• Sean Campbell

SpeedHolics Top 6 Driving Roads in Asia

And so the SpeedHolics fantasy world tour rumbles on...

We’ve covered our top roads in Europe, and we’ve had a look at the best North America has to offer. Now we head East to explore the top 6 six driving roads in Asia.

Other road trip destinations may come to mind quicker than Asia, but prepare to be welcomed with open arms into a different style of exploration. Some of these destinations will introduce you to new luxuries of road tripping -- Who knew road-side snack carts selling fresh fruit and coconuts, or pull-over rest stops with hammocks are what you’ve been missing all along?

This is by no means a conclusive list as this continent’s vastness means endless possibilities. We’ve selected routes that will challenge you, thrill you, and hopefully, leave you going back for more.

However, some of these countries don’t play by conventional driving “rules”, and the motorbike reigns supreme over the car in a few. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take to these roads on four wheels -- just make sure to pay close attention to all those bikes.

Hai Van Pass, Da Nang - Hue, Vietnam

Photo by JumperDomi321 on Pixabay

The first of two trips to feature from the stunning Southeast Asian country of Vietnam.

Snaking up from the coastal city of Da Nang to the ancient capital of Hue, you’ll find the Hai Van Pass. Once the key strategic position between North and South Vietnam, its viewpoint at the top of the traverse was called one of the best coastal roads in the world by the Top Gear UK team.

Its feature in Top Gear’s 2008 Vietnam Special makes this road a no-brainer. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views over the ocean and surrounding forest.

Photo by Gabriella Fregona

The road has also become much more traffic-light in recent years, as a newly built tunnel allows trucks and busses to cut right through the mountain, leaving the Hai Van Pass open to wayfarers and roadtrippers. The tight switchbacks and unpredictable nature of driving in Vietnam can make it hazardous, but here’s the good news: At only 21km long, you can easily do it once, twice, or three times, each a little faster and looser than the other.

Hualien, Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan

Photo by Robert Pastryk on Pixabay

The popular hiking destination also harbours an infinitesimal National Park road that winds alongside the Liwu river. Depending on the time of year, you’ll appreciate the permeated blue or grey waters cutting through the gorge with a ferocious rumble.

Throughout the Taroko Gorge National Park, there are many trails and points of interest. However, the pinnacle of this location is the ribbon of tar that unwraps from its entrance to the tunnel of nine turns - and beyond.

Photo by Falco on Pixabay

The road continues through the park onto a highway linking west, so why not enjoy the trip up and then back down again? Just like the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam, you might want another go at the bends of this one.

Punjab - Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

Photo by Pakistan Tourism on Unsplash

This 1300km stretch starting in Hasan Abdal, Punjab continues right on into neighboring China. This route is the victor for the highest elevation on our list (and one of the highest paved roads in the world) at a maximum elevation of 4,714 meters. More commonly known as the Friendship Highway, the journey is nestled between most of the peaks in the Gilgit-Baltistan group, as well as the Baltoro and Siachen Glaciers.

Photo by Andreas Felske on Unsplash

Prepare to be humbled by five of the world’s “eight thousandths” (mountains higher than 8000m), some of the world’s largest glaciers, and petroglyphs. You’ll need a four-wheel or an all-wheel-drive for this one most, so leave the classic car at home unless you want a heavy repairs bill. This trip will take extra preparation as the high altitude requires some care. There are some great stretches of straight road to put your vehicle to the test, as well as some steep climbs.

West Coast Road, Phuket, Thailand

Photo by Vitaly Sacred on Unsplash

Back at sea level, it might seem a bit strange to go on a road trip on a small island - but hear us out. Starting at the southernmost point of Phuket at Som’s beach, follow the iridescent waters of the Andaman Sea to the stretch of Mai Khao beach. This road makes for fantastic window views. The road follows closely to the land’s edge for most of the route, so you’ll have ample time to enjoy the scenery.