Faster Travel

Six epic Southeast Asian drives

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Ed Peters

Hong Kong-based journalist Ed Peters has driven Land Rovers in Nepal, SUVs in Thailand and a Morris Oxford in Myanmar. Here, he picks Asia’s most thrilling drives

Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

It’s 1,600km from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, an epic, compass-spanning drive between what were once the capitals of separate countries. The undoubted highlight – and a standalone road trip – is the 100km between the 17th-century city of Hue and the beach resort of Da Nang. Skip the new tunnel to wind up to the top of Hai Van (Sea Cloud) Pass (496 metres), a rugged climb that even impressed Jeremy Clarkson.
Car of choice: Range Rover HSE

Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai-Mae Hong Son Triangle, Thailand
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Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai-Mae Hong Son Triangle, Thailand

The (slightly lopsided) triangle that joins Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand is a world away from the beach culture of Koh Samui and Bangkok’s hurly-burly. Mountainous landscapes, emerald rice paddies and towering forests provide the backdrop to a leisurely odyssey along a two-lane blacktop. 


Car of choice: Mercedes-AMG GT S

Malaysia to Singapore
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Malaysia to Singapore

It would be perfectly feasible to zoom the 700km from Unesco-listed George Town to the city state of Singapore in a day, but that would mean bypassing the Cameron Highlands (pictured), the resort island of Pangkor, buzzing Kuala Lumpur and, of course, Legoland in Johor Bahru. Taking the east coast route leads past seldom-visited national parks such as Endau-Rompin.
Car of choice: Proton Exora

Jakarta to Java Island, Indonesia
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Jakarta to Java Island, Indonesia

Heading east across Java from Jakarta includes a couple of important pit stops. First is the picturesque art deco city of Bandung, high up in the hills. Second is Borobudur, a stunning temple complex that’s pulled in visitors for a millennium and more. Journey’s end is Banyuwangi, departure point for ferries sailing to the sun, sand and surf of Bali.


Car of choice: Nissan Qashqai SUV

Skyline Drive, Japan
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Skyline Drive, Japan

Sado, off the northwest coast of Japan’s main island, Honshu, consists of two parallel mountain ranges that enclose a central plain. The short but perfectly formed Skyline Drive twists and turns through lush countryside, at its most photogenic in spring and autumn. Mount Kinpokusan marks the route’s halfway point.


Car of choice: Toyota 4Runner

Laoag to Zamboanga City, the Philippines
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Laoag to Zamboanga City, the Philippines

If you’re really dedicated, you’ll saddle up for Daang Maharlika, 3,500km of the Philippines’ Highway Number One, which bridges the Filipino archipelago via a series of roll-on, roll-off ferries.

Car of choice: Jeepney