To Green Hell and back
For petrolheads, the ‘Green Hell’ has long been synonymous with that most iconic of racetracks, the Nürburgring. However, the thrill of the curve isn’t just reserved for that famous piece of racing real estate in western Germany. Southeast Asia offers a whole host of challenging bends of its own, none more so than a certain stretch in northern Thailand. It’s no secret that this beautiful country offers an excess of dream beaches and richly ornamented wats (temples), but another kind of utopia also exists on roads less travelled. Leaving Bangkok in the direction of the mountains, unexpected wonders reveal themselves to you – including some of the most exciting roads in the world that are made for memorable Porsche experience stories.
Approaching the legendary Golden Triangle – where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet – we cross the starting line, paving the way to more than thousand kilometres of winding, steep roads. The Nürburgring Nordschleife is 20.832 kilometres (12.9 miles) long and famously made up of 73 bends – we soon give up counting the curves on these Thai roads given how many there are here. We remember to drive left (just like in the UK, Japan, India and others) and keep our wits about us as we pass through some serious stomach-flipping corners, up slopes rising to 1,939m (6360 feet) in an area of the country that’s home to the Doi Phu Kha National Park. Here that we set out on a journey that takes in the ancient royal cities of the former Kingdom of Siam. With no start number or competitor in sight, this kind of driving means plenty of time for pit stops to refuel car and stomach – and with a historic temple sighting or two thrown in for good measure.
See you on the other side
Just 80km (50 miles) from the capital, we pass through a seemingly invisible curtain and into another world. For 417 years, Ayutthaya was the heart of the most important Siamese kingdom but is seldom mentioned in comparison to Sukhothai (considered to be its first capital). Colossal towers rise above Ayutthaya’s ruinous palace walls, where 400 mighty temples once stood. Even amid the ruins and sheer humidity, it’s not hard to sense the scale of the ancient kingdom’s grandeur. Larger-than-life Buddha statues appear, mirage-esque, leaving behind an everlasting impression of a bygone civilisation. Founded on an ancient Khmer settlement, Sukhothai became the centre of power in the kingdom from 1239 onwards, signalling the start of what was called the ‘Dawn of Happiness’.
The road is long…
Driving deeper into the region reveals a surprising abundance of excellent asphalt surfaces, acting as a friendly invitation to take on those bends. This is one of those kinds of Porsche experience stories that induces heart-pounding stories that you can’t wait to tell on your return home. With the roads quickly swallowed by the green cloak of the rainforest, it’s clear that this particular Green Hell is worthy of the name in more ways than one. As it twists through bends that don’t want to end, the feeling of cruising along a 1,000km-long Nürburgring is overwhelming. We’re heading up towards the Doi Phu Kha and Phu Sang national parks on the border with Laos, the reward of spectacular views the prize on our arrival. Rugged jungle, emerald green grass and tree-covered sandstone vie for attention with the imposing lush mountains of Nan. Glancing downwards, an endless sea of fog engulfs our feet and the views beyond, pleasantly interrupted by waterfalls that drape themselves over the cliffs.
Approaching the finish line, we drive towards the infamous Golden Triangle region – where the opium trade was once rife – on narrow secondary roads filled with several passes and yet more endless curves. The route through climbs further and further through the verdant uplands into remote regions where border crossings once stopped at 5pm for safety. The famous Golden Triangle sign still stands in the village of Sop Ruak. This is where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos – and a plethora of different mountain tribes – meet peacefully. Over the ‘Bridge of Friendship’ (there are in fact two separate crossings – one linking to Laos, the other to Myanmar), men and women haul huge loads while children frolic in the waters of the Mae Nam Sai, where it meets the Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers.
Build Porsche experience stories of your own
Thailand’s very own Green Hell is a heavenly driving event – a standout destination to collect Porsche experience stories. The prospect of adventure, as we find out, lies just around the next bend. And the next one…
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.