distance to 2 USD for the further one. In a day, on average, an Ojek driver can earn around 15 to 20 US Dollars as the income.
The electric rickshaw operates recently this year in Lospalos city. Before Lopalos city, this type of vehicle has been used as public transportation for few years in Manatuto that has similar characteristic of a flat landscape with Lospalos. Indeed, using Ojek can help people moving around to the nearby places in the city that are too far to be reached by walking.
The driver also tells that at first people are quite hesitant to use Ojek as public transportation perhaps because of this type vehicle is new to them. However, lately, Ojek has gained the local passengers attention, especially the students during school time and common people in general. Somehow, during vacation, the number of people using Ojek is not as much as the school time.
“Tiu (uncle), I wish this Ojek had existed in Lospalos since I was here many years ago. That would be much better, right?’ I told to the driver while sitting behind him. He gave me a brief laughter.
‘Oh.. dear sister, I wish for the same too. But it just came recently and we also have just known about it’. He replied.
I chuckled gleefully. What he said was correct.
Lospalos, January 3rd 2018
Note: Lospalos is one of administrative post belong to Lautem Municipality of thirteen municipalities in Timor-Leste country.